Peter Berger and the Study of Religion

Peter Berger and the Study of Religion

Peter Berger and the Study of Religion

Peter Berger and the Study of Religion


Peter Berger is the most influential contemporary sociologist of religion. This collection of essays is the first in-depth study of his contribution to the field, providing a comprehensive introduction to his work and to current thought in the study of religion. Themes addressed include:* Berger on religion and theology* Religion, spirituality and the discontents of modernity* Secularization and de-secularizationA postscript by Peter Berger, responding to the essays, completes this overview of this major figure's work.


Here I want to see those men of hard voice.

Those that break horses and dominate rivers;

those men of sonorous skeleton who sing

with a mouth full of sun and flint

Federico Garcia Lorca

Used as the epigraph of The Homeless Mind

(Berger and Kellner, 1973)

Religion in Modern Times there were a handful of authors whose work we found ourselves using again and again. Try as we might to find alternatives, there was no getting away from the fact that these were the writers responsible for a disproportionate number of the key formulations in the study of religion. If we take the Second World War as a watershed, the prewar authors we used the most were Weber, Troeltsch, Durkheim, Marx and Simmel. No big surprises there - our work merely confirmed an informal canon which is already widely accepted. But a canon in the postwar study of religion is not yet as clearly defined, and it was therefore with genuine interest that we discovered that the authors from whom we had extracted the most were David Martin, Robert Bellah, Robert Wuthnow - and Peter Berger.

In varying degrees and in different ways, all four of these authors combine high-level theorizing with close attention to empirical evidence. Arguably, it is Berger who has contributed the most to the study of religion at the level of what might be called ‘meta-theory’. The essentials of Berger’s theoretical framework were laid down early in his career, particularly through his collaboration with Thomas Luckmann on The Social Construction of Reality (1966). This foundational text in the sociology of knowledge explored and exposed the linkages between conviction, commitment, and social reality. Berger applied the arguments of this book to the religious realm in The Sacred Canopy (1967). His unique insight -

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