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Sociology Religion
by
John Evans

Introduction

The sociology of religion is a social science that examines how people are religious but does not advocate for a particular theological view, as the field of theology typically does. Religion was an obsession of the first sociologists, and it has been argued that American sociology was invented in reaction to religion. Since that time religion has remained central to the sociological canon as religion has remained a central component of society. Sociologists up until the last quarter of the 20th century assumed that religion was in the process of a slow death—a process called “secularization.” Sociologists now see secularization as occurring only in certain parts of social life, opening the door to the study of the religious influences on a range of social behaviors such as immigration, race relations, and politics. For example, some scholars have asked why immigrants are more religious than others. Other sociologists continue to study religion itself in congregations, or as systems of belief. For example, some sociologists have asked why American religion is increasingly individualistic. American sociologists of religion have remained focused on religion in America and have made limited forays into other parts of the world. There is a related sociology of religion tradition in Europe.

Classic Works

Religion was the obsession of the first sociologists. The three most influential sociological theorists of the late 19th century—Marx, Weber, and Durkheim—all wrote about religion, and their ideas have been integral to the field ever since. While there remain scholars who debate what these classic authors meant in their writings, for most scholars what is important is what the sociological community has come to conclude that the authors meant. Since the “true meaning” of Weber is largely irrelevant to contemporary scholarship, it is important to know what sociologists think a “Weberian” perspective on religion is. Therefore, while I list the classic texts, these should be read in conjunction with reviews such as those found in the handbooks of the sociology of religion. Marx’s writings about religion (Marx 1977 and Marx 1978) are relatively scant, and embedded in much larger and more complicated claims, and are best approached with guidance. Durkheim’s religion claims are largely found in the Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Durkheim 1965). Weber’s sociology of religion is much more varied and extensive, with some texts focusing on religion and the economy (Weber 1958) and others on religious change (Weber 1978). It is particularly important to approach Weber with a guide. One influential guide is O’Toole 1984.

  • Durkheim, Emile. 1965. Elementary forms of the religious life. New York: Free Press.

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    Through this study of Aborigine religion, Durkheim concludes that the religions we worship are stand-ins for our societies. Later Durkheimians take this as the insight that religious systems are structured by the societies in which they are embedded. He also defines religion as rites and rituals concerning the sacred and profane.

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  • Marx, Karl. 1977. Introduction: Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of right: In Karl Marx: Selected writings. By Karl Marx. Edited by David McLellan, 63–74. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    In the context of his early critique of Hegel, Marx makes his central claims about religion as an illusion, that “man makes religion, religion does not make man.” Also contains the famous claim that “religion is the opiate of the masses.”

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  • Marx, Karl. 1978. The German ideology. In The Marx-Engels reader. 2d ed. By Karl Marx. Edited by Robert C. Tucker, 146–200. New York: Norton.

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    A good source of Marx’s base-superstructure theory. Religion and other ideas are the superstructure arising from the economic epoch. The ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas in the epoch. Overthrow of the epoch will change religion.

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  • O’Toole, Roger. 1984. Religion: Classic sociological approaches. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Series in Canadian Sociology. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

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    Textbook providing mainstream sociological interpretations of the religion writings of Durkheim and Weber. Also good on the anthropological conceptions of religion that predated the classics.

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  • Weber, Max. 1958. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Charles Scribner.

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    Sociologists have taken this text to show that, contra Marx, it is not that economics determines religion but that religion determines economics, as the Protestant ethic led to the spirit of capitalism. This study of Christianity led to parallel studies of the religions of China, India, and ancient Judaism. Also important for Weber’s views of religious rationalization.

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  • Weber, Max. 1978. “Religious groups.” In Economy and society: An outline of interpretative sociology. Vol. 1. By Max Weber. Edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, 399–634. Sociology of Religion. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press

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    The other canonical Weber religion text. Covers origins of religion, magic, prophets and priests, the religions of different social groups, religious ethics of world religion, salvation and theodicy.

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Textbooks

For a very basic overview of the field, textbooks can be useful for students. McGuire 2008 and Johnstone 2007 are the most traditional overviews, focusing on long-running topics in the field. Christiano, et al. 2008 is more in-depth, with a focus on the academic source of the knowledge. Lundskow 2008 uses a perspective more oriented toward interdisciplinary religious studies, and Kurtz 2006 is focused on religions across the globe, not just in the United States.

  • Christiano, Kevin J., William H. Swatos Jr., and Peter Kivisto. 2008. Sociology of religion: Contemporary developments. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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    The most disciplinary-oriented of the textbooks. Focuses on which authors produced which knowledge and uses the common demarcations of theory, social differentiation, and religious change.

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  • Johnstone, Ronald L. 2007. Religion in society: A sociology of religion. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson / Prentice Hall.

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    This is probably the most traditional textbook with the longest history. The early sections are about theories, and the remainder covers topics such as church-sect theory, religious conflict, religion and politics, religion and the economy, and women and religion.

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  • Kurtz, Lester R. 2006. Gods in the global village: The world’s religions in sociological perspective. 2d ed. Sociology for a New Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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    As the title implies, this is the least American-focused of the textbooks. It focuses on relationships between religions in the world, with its theoretical constructs inspired by this focus, such as globalization, modernization, social conflict, and multiculturalism.

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  • Lundskow, George. 2008. The sociology of religion: A substantive and transdisciplinary approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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    This textbook is somewhat like others in that it offers an introductory theory chapter and then chapters on different topics. However, the topics themselves are not debates in the sociology of religion but substantive themes such as evil, superstition, the supernatural, and globalization. The most interdisciplinary of the textbooks.

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  • McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Religion: The social context. 5th ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland.

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    Reviews the sociology of religion by starting with the theoretical constructs and reaching toward examples. Sections on defining religion, religion as providing meaning, social cohesion, and other more theoretical ideas. Deemphasizes institutional religion.

