Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion, Seventh Edition

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9780131113923: Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion, Seventh Edition

This book offers a sound analysis of religion as a social institution that is interdependent and in constant interaction with other societal units. It helps readers understand the role and function of religion in society that occur regardless of anyone's claims about the truth or falsity of religious systems. Balanced and unbiased, it shows the sociology of religion as a subject that is rich and bountiful. The focus is on American religious institutions, but includes many examples of the interaction of religion and society in other cultures both historic and contemporary; readers will encounter major discussions of Islam and other non-Western religions. For sociologists, clergy, and researchers in the fields of religion and religious studies.

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Fresh with new insights, issues, and developments, this text offers a sound analysis of religion as a social institution that is interdependent and in constant interaction with other societal units. Objective in approach, it shows students the importance of chronicling and analyzing the actions and reactions of religious institutions in our endeavor to understand how societies function and change.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The field of the sociology of religion remains rich and bountiful. Fortunately the quality of researchers is higher than ever, with many bright and well-trained young social scientists joining the ranks eager to make contributions to their chosen field. It is exciting and invigorating to be part of this surge of interest and effort.

As we observe both the many developments and events within societies that have religion as a core ingredient, and as we read the increasing amount of solid research and theorizing in the sociology of religion, it is clear that this seventh edition has a deep reservoir to plumb. Accordingly we have added a significant amount of new material as well as expanded the treatment of subjects that had already been introduced in earlier editions (and we dropped a few pages also). We present a summary below.

  1. Included rational choice theory as a major contribution to understanding religion's role and function in society, particularly as rational choice theory deals with the secularization hypothesis, but also as rational choice theory clarifies our understanding of several other substantive issues.
  2. Expanded the discussion of cults outside Western societies: one in Uganda (Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God), one in China (The Falun Gong), and one in Afghanistan (Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda).
  3. Brings readers up to date on the continuing internal conflicts in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
  4. Included a new discussion of interreligious conflict in Asia: Hindu-Muslim, Muslim-Christian, Hindu-Christian, and Hindu-Muslim-Sikh.
  5. Updated U.S. Supreme Court cases through 2002 and added discussion of church-state cases reaching the courts concerning public school prayer, school vouchers for religious schools, and the removal of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
  6. Added a substantial new section on the Third World Islamist Movement as a politico-religious movement, including recent history, the concept of Jihad, and the emergence of al Qaeda, also noting relevant theology and parallels in the Christian tradition.
  7. Expanded the section on Islamic Fundamentalism in several manifestations as well as its relationship to terrorism originating in the Middle East.
  8. Included 2000 U.S. Census data on growth in the ranks of female clergy, discussed the ordination of the first female Orthodox Jewish rabbi, expanded and updated discussion of enrollment of women at both Protestant and Catholic theological schools, and applied rational choice theory to my predictions about additional denominations deciding to ordain women.
  9. Described some recent movement within the black church away from the sect end of the church-sect continuum and made two applications of rational choice theory to African American religion.
  10. Added a major new section on non-Western religions to the discussion of denominationalism in the United States—Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—with an emphasis on changed patterns of immigration from Asia.
  11. Provided current data (2000) showing dramatic differences in membership gains and losses among "higher tension" and "lower tension" religious groups.
  12. Included a substantial discussion of challenges to Catholic teachings and authority by laypersons, with emphasis on the disenchantment of many with respect to papal pronouncements on birth control and the American priestly pedophilia scandal.
  13. Retained the concept of secularization as differentiation and incorporated an application of rational choice theory to that concept and also included an important modification and clarification of secularization theory by Mark Chaves.
  14. Updated the discussion of ecumenism and described the death and rebirth of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) in 2001.

The number, structure, and sequence of chapters have remained the same as in the sixth edition. Part I (Chapters 14) is an introduction to the sociological perspective on religion. It grapples with the problem of defining religion, considers the fascinating but ultimately unanswerable question of the origins of religion, and focuses on sociology's distinctive perspective on religion as a social phenomenon. Part II (Chapters 5-6) looks closely at the classic churchsect continuum of religious organization and evolution and considers how conflict figures so commonly in the life of religious organizations. Part III (Chapters 7-11) examines the relationship of religion to major social institutions and structural features of society; religion and politics; religious fundamentalism; religion and the economy; religion and social class; and, finally, religion and the role and perception of women in society. Part IV (Chapters 12-15) covers some of the major features of religion in the United States-the social environment and experience of a majority of the readers of this text. After exploring several highly important sociohistorical developments within American religion, the chapters in Part IV pay particular attention to American socioreligious developments, namely, the African American church, Native American religion, and the phenomenon of denominationalism. Part IV concludes by focusing on primary sociological factors that will significantly affect the future of religion.

This edition retains the book's focus on grounding the sociological study of religion in basic sociological concepts, structures, and theory that demonstrate religion's status as a major social institution that is in constant social interaction and reciprocation with other institutions. As such, religion adapts and evolves in response to challenges and changes within the society in which it operates. Throughout it all religion provides a wide range of choices as people look for answers, encouragement, comfort, and hope.

I want to express sincere appreciation to my brother, Doug, for important and timely information; to Edie Riker, production editor, for answering all my questions and giving good and timely advice throughout the process; and to my wife, Arline, for her steadfastness in tolerating my single-mindedness in putting together yet another edition.

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