, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 439–444 | Cite as

Pluralism in the Mind and the Structure of Cognitive Minorities

  • Silke SteetsEmail author
Symposium: Peter Berger’s “Two Pluralisms” in Europe


In his book The Many Altars of Modernity Peter L. Berger (2014) called for the replacement of secularization theory, which in his view no longer has much relevance today, with a theory of (religious) pluralism. Such a theory must encompass two levels, the level of the mind and the level of society. In this paper I will focus on the level of mind and explain some of the conceptual linkages with the level of society which Berger only touches upon in his book. The paper’s main purpose, however, is to sketch out a framework in which Berger’s ideas on “pluralism in the mind” could be investigated empirically. I will argue to focus on “cognitive minorities”, that is, on groups of people whose understanding of the world differs significantly from that of their social environment. As concrete cases I suggest a comparative study of a religious group (Evangelical Protestants) in a strongly secularized city (Leipzig, Germany) and a group of skeptics and seekers (Unitarians) in a city characterized by evangelical religiosity (Dallas, Texas). With the help of these settings – that is my thesis – it will be possible to investigate what Berger formulated as the central issue in his pluralism theory: How is it possible for people to integrate religious and secular worldviews in their minds, more or less simultaneously?


Cognitive minorities Cognitive dissonances Framework conflicts Relevance structures Religious pluralism Peter L. Berger 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies, “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”Leipzig UniversityLeipzigGermany

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