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Handbooks and Review Essays

Handbooks and review articles provide detailed guides to a wide range of academic texts and are most useful for faculty and graduate students. Handbooks have separate chapters written by different authors, each on a topic, and vary by the extent to which they provide only overviews of classic questions rather than exploring more specific and more cutting-edge phenomena. Turner 2010 and Clarke 2009 are the most internationally focused, Dillon 2003 the most American, and Beckford and Demerath 2007 somewhere in between. Reviews are more synthetic than handbooks, with an author or authors reviewing the entire field as they see it, typically through a particular theoretical lens. Wuthnow 1988 interprets the entire field through a neo-institutionalist cultural perspective. Sherkat and Ellison 1999 interpret the field through a focus on the effects of religion on other institutions, as well as through rational choice theory.

  • Beckford, James A., and N. J. Demerath III, eds. 2007. The SAGE handbook of the sociology of religion. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    The first section contains chapters about theories and concepts such as rational choice and globalization, the second section focuses on methods, and the third contains topical essays. Tends toward the more specific end of the spectrum. A bit less American-focused than most, with a selection of non-American authors

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  • Clarke, Peter, ed. 2009. The Oxford handbook of the sociology of religion. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    More than 1,000 pages and fifty-four essays, with a very international roster of authors. Remains fairly focused on overviews of existing debates such as secularization, family, and so on. Common format of theory, methods, and institutions sections.

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  • Dillon, Michele, ed. 2003. A Handbook of the sociology of religion. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Dillon’s volume tends toward the “overviews of established questions” end of the continuum, but with some more specific chapters, such as religion and voting behavior. Most of the authors are Americans, and therefore this is their geographic focus.

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  • Sherkat, Darren E., and Christopher G. Ellison. 1999. Recent developments and current controversies in the sociology of religion. Annual Review of Sociology 25:363–394.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.363Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Working with different theoretical premises, eleven years after Wuthnow’s essay, Sherkat and Ellison focus more on micro-effects of religion on other features of social life such as family, politics, and health. They also focus on reviewing texts that use rational choice theory to study religion.

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  • Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2010. The new Blackwell companion to the sociology of religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444320787Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A standard organization with a section devoted to theories and a number of chapters reviewing established debates. Also has chapters on global religions and a number of chapters on very specific topics such as religious commodification. Fairly international—only one-third of the authors are American.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert. 1988. Sociology of religion. In The handbook of sociology. 2d ed. Edited by Neil Smelser, 473–509. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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    With a strong theoretical slant, Wuthnow interprets all of the sociology of religion up to that point as a subfield of cultural sociology. Specifically, he uses a neo-institutionalist production of culture perspective where cultural products (like religion) are first produced, then selected for by environments, and then selectively institutionalized.

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Data Sources

Much research in the sociology of religion is qualitative—either case study ethnographies or interview studies. The data for these studies are often difficult to share with other scholars, or are so specific that they are not useful to others. However, quantitative research in the sociology of religion is often based on public opinion surveys, many of which are generally available to scholars. There are a number of long-running cross-sectional studies that include not only religion questions but a myriad of other social variables. The General Social Survey (GSS) and the American National Election Studies (ANES) are based on US samples. The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and the World Values Survey (WVS) are cross-national surveys that include a set of religion questions. The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) serves as an archive for individual scholars’ data sets.

  • American National Election Studies.

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    The American National Election Studies (ANES) is like the General Social Survey (GSS), except that its focus is on electoral politics. Some questions reach back fifty years. Scholars interested in religion and politics will find the plethora of political questions useful, but the religion questions are more sparse. It is more difficult to use than the GSS due to changes in survey design over time.

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    • Association of Religion Data Archives.

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      The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) archives quality data on religion from surveys and other sources from all over the world. For each of the hundreds of data sets a scholar can get code books and sampling information and download the raw data. The website includes search functions so that scholars can look for particular survey questions.

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      • General Social Survey.

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        Established by the National Science Foundation in 1972, the General Social Survey (GSS) is the premier national opinion data set for sociologists of religion in the United States. Based on a nationally representative sample of adults, the GSS has many questions that are repeatedly asked. The GSS has a plethora of religion questions, which can be associated with a wide range of other questions on the GSS.

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        • International Social Survey Programme.

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          The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) is a collaboration on surveys, bringing together pre-existing social science projects, so that uniform questions can be asked to facilitate cross-national comparison. Coordinated surveys have been conducted annually since 1985, with special religion modules in 1991, 1998, and 2008. There are now forty-three nations in the data set.

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          • World Values Survey.

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            Five waves of the World Values Survey have been conducted between 1981 and 2007, with more being planned. This survey is actually representative national surveys in a set of countries in each wave, with a total over the waves of ninety-seven included countries that contain nearly 90 percent of the world’s population. Since the same questions are asked of people in each country, comparisons between countries are possible. Each wave contains a set of questions on religion.

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            Journals

            Articles in the sociology of religion are often found in general-purpose sociology journals. There are three American speciality journals that publish a substantial number of articles in the sociology of religion: the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (JSSR); the Sociology of Religion (SR); and the Review of Religious Research (RRR). JSSR is the most interdisciplinary and quantitative, SR almost exclusively publishes sociological articles, and RRR has a somewhat less academic and more practical focus. Social Compass: International Review of Sociology of Religion is international, with articles in either French or English, with abstracts in both languages. Some sociology of religion articles with a more humanistic and religious studies focus appear in religious studies journals, most notably the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

            Religion as a Cultural System

            Scholars beginning in the 1960s came to think of religion in more anthropological terms, as a system of symbols. Religion was the system that provided ultimate meaning and purpose in life or was the basis for one’s conception of reality. In Geertz 1973, the definition of religion removed any requirement of transcendence by describing religion as symbols that “formulate conceptions of a general order of existence.” Berger 1967 was the most influential, defining religion as an institutionalized worldview—a set of symbols that concern the meaning and purpose of life. This built on his more general statement in Berger and Luckmann 1966. More recently, Wuthnow 1987 demonstrated the commonality among these seemingly diverse theories. These conceptions of religion essentially made the sociology of religion a subfield of the broader sociology of culture, as religion became simply another discourse that could be studied.

