Sociology Index

Sociology of Religion

Sociology of religion analyses and studies the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion. Sociology of religion includes the use both of quantitative research methods, and of qualitative research approaches. Sociology of religion has been influenced by the phenomenon of secularization from the classical sociology period of David Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Every U.S. President since Eisenhower has attended church, and most have self-identified as born-again Christians. Society and atheism discusses society, religiosity and religion. David Emile Durkheim attributes the development and discourse of religion in sociology of religion to the emotional security attained through communal living.

Humans are rarely born free. Religious identity is imposed on the child before birth. A child is exposed to hatred, not love, before birth.

Religion fills people with fear.
Religion places unrealistic demands on people.
Religion turns people against each other.
Religion turns people against themselves.
Religion keeps people in ignorance.

Durkheim asks, "So if the totem animal is at once the symbol of the god and of the society, is that not because the god and the society are only one?" Early humans associated such feelings not only with one another, but as well with objects in their environment. What Durkheim means is that the symbolization of the collective consciousness is done through the totemic animal. It is through this 'flag' that Australian Aboriginals become conscious of themselves within a system of knowledge given by the group itself.

'Sociology of Religion: A Reader' is a collection that seeks to explore the relationship between the structure and culture of religion and various elements of social life in the United States. Based on both classic and contemporary research in the sociology of religion highlights a variety of research methods and theoretical approaches to studying the sociological elements of religion. It explores the ways in which religious values, beliefs and practices shape the world outside of church, synagogue, or mosque walls while simultaneously being shaped by the non-religious forces operating in that world.

The Association for the Sociology of Religion is an international scholarly association that seeks to advance theory and research in the sociology of religion. Formed in 1938 as the American Catholic Sociological Society, Association for the Sociology of Religion traces its roots to scholars in search of a hospitable place for both empirical study and social criticism animated by the social teachings of the church. Sociology of religion encompasses beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology.

The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. - George Bernard Shaw.

The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by dunderheads. It has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe, that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power and hence a fraud. - H L Mencken.

Decency is veiled from sight and indecency is exposed to view. Scenes of evil attract packed audiences. Good words scarcely find any listeners. It is as if purity should provoke a blush, and corruption give ground for pride. But where else should this happen but in devils' temples, in the resorts of delusion?  - St. Augustine.

If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. - David Hume.

I can understand God creating everything: the rivers and the mountains, the plants and the trees, the birds and the animals. But I can't understand the need for humans amidst this grand design? - rajratnam vp.

But for most purposes it could be defined quite simply as a process in which religion diminishes in importance both in society and in the consciousness of individuals. And most sociologists looking at this phenomenon have shared the view that secularization is the direct result of modernization - Peter L. Berger.

If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.- Mikhail Bakunin, God and the State (1882), in seeming response to Voltaire's "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."

Without religious heretics, world would have continued to remain FLAT and we would never have explored the world. - rajratnam vp.

The foundation for religion is fear and hope. The rich fear the prospect of losing what they have, and the poor hope to gain through religion.  - rajratnam vp.

A British study says reincarnation beliefs or 'Belief' in reincarnation is about coming back time and again in different bodies. Reincarnation beliefs exist in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and many tribal religions, but is not generally regarded as part of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Reincarnation, Modernity and Identity - Tony Walter, University of Bath.
Abstract: A significant minority of Westerners believe in reincarnation, even though they do not belong to religions that teach it. In areas of the world where reincarnation is accepted, one can identify three forms of pre-natal and/or post-mortem identity: the continuing self/soul, the dissolution of the self, and family identity. The article considers three forms of evidence from Britain: everyday conversation, the personal stories to be found in Reincarnation International magazine, and an interview study of thirty adults and twenty children.

It is concluded that:

(1) the understanding of A as the reincarnation of close family member B, found in several American and African tribes and in popular Hinduism, may be unusual in Britain;

(2) in so far as people play with past identities, this cannot easily be squared with postmodern theories of the self;

(3) the past identities constructed bear strong resemblance to current identities, and may be considered part of the modernist project of the self.

Sociology of Religion Abstracts


Durkheim, Emile (1915), The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. In this sociological classic, Durkheim looks at religious culture among the Maori of Australia, and famously argues that in worshipping gods, society is really worshipping itself.


Reflections on the Sociology of Religion today. (The 2000 Paul Hanly Furfey Lecture). - Peter L. Berger.

Secularization could be defined quite simply as a process in which religion diminishes in importance both in society and in the consciousness of individuals. And most sociologists looking at this phenomenon have shared the view that secularization is the direct result of modernization.

Rethinking religious social action: what is "rational" about rational-choice theory? - James V. Spickard - At the level of entire communities and societies, models of religious markets and religious regulation challenge the predictions of secularization theory, asserting instead the vitality of religion in pluralistic settings.

