The point of departure for this dissertation is the discussion of the history of civilisation that has been held in the wake of the German sociologist and historian, Norbert Elias. One of the most radical changes in our society during the last 250 years, and at the same time one of the most fundamental aspects of the civilising process, is secularization. From having been the only true School, Christianity became one of several philosophies of life. This change has been explained in different ways by researchers in cultural history and the history of mentalities. Roughly, you can talk about two different types of explanations, or perspectives; one vertical and one horizontal. I agree with the horizontal perspective, i.e. the conclusion that both the civilising process in general and the secularization, at least in some parts, must be seen as a result of man`s own activities, rather than disciplining actions from above.
A study of the administration of justice and the efficiency of the church's punishment regarding fornification (lägersmål), sexual intercourse between unmarried individuals, tells us that one of the most important reasons that extra-marital intercourse received milder punishments, was that the religious grounds for legitimising punishment had declined during the second half of the century.
Another study investigates how the church handled the most central cult-ceremony; the sacrament of communion. Several of the inhabitants of Stockholm were no longer behaving according to religiously accepted patterns of living during the 18th century. Concurrently with this, women came to play a more active role in the public life of the church.
The "power", i.e. the upholders of the religious life, does not always have to react in a aggressive way. Through research on religious literature, you can establish that the "power" rather met competing patterns of thought in a passive way.
At least in some parts the spiritual or mental secularization was parallell to an institutional secularization of the church as an organisation. A study of the accounts for three parishes i Stockholm during the period 1754 to 1800, shows a long-term declining trend in real income.
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 1997. , 224 p.