            • Berger, Peter. 1967. The sacred canopy: Elements of a sociological theory of religion. New York: Anchor.

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              Berger more briefly states his theory worked out in a 1966 book and applies it more specifically to religion. This is possibly the most influential text in the sociology of religion over the past fifty years. The short appendix outlining possible ways to define religion is also a key text.

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            • Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Anchor.

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              The original statement by Berger, offering a general theoretical combination of the work of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mead, and phenomenologists such as Shutz that explains how and why people create worldviews.

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            • Geertz, Clifford. 1973. Religion as a cultural system. In The interpretation of cultures. By Clifford Geertz, 87–125. New York: Basic Books.

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              Clearly written, this essay contains Geertz’s classic functional definition of religion. Solidified a number of intellectual currents circulating at the time.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1987. Beyond the problem of meaning. In Meaning and moral order: Explorations in cultural analysis. By Robert Wuthnow, 1–65. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              Theoretically distinguishes the scholars in this tradition from the classics, describes their commonalities, and engages in criticism. Argues for a poststructural approach to studying the patterns of symbols in religion.

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            Measurement

            Much research in the sociology of religion uses surveys, and it is difficult to identify the religious identity of respondents using this method. As of the 1960s, survey researchers in the American context were still splitting respondents into the categories of Catholic/Protestant/Jew/Other. It was perhaps always apparent that there were greater differences between types of Protestants than between these different religions, so various more specific schemes were created. Smith 1990 is an early and still-influential version of splitting all religious traditions in the United States into three categories: fundamentalist, moderate, and liberal. The scheme by Steensland, et al. 2000 is now dominant, splitting religious identification into seven groups using a more historical approach. Another approach that fits better with some theories in cultural sociology—and that is economical to administer on surveys—is to simply ask the respondent if they identify with certain traditions. Debates on this approach can be found in Smith 1998 and Alwin, et al. 2006.

            • Alwin, Duane F., Jacob L. Felson, Edward T. Walker, and Paula A. Tufis. 2006. Measuring religious identities in surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly 70.4: 530–564.

              DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfl024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Compares the Steensland classification with the self-identification method for Protestants that asks the respondent if they are Pentecostal, fundamentalist, evangelical, mainline, or liberal Protestant. Concludes that both systems have their place and combining them is the best.

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            • Smith, Christian. 1998. American evangelicalism: Embattled and thriving. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              Appendix B offers a defense of using self-identification instead of denominational affiliation to identify different types of Protestants.

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            • Smith, Tom W. 1990. Classifying Protestant denominations. Review of Religious Research 31.3: 225–245.

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              Classifies all denominations into three categories of liberal, moderate, and fundamentalist. This classification is used to create the FUND variable in the General Social Survey and is therefore still influential. Criticized for its assumptions of a latent and linear “degree of fundamentalism” shared by all religions.

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            • Steensland, Brian, Jerry Z. Park, Mark D. Regnerus, Lynn D. Robinson, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Robert D. Woodberry. 2000. The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces 79.1: 291–318.

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              Coding scheme for denominations based on history and social context that also lacks an underlying directional scale. This is now the dominant coding system. Categories are evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant, black Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, other, and unaffiliated.

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            Individualism and Spirituality

            For centuries scholars have noted that the Protestant reformation itself in the 16th century fostered religious individualism; in recent times they have documented a proliferating individualism in the United States. Bellah and his colleagues in their classic work (Bellah, et al. 2008) identify utilitarian and expressive individualism in religion and in the culture in general. People choose the religious beliefs they want to believe in, and those tend to be the beliefs that serve their personal or therapeutic interests. Smith 2005 conducts a comprehensive study of the religiosity of teenagers and finds something very similar to that, already found twenty years previously by Bellah and his colleagues. In recent years, religious individualists have come to describe themselves as “spiritual not religious.” Roof 1993 is an early study of the individualism of an entire generation of Americans, followed up by another important study, Roof 1999. Wuthnow 1998 provides a macrocultural explanation for the rise of individualist-type religions, arguing that they fit with everyday American lives. Wolfe 2003 examines individualism and therapeutic narcissism throughout the facets of American religious life.

            • Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. 2008. Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              This classic study in cultural sociology, originally published in 1985, finds that the languages of expressive and utilitarian individualism are dominant in the United States.

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            • Roof, Wade Clark. 1993. A generation of seekers: The spiritual journeys of the baby boom generation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

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              Baby boomers of any religion are skeptical of institutions and like experiential religion. They are “seekers,” wanting to find beliefs that will give their lives meaning and not accept the religion handed down to them.

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            • Roof, Wade Clark. 1999. Spiritual marketplace: Baby boomers and the remaking of American religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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              Follow-up study of Roof 1993. Baby boomers are part of an individualist and often therapeutic “quest culture” that is distrustful of institutions. People want to find out on their own what they are. Provides great understanding of the detail of these individualistic and spiritual beliefs.

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            • Smith, Christian. 2005. Soul searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              In his enormous and comprehensive study, Smith concludes that American teenagers subscribe to “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a general religious pattern that is centrally about the usefulness of religion to the believer, combined with belief in a very undemanding God.

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            • Wolfe, Alan. 2003. Transformation of American religion: How we actually live our faith. New York: Free Press.

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              A summary and synthesis of ethnographies of American religion that argue that American religion has been transformed in an individualistic and narcissistic direction by American culture. This theme runs through different aspects of religious life such as worship, doctrine, and tradition.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1998. After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              Macrostructural explanation of the rise of “seeking” religions and the decline of “dwelling” religions. Seeking religion is transient, episodic, and uncertain—just like contemporary American lives. Classic explanation for the rise of “spiritual” and New Age beliefs.

