Before the 1800s most of the descriptions of Os and Cs deal with religious topics. For instance, it is easy to find descriptions of obsessive blasphemous thoughts and compulsive confessing of sins. From the 1800s on, though, few of the Os and Cs found in published descriptions have religious themes. Is it actually true that religious Os and Cs have become less common over time?
Probably. Researchers who compare OCD in different cultures today have found that highly religious societies tend to have more religious OCD symptoms than are found in more secular societies.1 Maybe the same principle also applies to changes over time: If a society becomes less religious (to put the point crudely), perhaps there are fewer OCD symptoms with religious themes. In other words, maybe OCD symptoms today are not entirely the same as they were historically. It makes sense that society and culture would have some influence on OCD symptoms. Maybe, as the world changes, it causes an important ripple effect in the outward forms that OCD takes.
1See L.F. Fontenelle, et al., Trans-cultural aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorder: a description of a Brazilian sample and a systematic review of international clinical studies, J. Psychiatr. Res., Jul.-Aug. 2004, 38(4):403-11.
OCD History Home