Religion and Mental Health: The Case of American Muslims
Amber Haque - American living presents unique challenges to the Muslims who stick to their Islamic faith. Also covers the response of American Muslim communities to such challenges.

The sociology of religion of W.E.B. Du Bois. - Phil Zuckerman.

Syncretic sociology: towards a cross-disciplinary study of religion. - Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo - Epistemological challenges to objectivity in the study of religion have made more important sociology's focus on empirical evidence and statistical data.

Sociology and public theology: a case study of pro-choice/profile common ground.  - James R. Kelly - Why should there be an Association for the Sociology of Religion? ASR's parent association was the American Catholic Sociological Society.

Religion-Online - Archive provides full text of books and articles on a broad variety of issues, including the Bible, the sociology of religion and local worship.

Sociology of Religion Project - Conservative force means either 'resisting social change' or 'involving traditional beliefs/customs'.

Sociology of Religion Journals

The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture is committed to the analysis and interpretation, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, of the interrelations and interactions between religion and religious expression and popular culture, broadly defined as the products of contemporary mass culture.

The Journal of Religion & Society has been established to promote the cross-disciplinary study of religion and its diverse social dimensions through the publication of research articles, essays and opinions, review articles, and book reviews.

The Journal of Religious Gerontology is an interdisciplinary, interfaith, professional journal in which the needs, aspirations, and resources of elder constituencies come clearly into focus.

Journal of Religion and Health - Sponsored by Blanton-Peale Institute which joins the perspectus of psychology and religion, Journal of Religion and Health explores the most contemporary modes of religious thought with particular emphasis on their relevance to current medical and psychological research.

Zygon - Journal of Religion & Science - focuses on the questions of meaning and values that challenge individual and social existence today. It brings together the best thinking of the day from the physical, biological, and social sciences with ideas from philosophy, theology, and religious studies.

Religion - Provides a regular survey of current work in major and specific areas of enquiry. Its swift reviewing and crossing of traditional frontiers to encompass such related studies as psychology and archaeology combine to make it a valued point of reference for a growing readership.

Books On Sociology of Religion

The Sociology of Religion - Kindle Edition - Grace Davie.

Grace Davie′s timely Sociology of Religion underlines that religion is no longer simply located within the private sphere and is rising in the public agenda. It might be a return of religion. It might also be that religion never left and that there is now a shift in perception that religion is more present in our life. This prompts a need for many disciplines to develop new tools for understanding this new process and/or shift in perception. Grace Davie′s first edition of Sociology of Religion was already a more than a welcome contribution as it provided sociologists and non-sociologists with one of the best books on the topic.

The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach - George Lundskow.

Students will learn the facts of religion in its great diversity, all the most interesting and compelling beliefs and practices, and then learn relevant concepts that can be used to explain empirical observations.

Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments - by Kevin J. Christiano.

The book examines central themes such as changes in religious life in the United States; the intersections between religion, social class, and power and between gender, sexuality, and religion; globalization and religion; religion in mass media; and more.

The SAGE Handbook of the Sociology of Religion by James A. Beckford and N Jay Demerath.

"Serious social scientists who care about making sense of the world can no longer ignore the fact that religious beliefs and practices are an important part of this world. Nor can scholars claim to understand religion by adding a couple of variables to their models, anymore than they could understand race, gender, or social class this way. This Handbook is a valuable resource for specialists and amateurs alike. The editors have done an exceptionally fine job of incorporating topics that illuminate the range and diversity of religion and its continuing significance throughout the world." ― Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University.

An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion - Classical And Contemporary Perspectives - by Inger Furseth, Pal Repstad.

What role does religion play in ethnic and national conflicts? Is religion a fundamental driving force or do political leaders use religion for their own purposes? Do all religions oppress women? These are some of the questions addressed in this book. An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion provides an overview of sociological theories of contemporary religious life.

Materialising Religion - Expression Performance And Ritual - Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series. The BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group) Book by Elisabeth Arweck (Editor), William Keenan (Editor) 

The Sociology of Religion - Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives - by Malcol Hamilton (Author).

The Blackwell Companion to Sociology of Religion - by Richard K. Fenn (Editor).

Sociology and the Worlds Religions - by Malcolm B. Hamilton (Author).

Sociology of Religion - Contemporary Developments - by Christiano Kevin J.

Handbook of Religion and Social Institutions - Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research by Helen Rose Ebaugh (Editor).

Why Conservative Churches Are Growing - A Study in Sociology of Religion - by Dean M. Kelley (Author).

A Comparative Sociology of World Religions - Virtuosi, Priests, and Popular Religion - by Stephen Sharot (Author).

Religion and Family in a Changing Society - Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology - by Penny Edgell (Author).

Islam and the Integration of Society - International Library of Sociology F: The Sociology of Religion (International Library of Sociology) (Hardcover) Book by Montgomery Watt (Author).

Religion and Critical Psychology: The Ethics of Not-Knowing in the Knowledge Economy by Jeremy Carrette.