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            Relation to Immigration

            America is a nation of immigrants, and immigrant religion has long been a focus of sociologists. There is a divide between an old literature focusing on the pre-1965 and post-1965 immigrants, with the former being from Europe and the latter from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere. These new immigrants are more religiously diverse than the people already in the United States. The literature in this area is somewhat fragmented due to the very high number of case studies, typically of immigrant congregations. Synthetic statements and generalizations are more rare, and there is no one central concept that scholars are debating. Influential synthetic statements are found in Warner 1998, Yang and Ebaugh 2001 and Cadge and Ecklund 2007. The most influential text of the earlier generation of immigrants is Herberg 1960, who classically argued that first generation immigrants become more religious and become American through association with an ethnic church. Later scholars, recognizing the explosion in diversity among the post-1965 immigrants, called for a new research agenda. Warner 1998 exemplifies this call. Warner and Wittner 1998 answered Warner’s own call with a multiple case analysis of immigrant religion. Ebaugh and Chafetz 2000 did the same at essentially the same time and have been equally influential. In a recent twist, it has been noted that immigrants do not just bring their religion with them and have it transformed by America, but rather this new hybrid religion is sent back to the home country, and thus the religion of the home country continues to come directly to the immigrant. The literature on transnational religion, best represented by Levitt 2007, documents this well.

            • Cadge, Wendy, and Elaine Howard Ecklund. 2007. Immigration and religion. Annual Review of Sociology 33:359–379.

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              Review article synthesizing an enormous number of case studies of immigrant religion. Good, recent overview and orienting essay.

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            • Ebaugh, Helen Rose, and Janet Salzman Chafetz, eds. 2000. Religion and the new immigrants: Continuities and adaptations in immigrant congregations. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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              Summary of a multisite ethnography of post-1965 immigrant congregations in Houston. Multiple chapters of synthesis and case studies. An agenda-setting book in the field. There is an abridged and a longer version of this book published under the same title.

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            • Herberg, Will. 1960. Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An essay in American religious sociology. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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              Classic summary of the multigenerational immigration experience of pre-1965 immigrants. Cited in almost all texts on religion and immigration. While obviously a statement from the view of the 1950s, and thus dated in its details, the central theoretical statement remains influential.

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            • Levitt, Peggy. 2007. God needs no passport: Immigrants and the changing American religious landscape. New York: New Press.

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              Most comprehensive statement by the primary proponent of this perspective. Shows how the religion of immigrants is not limited to the borders of their new country.

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            • Warner, R. Stephen. 1998. Approaching religious diversity: Barriers, byways, and beginnings. Sociology of Religion 59.3:193–215.

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              An early agenda setting text for the study of the religious lives of immigrants. Identifies research challenges such as a lack of data and the ideological proclivities of sociologists.

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            • Warner, R. Stephen, and Judith G. Wittner, eds. 1998. Gatherings in diaspora: Religious communities and the new migration. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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              Summary of a multisite, multiresearcher ethnography of the religious activity of post-1965 immigrants. Separate chapters on different research sites. This was the first book on the new immigrants.

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            • Yang, Fenggang, and Helen Rose Ebaugh. 2001. Transformations in new immigrant religions and their global implications. American Sociological Review 66.2: 269–288.

              DOI: 10.2307/2657418Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Major synthetic statement about the field with primary reference to the data generated in the Houston immigrant study.

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            Relation to Race, Gender, and Inequality

            Inequality of various sorts is associated with particular religions. The canonical history of the African American religious experience and the standard reference for sociological data is Lincoln and Mamiya 1990. The quip “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week” highlights the fact of segregation in religion, particularly of African Americans, and segregation remains a predominant theme in scholarship about African American religion. In recent years scholars have begun to examine the fairly rare examples of racially integrated religious congregations to look for explanations for success. The most prominent scholar is Emerson, who makes the most influential statement in Emerson 2008. Emerson and Smith 2000 focus on the problem within evangelicalism. Another theme has been that the black church is the social anchor of black neighborhoods and African American life in general. McRoberts 2003 challenges all of these dominant assumptions. Another focus in this literature has been the black church’s support of political activism. Lincoln and Mamiya 1990 offers a canonical history, while Pattillo-McCoy 1998 breaks new ground by focusing on the effects of the discourse of African American religion on activism. Keister 2008 examines inequality in wealth and posits a mechanism for why the members of certain religions are economically behind others. Gallagher 2003 provides the best analysis of gender issues within evangelicalism.

            • Emerson, Michael O. 2008. People of the dream: Multiracial congregations in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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              Definitive study of multiracial congregations. Answers the questions of who attends multiracial congregations, how they form, and which traditions are more likely to be segregated. Based on quantitative, qualitative, and ethnographic data.

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            • Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2000. Divided by faith: Evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              Explains the failure of evangelical attempts at desegregation as the result of the cultural practices of evangelicalism. The individualistic orientation of evangelical theology does not allow evangelicals to see the social sources of racial inequality.

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            • Gallagher, Sally. 2003. Evangelical identity and gendered family life. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Empirical study of gender ideals in evangelicalism based on family advice literature, a survey, and a nationwide interview study. E-book.

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            • Keister, Lisa A. 2008. Conservative Protestants and wealth: How religion perpetuates asset poverty. American Journal of Sociology 113.5: 1237–1271.

              DOI: 10.1086/525506Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Religions in the United States are unequal in the wealth they possess, with conservative Protestants being the least wealthy. In this article Keister explains the mechanism by which this wealth inequality occurs.

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            • Lincoln, C. Eric, and Lawrence H. Mamiya. 1990. The black church in the African American experience. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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              The most in-depth analysis of the African American religious experience available. Includes history of African American denominations, statistics about rural and urban churches, views of the civil rights movement, funding, women’s ordination. Based on survey of clergy in African American denominations.

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            • McRoberts, Omar. 2003. Streets of glory: Church and community in a black urban neighborhood. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              Ethnography of the churches in a black neighborhood in Boston. Reorients sociologists to the relationship between the population and local churches. Rich description of practices and beliefs of diverse churches.

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            • Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. 1998. Church culture as a strategy of action in the black community. American Sociological Review 63.6: 767–784.

