sociology of religion

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sociology of religion

the branch of sociology which deals with religious phenomena (see also RELIGION). Historically, the sociological analysis of religion was central in the analysis of most of the leading classical sociologists, notably WEBER and DURKHEIM. The ideas of these two theorists still constitute the core of the sociology of religion. Durkheim's work was concerned with the role of religion as a functional universal contributing to the integration of society. This remains the foundation of the FUNCTIONALIST THEORY OF RELIGION. Weber's concern was with the comparative analysis of the varying forms of religious belief and religious organizations, and the implications of these for the development of rationality and for social change (see PROTESTANT ETHIC, ASCETICISM, CONFUCIANISM, JUDAISM, CHURCH-SECT TYPOLOGY, THEODICY, PROPHECY). Prior to the work of Weber and Durkheim, the sociology of religion had viewed religion simply as ‘error’ (as for COMTE, or for MARX, e.g. the latter's conception of religion as the ‘opiate of the masses’), or it had speculated about the origins of religion and the stages of its evolutionary development (see TYLOR, SPENCER).

More recently, the sociology of religion has concentrated its attention on the process of SECULARIZATION occurring in Western societies. There have also been many studies of religious organizations (e.g. B.Wilson, 1967), especially ‘fringe’ religions and CULTS and SECTS (e.g. Scientology or the Moonies). In SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, in HISTORICAL SOCIOLOGY, and in the study of contemporary non-European societies, comparative study of religion as a major social institution continues to occupy a central place in sociological analysis. See also CIVIL RELIGION, HINDUISM, ISLAM, BUDDHISM, CASTE.

References in periodicals archive ?
Drawing upon his years of experience and expertise as a renowned sociologist of religion, Professor Stark offers a comprehensive, decisive, God-centered theory of religion.
Candidates know that religion as a shared culture speaks to many people in a world that no longer offers them a shining future," Philippe Portier, sociologist of religion, told the newspaper 20 Minutes.
Rodney Stark is a sociologist of religion and author of The Rise of Christianity.
In the brief introduction, however, the editor of the volume, sociologist of religion Stephen Hunt, fully admits that this topic is complex and vast, especially given the recent scholarly problematization of the concepts of "the East" and "religion," and the tendency in the academy to fragment the various traditions covered, such as Buddhism(s), not to mention the intense scrutiny recent scholars have paid to the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality.
Modernization has instead led to pluralization, as the most prominent sociologist of religion Peter Berger has best explained, in the sense of growing choices for individuals, including choice of religious beliefs.
In the late twentieth century, this ambivalence can be seen primarily in Mormons' responses to the work of two American scholars, sociologist of religion Rodney Stark and religious historian Jan Shipps.
Speaking about people's belief in the afterlife, Professor David Voas, a quantitative sociologist of religion who is based at the University of Essex, said popular films and television programmes about the supernatural might prompt people to have "unreligious" beliefs about life after death.
As a sociologist of religion, who recently finished a doctoral degree with emphasis in learning and cognitive psychology, I find Mercedes Cros book's theoretical analysis approach to be a valuable contribution to the newly emerging dialogue between interdisciplinary social sciences, cognitive sciences, and neurosciences.
Olivier Roy, a French sociologist of religion, further elaborates on the concept of imagined Islamic communities in the contemporary era.
There's a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance and that is having theological consequences," D Michael Lindsay, a sociologist of religion at Rice University said.
A prominent British sociologist of religion, James Beckford, and his associates, have recently completed a study comparing the accommodation of Islam in Her Majesty's prisons of England and Wales, on the one hand, with the prisons of France, on the other.
The central themes of Judaism and Christianity are bleached out in this version of what the great German sociologist of religion, Thomas Luckmann, characterized 40 years ago (The Invisible Religion [1967]) as a distinctly American phenomenon of "internal secularization": "Whereas religious ideas originally played an important part in the shaping of the American Dream, today the secular ideas of the American Dream pervade church religion" (Luckmann as quoted on 68).