I would like to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude to the twenty-seven colleagues who responded to the invitation to contribute their efforts to this book and who cooperated with my demands for revisions, as well as all the cuts needed to fit twenty-three chapters into one volume. It has been a pleasure to work with you.
Special thanks go to Anson Shupe, our series adviser, and to James T. Sabin, Director, Academic Research and Development, of the Greenwood Publishing Group, for believing in this project and giving me encouragement to carry it out. I would also like to thank Helen Rose Ebaugh for her encouragement and for helpful comments on the content.
Thanks are also due to the people who taught me the sociology of religion and inspired me as a teacher and scholar: Sister Marie Augusta Neal, Paule Verdet, Sally Cassidy, and the late T. Scott Miyakawa. Scott was especially helpful in keeping me aware of the importance of integrating non-Western perspectives into the study of religion. I am also grateful to my colleagues in the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Religion Section of the American Sociological Association, whose ideas and research have deepened my understanding of our subfield and whose friendship has enriched my life.
Finally, my students at the University of Massachusetts Boston and at Mount Ida College by their enthusiasm for this field of study provided me with the motive for organizing this book. I am especially grateful to the international students who helped to contribute a global perspective to our discussions.