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              An article ostensibly about social movement theory but also shows how cultural tools from African American religion are a resource for political activism. Based on ethnographic research in Chicago.

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            Secularization

            Secularization is the general decline of religion. Early sociologists all assumed that secularization was in process and would eventually be complete with the death of religion at the hands of modernity, science, and enlightenment thinking more generally. In recent decades scholars have more closely specified the different components of secularization and have shown how some aspects are occurring, while others may not be. Dobbelaere 1981 provides the modern distinction between types of secularization as: “laicization,” usually known as institutional differentiation; religious involvement; and a change in the content of religion. With the differentiation type of secularization, religion becomes privatized in an institution that does not influence others. This is challenged by Casanova 1994, and explained by Smith 2003. While it was long argued that institutional differentiation has occurred, attendance and religious identity have remained steady or grown in the United States (while declining in Europe). This has led others to consider secularization to be a myth, and this view is well represented by Stark 1999. Hadaway, et al. 1993 focuses on the actual measurement of attendance in the United States, and Hout and Fischer 2002 explains a recent drop in religious identification. Finally, by using a distinct definition of religion, Norris and Inglehart 2004 predicts the secularization of societies as a function of their level of existential security.

            • Casanova, José. 1994. Public religions in the modern world. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              With institutional differentiation, religion becomes an institution by itself, unable to influence other institutions. Casanova classically argues that in many cases this institutional differentiation is reversing as some religions have been influencing the political sphere.

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            • Dobbelaere, Karel. 1981. Trend report. Secularization: A multi-dimensional concept. Current Sociology 29.2: 1–213.

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              In this book-length journal article, the author distinguishes between secularization as laicization, religious involvement, and religious change. Laicization is the differentiation of religion from other institutions, religious involvement is basically attendance, and change is a decline in the transcendence of religious symbols.

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            • Hadaway, C. Kirk, Penny Long Marler, and Mark Chaves. 1993. What the polls don’t show: A closer look at U.S. church attendance. American Sociological Review 58.6: 741–752.

              DOI: 10.2307/2095948Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              In contrast to studies determining religious service attendance by the self-claims of survey respondents, the authors counted heads on a weekend in one county in Ohio. Overthrows many assumptions about attendance in the United States and spurs a debate about measurement.

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            • Hout, Michael, and Claude S. Fischer. 2002. Why more Americans have no religious preference: Politics and generations. American Sociological Review 67.2:165–190.

              DOI: 10.2307/3088891Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              The percentage of Americans who claim to have no religion was consistent and low for decades. A recent doubling of the percentage is explained in this article as a function of demography and a reaction against religious conservatives in politics.

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            • Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2004. Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              People around the globe with less existential security are more religious. This explains the greater religiosity of the global South compared to Europe and even explains the “exceptional” case of the United States, as people in the United States are less secure than other Westerners.

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            • Smith, Christian, ed. 2003. The secular revolution: Power, interests, and conflict in the secularization of American public life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              In a long and detailed introduction, as well as case studies by other authors, the case is made that institutional differentiation was not the result of abstract forces such as “modernity,” but rather occurred by the hand of secularizers who mobilized resources to achieve their goal of secularizing the public sphere.

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            • Stark, Rodney. 1999. Secularization, r.i.p. Sociology of Religion 60.3: 249–273.

              DOI: 10.2307/3711936Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              While admitting that the institutional differentiation type of secularization has occurred, makes a strong argument that other types of secularization have not.

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            Religious Traditions and Denominations in the United States

            Religious people in the United States are not each unique in their beliefs but rather are part of religious traditions and denominations. Understanding the evolution of these traditions is then key to any sociologist, and the writings of historians are helpful as reference points. Ahlstrom 1972 provides a classic and comprehensive history of religious traditions and denominations in the United States. Butler 1990 is part of a revisionist strand of historians who have offered a less Puritan-centered history. Glazer 1988 offers the canonical history of American Judaism. Wuthnow 1988 produced the vision of a rearranged categorization of religious traditions in the United States, which is dominant to this day. It is also important to be familiar with the distinct traditions, most notably, evangelicalism and fundamentalism; mainline Protestantism; Catholicism; and Jews, Muslims, and other religious minorities. Religious practice in the United States is somewhat distinct from religious practice in other countries, and as a comparison Davie 2000 offers a good examination of European patterns.

            • Ahlstrom, Sydney. 1972. A religious history of the American people. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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              Magisterial, 1,000-page history of religion in the United States. Serves as either a definitive history for those willing to read straight through or, due to its efficient compartmentalization, a reference for particular historical eras and religions.

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            • Butler, Jon. 1990. Awash in a sea of faith: Christianizing the American people. Studies in Cultural History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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              History of America from the colonial period to the Civil War. Overturns New England Puritanism as the center of religious history and explains the explosive growth in religiosity during the period.

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            • Davie, Grace. 2000. Religion in modern Europe: A memory mutates. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              Examination of the landscape of religion in Europe. Europeans are not so much secular as they are uninterested in regular participation in traditional religious institutions.

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            • Glazer, Nathan. 1988. American Judaism. 2d ed. Chicago History of American Civilization. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              First published in 1957, the canonical history of Jews in America up to the 1950s.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1988. The restructuring of American religion: Society and faith since World War II. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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              Canonical explanation of how the old Protestant/Catholic/Jewish divide has come to be replaced with a model where religious liberals are in conflict with religious conservatives of whatever religious tradition.

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            Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

            The largest religious tradition in the United States is evangelicalism. This is a broad umbrella, which includes Pentecostals, fundamentalists, and members of seeker churches. Previous general examinations of the history of evangelicalism and the views of its members have been superseded by Smith 1998. Woodberry and Smith 1998 also provides a useful categorization of different types of conservative Protestants. While these are macro analyses, Ammerman 1987 provides a now-classic ethnography of a fundamentalist congregation that offers a richness of understanding of the fundamentalist worldview. The massive and comprehensive five-volume results of the Fundamentalism Project, in Marty and Appleby 1995, expand the concept of fundamentalism beyond Protestantism to all religions. One important emerging subset of evangelicalism is the seeker church, studied by Sargeant 2000. Another is Pentecostalism, exploding in the Third World, and an early and influential statement is Martin 1993.

