Sociology of Religion

The study of religion is a core component of sociology, from its substantive place in the classical theorizing of Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, to comprising one of the most vibrant areas of research among contemporary sociologists. The sociology of religion is not interested in speculating about the existence of God or in assessing the validity and coherence of religious belief. It is concerned, rather, with how individuals, social institutions, and cultures construe God or the sacred, how these ideas penetrate public culture and individual lives, and with the implications of these interpretations for individual, institutional, and societal processes. Thus sociologists of religion draw on the full range of research methodologies available to explore theoretically informed questions about the relevance, meaning, and implications of religion in local, national, and global socio-historical contexts.

Asceticism

The concept of asceticism shows the unity of efforts through which an individual desires to progress in his moral, religious and spiritual life. The original meaning of the term refers to any exercise, physical, intellectual or moral, practiced with method and rigor, in hopes of self-improvement and progress. Notwithstanding the great flexibility that characterizes the […]

Belief

Belief is a key psychological and biographical phenomenon within sociological frames of religion. Thomas O’Dea (1966) pivots Max Weber’s ”process of rationalization” as essential to understanding belief and belief patterns surrounding religious experiences. With the historic dismissal of certain fantastical and mystical traditions as ”irrational,” rational theologies were developed to maintain the power of religious […]

Buddhism

Buddhism is a neologism, created in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century, from the Sanskrit word ”Buddha,” literally the awakened one. It is derived from an epithet attributed to Siddharta Gautama. Gautama was born in Northern India and most scholars estimate he lived between 563 and 483 BC. The term Buddha defines all […]

Charisma

The term ”charisma” is one of the most enduring conceptions in the annals of sociology. Its origin, meaning ”gift,” as derived from the Greek, is close to Max Weber’s understanding of the term which has subsequently passed into common vocabularies. In a sociological sense, charisma refers to the qualities of those who possess, or are […]

Church

The sociological phenomenon of ”church” – from the Greek word ”ecclesia” – has been theoretically discussed from Emile Durkheim to Thomas O’Dea to Peter Berger. Durkheim’s seminal text – The Elementary Forms of Religious Life – defines church as ”a society whose members are united because they imagine the sacred world and its relations with […]

Civil Religion

Civil religion refers to the cultural beliefs, practices, and symbols that relate a nation to the ultimate conditions of its existence. Bellah (1967) argues that civil religion is an understanding of the American experience in the light of ultimate and universal reality, and can be found in presidential inaugural addresses, sacred texts (the Declaration of […]

Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is a label that refers to the modern tendency to claim the unerring nature of a sacred text and to deduce from that a rational strategy for social action. The final goal is to achieve the utopia of a regime of the Truth, gain political power and rebuild organic solidarity. Many scholars hold the […]

Religion and Globalization

Globalization describes the historical process by which all the world’s people come to live in a single social unit. Religion constitutes an important dimension of globalization through its worldwide institutional presence, its importance in structuring individual and collective cultural difference, and as an effective resource for local and global social mobilization for various goals. Religion […]

Islam

The sociology of Islam covers a diverse set of religious and cultural groups and histories. With a global population estimated at more than 1.6 billion as of 2009,Muslims constituted the world’s second largest religious tradition (after Christianity).Nearly a quarter of all Muslims live outside majority-Muslim countries, including tens of millions throughout eastern and western Europe. […]

Judaism

Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, characterized by a belief in one God (monotheism), and the belief that the Torah is the source of divine knowledge. The Shema, ”Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One,” affirms Judaism’s monotheism. The Torah is also referred to as the Holy Scriptures, and is the […]

Myth

A myth is a story with a parallel structure linking the past to the present and suggesting directions for the future. A myth may be a cautionary tale, a moral tale, or a tale of idealized behavioral standards, as in hero myths. As a sociological term the use of the word myth has been rather […]

New Religious Movements

The term new religious movement (NRM) refers both to various forms of Eastern spirituality brought to the west by immigrants, and to groups founded since World War II, and identified as ”cults” or ”sects” in popular parlance. The enormous diversity within the current wave of new religions cannot be over-emphasized, but in so far as […]

Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is a major branch of Christianity, represented by the Eastern Orthodox Church, with an unbroken continuity to the apostolic tradition and a claim to curry the authentic Christian faith and practice. The term Orthodoxy (from the Greek orthe doxa), meaning both right faith and right worship, developed and came to usage during the fourth […]

Primitive Religion

While there is no universally accepted definition of ”primitive religion,” typically it is understood to mean beliefs and practices in non-literate, small-scale societies with limited technological and material culture. Nonetheless some contemporary social scientists are ill at ease with the label ”primitive” because of its pejorative connotations and a legacy of western observers misreading the […]

Sociology of Religion

The study of religion is a core component of sociology, from its substantive place in the classical theorizing of Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, to comprising one of the most vibrant areas of research among contemporary sociologists. The sociology of religion is not interested in speculating about the existence of God or in assessing the […]

Sacred

The Latin word sacer, from which the term sacred is derived, denotes a distinction between what is and what is not pertaining to the gods. In not a dissimilar fashion, the Hebrew root of k-d-sh, which is usually translated as ”Holy,” is based on the idea of separation of the consecrated and desecrated in relation […]

Sacred/Profane

The significance of the sacred/profane distinction in sociology is to be most directly credited to Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, where he defines religion as ”a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into […]

Scientology

Scientology, or officially the ”Church of Scientology,” was founded by adherents of Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-86) in 1954, but the movement behind Scientology dates back to Hubbard’s publication of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental health in 1950. Dianetics was a therapeutic system which Hubbard claimed could cure psychosomatic illness. Dianetics can be […]

Secularization

Secularization is the result of the process of functional differentiation, which developed different sub-systems (e.g. economy, polity and family) performing particular functions for modern societies (production and distribution of goods and services; taking binding decisions and procreation and mutual support). To guarantee these functions and to communicate with their environment, organizations have been established (enterprises; […]

Theology

The modern conception of theology as both a faithful and rational or scientific way of talking about God dates from the Christian Middle Ages. Theology as a term is rooted in Greek philosophy, which consisted of three parts: the mythology of the gods, theology as a form of philosophy of nature, and political theology as […]