Religion Matters: What Sociology Teaches Us About Religion In Our World

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Nonspecific Binding
  • Copyright: 2010-05-04
  • Publisher: Routledge

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This is a new text for thesociology of religioncourse. Instead of surveying the field systematically, the text is organized around a set ofbig questions that generate the most discussion and debate in the sociology of religionfield. Big questionscovered in the text, include: Whatever happened to the so-called 'decline of religion'? Explaining religious vitality in today's world. Why is there a rising tide of fundamentalism around the world? How have recent waves of immigration changed the landscape of religion in the US and elsewhere? What are we to make of innovative ways to get your religion? -Mega-churches, televangelism and the crystal shop around the corner Is religion a force for social change or a tool of the status quo? Can democratic political systems accommodate growing religious diversity? If religion teaches love, how can it lead to violence? How are sex roles, gender identity and definitions of the family infused with religious meaning? Does religion contribute to environmental degradation? Does it have a role to play in preserving the environment? What's with the struggle between science and religion? Do we need God to do good? Religious and moral values in schools, charities and public policy.

Author Biography

Michael O. Emerson is the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.  In addition to many articles on the topic of religion, he is the author of several books, including Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford University Press) and People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States (Princeton University Press). 


William A. Mirola is Professor of Sociology and former chair of the Department of History and Social Science at Marian College in Indianapolis, IN.  His teaching and research interests focus on the sociology of religion, social class, and social movements and change.  In 2009, he co-edited (with Sean McCloud), Religion and Class in America: Culture, History, and Politics.  He is co-editor (with Susanne Monahan and Michael Emerson) of Sociology of Religion: A Reader.  He has published articles in Sociology of Religion, Social Problems, and Social Science History, principally addressing the intersections of religion and social class as well as religious dynamics in the American labor movement, past and present. 


Susanne C. Monahan is Associate Professor and former chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Montana State University.  She received a Ph.D. and A.M. in Sociology from Stanford University, and a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Economics from Swarthmore College.  Her research focuses on complex organizations, including work on American congregations and clergy.  She is co-editor, along with William Mirola and Michael Emerson, of Sociology of Religion: A Reader, and has published articles and reviews in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Review of Religious Research, Sociology of Religion, Theoretical Criminology, Justice Quarterly, Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Child Development

Table of Contents








Section I Getting Acquainted

Chapter 1 Why Religion?                                                                                                 

Chapter 2 “You Believe What?”                                                                                       

Chapter 3 Downloading God, “Big Box” Churches, and the Crystal Shop Around the Corner

Section II The Shape of Religion

Chapter 4 Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?                                                   

Chapter 5 God’s Not Dead (and Neither is the Goddess!)                                   

Chapter 6 Our God Rules (Yours Doesn’t)               


Section III Religion, Conflict and the State

Chapter 7 Divine rights and casting down the mighty from their thrones   

Chapter 8 Give us our due                           


Section IV Religion, Identity and Social Inequalities

Chapter 9 Adam, Eve, and Steve                                                                                 

Chapter 10 The (Not So Great) Color Wall of the U.S.                                       

Chapter 11 Who Brought the Enchiladas to My Bar Mitzvah?   


Section V More Big Questions

Chapter 12Godless science?  Irrational religion?                                                          

Chapter 13 The end of days?  Religion and environmentalism                             

Chapter 14 Do we need God to do good?         




*Recommended readings appear at the end of each chapter


Section I  Getting Acquainted


Chapter 1 Why Religion?

But What Is Religion Anyway?

On Belief and Ritual

On Community

Religion Assures Us of Cosmic Order

A Sociological Consensus:  Religion is a Human Product

The Promise of Sociology

Chapter 2 “You Believe What?” — A Tour of Religious Belief and Ritual Practice

Comparing Religious Beliefs and Practices



    Mainline Protestantism

    Evangelical Protestants

    Other Christian Denominations





Understanding Contemporary Religious Ritual Practices

The Role of Beliefs and Ritual Practices


Section II The Shape of Religion  

Chapter 3 Downloading God, “Big Box” Churches, And the Crystal Shop Around the Corner: Religious Adaptation in the High Tech, Digital Age

Changing Technology, Changing Religion

Virtual Spiritual Community, Identity, and Authority

What’s In A “Mega-Church”?