            • Ammerman, Nancy Tatom. 1987. Bible believers: Fundamentalists in the modern world. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Classic ethnography of a fundamentalist congregation in New England.

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            • Martin, David. 1993. Tongues of fire: The explosion of Protestantism in Latin America. New York: Wiley.

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              Takes a macro approach to the growth of Pentecostalism in Latin America, arguing that it is the result of various social transformations.

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            • Marty, Martin, and R. Scott Appleby, eds. 1995. Fundamentalisms comprehended. Fundamentalism Project 5. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              Final volume of five massive and comprehensive 800-page volumes of findings from the Fundamentalism Project at the University of Chicago. Dedicated to understanding fundamentalism in all religions and areas of the globe. Based on the premise of common features among “fundamentalisms.”

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            • Sargeant, Kimon. 2000. Seeker churches: Promoting traditional religion in a nontraditional way. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              One of the fastest-growing parts of conservative Protestantism is seeker churches that appeal to the “non-churched.” Such churches radically integrate religious practice and contemporary culture. Sargeant focuses on the Willow Creek movement as an example.

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            • Smith, Christian. 1998. American evangelicalism: Embattled and thriving. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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              Revisits the perennial theme in sociological studies of evangelicals: how do they survive? The answer is that they have created a strong subcultural identity based on their self-concept as an embattled group.

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            • Woodberry, Robert D., and Christian S. Smith. 1998. Fundamentalism et al.: Conservative Protestants in America. Annual Review of Sociology 24:25–56.

              DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.25Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Good summary of the history of evangelicalism. Clarifies distinctions between sub-components of the tradition, and the beliefs of each group. Useful summary of debates about ways to empirically identify different types of conservative Protestants.

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            Mainline Protestantism

            While never numerically dominant, the tradition now called “mainline Protestantism” dominated public life in the United States until the 1960s. For example, essentially all presidents before the 1960s were mainline Protestants. Yet, despite a decline, these more liberal Protestants remain an important component of the religious landscape of the United States, representing approximately 25 percent of Americans. The literature is dominated by attempts to understand both the shrinkage in the number of mainliners but also the decline in their social influence. The modern debate about the numeric decline of the mainline probably began with Hadden 1969, who claimed that the decline was due to a gap between an overly liberal clergy and a more conservative laity. Hoge, et al. 1994 summarizes the debate over numeric decline and offers its own explanation from a study of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Demerath 1995 explains the decline as the result of the paradoxical cultural victory of the mainline. After years of debate on the cause, Hout, et al. 2001 demonstrated that the decline is not due to the ideological content of the mainline but to demographic forces. Independent of numeric decline, other scholars have asked why the mainline has lost its dominance in the public sphere. Evans 2009 reviews seven explanations for this decline, while Wuthnow and Evans 2002 argues that the actual influence of the mainline is hidden by its quiet and behind-the-scenes style of influence.

            • Demerath, N. J. 1995. Cultural victory and organizational defeat in the paradoxical decline of Liberal Protestantism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34.4:458–469.

              DOI: 10.2307/1387339Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              In a generally underappreciated essay, Demerath explains the organizational decline of mainline Protestants as the result of their paradoxical victory in the broader culture, which has adopted many tenets of mainline Protestant thought.

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            • Evans, John H. 2009. Where is the counterweight? Explorations of the decline in mainline Protestant participation in public debates over values. In Evangelicals and democracy in America. Vol. 1, Religion and society. Edited by Steven Brint and Jean Reith Schroedel, 221–247. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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              Reviews seven possible explanations for the decline of public influence of mainline Protestants.

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            • Hadden, Jeffrey K. 1969. The gathering storm in the churches. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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              Uses extensive data to show that the mainline clergy are more liberal than the laity. This is the ur-text for the claim that the decline of the mainline is the result of the liberalism of its leadership.

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            • Hoge, Dean R., Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens. 1994. Vanishing boundaries: The religion of mainline Protestant baby boomers. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox.

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              A study of one mainline denomination to try to explain its numeric decline. Includes a good summary of the debate and focuses on baby boomers and why those born into the mainline do not stay there.

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            • Hout, Michael, Andrew Greeley, and Melissa J. Wilde. 2001. The demographic imperative in religious change in the United States. American Journal of Sociology 107.2: 468–500.

              DOI: 10.1086/324189Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              In contrast to claiming that the mainline numeric declines are due to liberalism, or conversions to evangelicalism, the authors show that relative mainline decline is the result of a drop in the number of traditional conversions from evangelical to mainline traditions, as well as a lower birthrate among mainline women.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert, and John H. Evans. 2002. The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              An edited volume that chronicles the contemporary influence of the mainline in the public sphere. The central theme is that the mainline is “quietly influential,” leading people not to realize how influential they remain.

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            Catholicism

            Catholicism is roughly tied with mainline Protestantism as the second-largest religious tradition in the United States. Dolan 1985 offers a canonical history of American Catholicism. The literature in earlier decades focused on discrimination against Catholics. In more recent years, as Catholics have progressed toward parity with other groups, focus has turned to understanding the beliefs of American Catholics, and how these are changing. A particular focus has been on the views of the laity and how they diverge from those of the hierarchy. D’Antonio, et al. 1989 offers survey results of the views of Catholics, and in D’Antonio, et al. 2007 they offer the fourth installment of this longitudinal study, focusing on how views are changing. Baggett 2009 compliments these quantitative, survey-based studies with an ethnographic study of the lives of active Catholic laity, which again shows how much Catholics are like other religious Americans. Dillon 1999 focuses on why Catholics who strongly disagree with the leadership in the church remain in the church. Andrew Greeley famously identifies a distinct Catholic sensibility in The Catholic Imagination (Greeley 2000).

