Quantitative Approaches to the Religious Phenomenon

Article excerpt

QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES TO THE RELIGIOUS PHENOMENON Claudiu Herteliu, Metode cantitative În studiul fenomenului religios (Quantitative Methods in the Study of Religious Phenomena), (Cluj-Napoca: Ed. Napoca Star, 2009), 227 p

Key words: quantitative methods of research, statistics, religion, system of indicators, tests and statistical analysis patterns, religion and socio-economic aspects (the macro and micro level)

Understanding religious phenomena has been one of the major preoccupations and challenges of social sciences and the humanities. It is difficult to identify a period of time when religion could have been of no interest to historians, sociologists, philosophers and other categories of researchers in the socio-human space. Post-world war Romania has witnessed a quasi exclusion of religion from the research processes performed inside socio-human institutions. The last two decades of the 20th century registered a re-launching of the interest in research on religious topics. The effort made in order to fill in the gap that characterized the scientific knowledge of the religious phenomenon during the communist period mobilized, to a certain extent, researchers in various areas: sociologists, demographers, statisticians, historians, psychologists etc.

Claudiu Herteliu has attempted and managed to include his work titled Quantitative Methods in the Study of Religious Phenomena among the outcomes of such scientific reflection and activity. His approach is influenced by Weberian thought and this is evident from the beginning of the work that includes certain concepts and aspects that characterize Max Weber's system of thinking, not to mention the author's earlier papers that betray his affinity with Weber. The Introduction and the first chapter of the book outline the author's position in the proximity of religion, delineating some theoretical similarities, some preferred fields or domains that apply and successfully use the quantitative methods of research, namely religious marketing and market, the couple 'geopolitics - religion', religion and economy. Considering religion as a market product might be of interest but it could also result in criticism and disapproval. The author launches a series of challenges to what the present-day study of religious phenomena means, such as the study of religion from the perspective of the market, the strategies of religious marketing or quantitative approaches, some of them excluding the well-known theological conceptions etc. These are new and bold approaches to the study of religion in the Romanian society and the development of such methods would better express, from a scientific point of view, what has been going on at the level of religious acts in Romania, i.e. the secularization and the laicization of the religious phenomenon. The author's preference for the Weberian type of analysis is to be found in the connections he makes between the religious and the economic life of the individual, the family and the community.

Claudiu Her.eliu's theoretical and methodological path reflects the need of today's Romanian statisticians to provide minute details of the information registered in official documents. However, before such endeavor in the field of details, any attempt to make the statistical analyses of the Romanian religious realities in the last 100 years reveals a considerable set of further problems: the lack of data for longer periods of time, the impossibility to make comparisons between Romanian regions, the lack of instruments and methods for collecting data etc.

The author attempts to establish connections between measuring religious phenomena and religious marketing. It is an approach that legitimizes the conceptual and methodological frame proposed by the author. The domains he refers to are not singular and the applicability of such a measuring and registration of religious data has positive scientific outcomes for all researchers on population study - demographers, sociologists, historians, geographers, economists etc. …