Can You Have Community In A Megachurch?

Other New Forms and Contexts for Religious Community

Chapter 4 Can’t We All Just Get Along? Cohesion and Conflict in Religion

Getting Personal

Religion and Social Cohesion

Religion and Social Conflict

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Recommended Reading

Chapter 5 News Flash: God’s Not Dead (And Neither Is the Goddess!)

Will The Real Secularization Theory Please Stand Up?

Religious Vitality in the U.S. And Abroad

Secular Yet Religiously Vital?

Chapter 6 Our God Rules (Yours Doesn’t)

Why A Rising Tide Of Fundamentalism Around The World?

What Is Religious Fundamentalism?

The “First” Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism Rising

Characteristics of Religious Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism and Other Aspects of Social Life

Are Fundamentalist Movements Violent?

Holes in Conceptualizing and Understanding Fundamentalism

    Measuring Fundamentalism

    Should We Study Fundamentalism Or Modern Secularism?

    European Exceptionalism

Is There Such A Thing As Fundamentalism?

Where Do We Go From Here?


Section III  Religion, Conflict and the State

Chapter 7 Divine Rights And Casting Down The Mighty From Their Thrones: Does Religion Block Or Encourage Social Change?

Classic Observations about Religion and Social Change

The Lessons from Studying Social Movements

    The Emergence Of Religious Activism

    When Activists Get Religion 

Any Limits of Religion’s Influence on Change?

Chapter 8 Give Us Our Due:  Religion and The State Religion and Politics In The U.S.

Why Politics?

“Princes, Governors, and Oppressors”:

Varieties of Relations between Religion and Government

    Religion as a Tool of the State: “You Visit Them”

    Theocracy: “They Visit You”

Separate Spheres: Variants of Religion Freedom from Politics

    The U.S. Case: Religious Freedom

    The Disestablishment Clause and the Institutional Autonomy of Religion

Separation of Church and State:  Freedom from Religion?


Section IV  Religion, Identity and Social Inequalities

Chapter 9 Adam, Eve, And Steve: How Religion Intersects With Gender and Sexuality

But Isn’t a Woman’s Place In…Religion?

Changing Gender Roles, Changing Relationships to Religion

Does Religion Change With Women In Charge?

Sex, Sex, Sex…Why Does It Always Come Back To Sex?

    “The Homosexual Agenda!”

Challenging and Transforming Religious Ideas about Gender and Sexuality

Chapter 10 The (Not So Great) Color Wall of the U.S.:

Race and Religion in Contemporary Times

So What If Religious Congregations Are Segregated?

Can We Find a Solution?

But Can We Create and Maintain Multiracial Congregations?

Chapter 11 Who Brought The Enchiladas To My Bar Mitzvah? — Immigration and Religious Change

Overarching Religious Changes

Religious Changes for Immigrants

    The Story of Karen Chai Kim

Lessons about Immigration and Religious Change


Section V  More Big Questions

Chapter 12 Godless Science, Irrational Religion?

Flashpoint: The Current Debate over Evolution

Creation Stories, Religious and Scientific

Religion and Evolution: What’s The Big Deal?

    Religion’s Discontent with Scientific Inquiry

    Religion’s Discontent with Darwinian Evolution

Religion and Science, Mythos and Logos

Non- Overlapping Magesteria

Science, Technology and Religion

Religious Understanding of Reproductive Technologies

Godless Science?  Irrational Religion?

Chapter 13  End of Days?  Religion and the Environment

Environmentalism and Its Discontents

Religious Discontents

Religion Finds Environmentalism…

…But Environmentalism Is Leery Of Religion

Do Fundamental Christians Care About The Environment?

    A Worldview of “Mastery of Nature”     

The First Wave: Acceptance And Critique of White’s Argument     

The Second Wave: Testing “The Lynn White Hypothesis”

Revisiting White: What Was His Point?

Other Religious Approaches to Humans in the Natural World

Romanticized Religion: Indigenous Religion and Clashes with Environmentalists

Is Religion The Answer?

Chapter 14 Do We Need God To Do Good?

Do We Need God To Do Good? 

What’s Religion Got? 

Does Religion Ensure Doing Good?

A Note on Violence and Moral Communities

Moral Relativism?!


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