            • Baggett, Jerome P. 2009. Sense of the faithful: How American Catholics live their faith. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              Qualitative analysis of how more than 300 active Catholics live their Catholic lives. Offers a rich addition to the survey results that dominate other studies. E-book.

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            • D’Antonio, William, James Davidson, Dean Hoge, and Ruth Wallace. 1989. American Catholic laity in a changing church. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward.

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              A study of how Catholic laity respond to church authority, particularly on issues having to do with sex and marriage. As with other studies, while disagreeing with the leadership on many issues, Catholics remain committed to the church.

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            • D’Antonio, William B., James D. Davidson, Dean R. Hoge, and Mary L. Gautier. 2007. American Catholics today: New realities of their faith and their church. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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              The most recent installment in a longitudinal study of American Catholics that began in 1987. Focus is on both internal church issues and broader social issues. Longitudinal design allows for comparison both across cohorts and within cohorts over time.

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            • Dillon, M. 1999. Catholic identity: Balancing reason, faith and power. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511752728Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Focuses on the question of why “pro-change” Catholics—those who want radical change in the church—remain church members. Pro-change Catholics do not argue with cultural resources from outside of the church, but rather use intellectual resources from within.

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            • Dolan, Jay P. 1985. The American Catholic experience: A history from colonial times to the present. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press.

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              Canonical history of the Catholic Church in the United States. Written from a social history perspective focusing on the people, rather than an institutional perspective focusing on elites.

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            • Greeley, Andrew. 2000. The Catholic imagination. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              Following theologian David Tracy’s idea of the analogical imagination, Greeley maps out the enchanted world of Catholics and the practices that sustain this enchantment. The Catholic imagination is more immanent and communal than that of Protestants.

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            Jews, Muslims, and Other Religious Minorities

            Sociologists have understandably focused their research on the larger religious traditions in the United States. However, religious minorities have also been the subject of investigation. The literature on religious minorities is often understandably focused on relationships with the majority, and Wuthnow 2005 is a contemporary version that accounts for the newer immigrants such as Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. Haddad and Esposito 2000 provides a series of essays about the relationship of Muslims to the majority groups in the United States. Heilman 1995 provides us with an overview of Judaism in the United States in the past fifty years. Cadge 2005 examines the Buddhism of both immigrants and European-American converts. Atheists are another minority “religious” group—marked by their lack of religion—and scholars have recently become more interested in this seemingly growing group. Jacoby 2004 provides a history of freethinkers more generally, including atheists, in American society. Edgell, et al. 2006 shows that the most ostracized group in the United States are atheists.

            The Religious Right, Conflict with Religious Liberals, and Culture Wars

            After decades of generally eschewing politics, conservative Protestants reentered the public sphere in the late 1970s. This emergence was explained shortly thereafter by a number of authors in the edited volume by Liebman and Wuthnow 1983. With thirty years of hindsight, the authors gathered in Brint and Schroedel 2009 evaluate the history and future of the religious right. The best study for distinguishing the views of the religious right from ordinary evangelicals is found in Smith 2000. With a growing presence on the right, conflict ensued between religious liberals and conservatives, often described as a “culture war.” The canonical Restructuring of American Religion (Wuthnow 1988) argues for the decline of the old Protestant/Catholic/Jew model and its replacement with a divide between religious liberals and religious conservatives. Hunter 1991 expands this argument to claim that there is a divide—a “culture war”—among all Americans (not just the religious), between those with orthodox and progressive worldviews. Claims of cultural wars are later clarified in the literature, with DiMaggio, et al. 1996 finding little evidence of polarization over social issues, as would be predicted from culture wars claims. Fiorina, et al. 2010 is the best extrapolation of these themes to the political arena, finding little evidence of a culture war. Claims more expansive than those in Wuthnow 1988, an original and more limited statement, have not been supported.

            • Brint, Steven, and Jean Reith Schroedel, eds. 2009. Evangelicals and democracy in America. Vol. 2, Religion and politics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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              The authors in this volume examine the influence of the religious right on partisan politics, the cultural tools used for mobilization, as well as the history and future of the religious right. The most up-to-date analysis of the religious right.

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            • DiMaggio, Paul, John H. Evans, and Bethany Bryson. 1996. Have Americans’ social attitudes become more polarized? American Journal of Sociology 102.3: 690–755.

              DOI: 10.1086/230995Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Tests the implication of Hunter’s culture wars thesis that Americans are polarized in their attitudes toward social issues such as abortion. Finds almost no evidence of polarization.

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            • Fiorina, Morris, Samuel J. Abrams, and Jeremy C. Pope. 2010. Culture war? The myth of a polarized America. 3d ed. Great Questions in Politics. New York: Pearson Longman.

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              Tests the culture war narrative in the specifically political arena and finds it inadequate. Mostly based on public opinion and voting data, Fiorina shows very little difference between “red” and “blue” states, as well as how forced binary elections create the mirage of conflict.

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            • Hunter, James Davidson. 1991. Culture wars: The struggle to define America. New York: Basic Books.

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              Expands on Wuthnow’s claims to argue that there is a more fundamental culture war in American society between those with orthodox and progressive worldviews. These different worldviews result in divergent views of issues such as abortion and thus result in a contemporary “culture war.”

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            • Liebman, Robert C., and Robert Wuthnow, eds. 1983. The new Christian right: Mobilization and legitimation. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.

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              Edited volume that examines the then-recent rise of the religious right in American politics.

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            • Smith, Christian. 2000. Christian America? What evangelicals really want. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              Smith contrasts the views of the activists in the religious right to the views of ordinary evangelicals in this national study. In general, ordinary evangelicals are more tolerant and pluralistic than we would be led to believe from the activists.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1988. The restructuring of American religion: Society and faith since World War II. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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              Canonical study of the replacement of an old Protestant/Catholic/Jewish divide with a model where religious liberals are in conflict with religious conservatives of whatever religious tradition.

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            Rational Choice Theory

            In the late 1980s, a group of scholars, building on existing sociological work, began to apply economic perspectives on human action to the sociological study of religion. A market analogy is applied to religion, and religious markets concern trade-offs between supernatural compensators and other activities. Congregations are then competing for customers with the most efficiently produced and most desirable product. Representing this perspective is Stark and Bainbridge 1996, and an early and influential synthesis of ideas is found in Warner 1993. An ur-text of this movement was Kelley 1996, a treatise provocatively titled “Why Conservative Churches are Growing.” Kelley’s theory was more technically developed by Iannaccone 1994. Another implication of racial choice theory—strongly argued by Finke and Stark 2005—is that competition between religious providers should result in more efficiency all around, and thus more religion in the geographic area. Rational choice theory has evolved into a distinct subdebate that remains closed off from other debates in the sociology of religion and sociology more broadly. It has also been widely criticized by other sociologists of religion, who are well represented by Bruce 1999 and an edited volume, Young 1997.

            • Bruce, Steve. 1999. Choice and religion: A critique of rational choice theory. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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              Book-length critique of the rational choice project in the sociology of religion by one of its strongest critics. Good summary of theoretical, logical, and empirical critique of rational choice theory.

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            • Finke, Roger, and Rodney Stark. 2005. The churching of America, 1776–2005: Winners and losers in our religious economy. 2d ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Second edition and update to their 1992 study. Finke and Stark retell the religious history of America through a rational choice lens, arguing that the groups that succeeded in beating out the others were those that were most efficient in eliminating free riders, and that religious pluralism leads to more religion in general as religious firms become more efficient.

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            • Iannaccone, Larry R. 1994. Why strict churches are strong. American Journal of Sociology 99.5:1180–1211.

              DOI: 10.1086/230409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Explains on a more theoretical level why strictness leads to more efficient production of religious goods, and thus the increased competitive capacity of strict religions. Strictness scares away free riders.

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            • Kelley, Dean M. 1996. Why conservative churches are growing: A study in sociology of religion. 3d ed. Reprints of Scholarly Excellence 11. Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press.

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              Originally published in 1972. Makes the seemingly paradoxical argument that the religious groups that grow in membership are those that make the most stringent demands on their members. This book is the origin of rational choice theorizing about the positive effects of strictness.

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            • Stark, Rodney, and William Sims Bainbridge. 1996. A theory of religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Originally published 1987. The most complete statement of religion as supernatural general compensators for unobtained rewards. Fits much of existing knowledge in the sociology of religion into their theory. Difficult to read, with hundreds of formal propositions laid out.

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            • Warner, R. Stephen. 1993. Work in progress toward a new paradigm for the sociological study of religion in the United States. American Journal of Sociology 98.5: 1044–1093.

              DOI: 10.1086/230139Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Warner declares a new paradigm to replace the assumptions based in Bergerian phenomenology. Focuses on the idea that there is a free market in religion in the United States, which has, contrary to Berger, allowed religion to flourish.

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            • Young, Lawrence A., ed. 1997. Rational choice theory and religion: Summary and assessment. New York: Routledge.

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              An edited volume that contains a variety of essays on both sides of the debate about the legitimacy of applying rational choice theory to religion.

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            Congregations and Groups

            In the United States, most religious practice takes place in groups, particularly the congregation. National or worldwide religions come to life on the local level in these groups, so understanding the dynamics of congregations is critical to understanding religion in the West. Chaves 2004 is now considered the best data on what congregations in the United States are like and what they do. Becker 1999 is the best study of conflict within congregations. How congregations change in reaction to change in their community is the focus of Ammerman and Farnsley 1997, a broad study, as well as the more specific study of Eiesland 1999. How congregations are linked to the rest of civil society is the focus of Ammerman 2005. There is also a pragmatic literature on congregational evaluation used by local congregational leaders for self-studies. The best of this literature are Dudley and Ammerman 2002 and Ammerman, et al. 1998. Finally, scholars have come to realize that much religion occurs at a more microlevel than the congregation—in small groups. Wuthnow 1994 is still the standard bearer for investigation of support groups.

            • Ammerman, Nancy. 2005. Pillars of faith: American congregations and their partners. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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              Expands our thinking beyond looking at congregations as discrete entities. Describes the partnerships that congregations have with community organizations, showing their centrality to most communities.

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            • Ammerman, Nancy, and Arthur Emery Farnesley. 1997. Congregation and community. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Based on twenty-three case studies of a range of congregations, focusing on how they react to cultural, economic, and social/cultural changes in their community.

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            • Ammerman, Nancy, Jackson W. Carroll, Carl S. Dudley, and William McKinney, eds. 1998. Studying congregations: A new handbook. Nashville, TN: Abingdon.

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              One of two books for pragmatic evaluation of congregations. Separate chapters on theory and practice of congregational evaluation. Good mix of theories and pragmatic materials such as checklists.

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            • Becker, Penny Edgell. 1999. Congregations in conflict: Cultural models of local religious life. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499319Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Empirical study of congregations’ sources of conflict. In the end it is not structure such as church size that determines conflict but rather congregational culture.

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            • Chaves, Mark. 2004. Congregations in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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              Up until the initiation of Chaves’s research project, there was no way to generate a random sample of congregations in the United States, so few generalizations could be made about congregations. This book reports the quantitative results of Chaves’s path-breaking study.

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            • Dudley, Carl S., and Nancy Ammerman. 2002. Congregations in transition: A guide for analyzing, assessing, and adapting in changing communities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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              One of two books designed by academic leaders for pragmatic evaluation of congregational health by non-academics.

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            • Eiesland, Nancy L. 1999. A particular place: Urban restructuring and religious ecology in a southern exurb. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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              Detailed analysis of the reaction of congregations within one community to massive social change as their small town becomes an exurb of a metropolis.

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            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1994. Sharing the journey: Support groups and America’s new quest for community. New York: Free Press.

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              Study of support groups in and out of religious settings. General focus on religious implications of the groups.

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            LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

            DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0046

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