Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults

Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults

Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults

Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults

Synopsis

The people of the Middle Ages did what the Church told them God required. The sovereign consumers of the modern world 'pick and mix' their own religions, Starting with the Reformation and ending with New Age spirituality, this book offers a comprehensive sociological description andexplanation of the changes in the religious life of Western society that have accompanied modernization. This major new book from a leading sociologist of religion tracks the Church's changing role from monolith to Sect, to Denomination, and at the end of the twentieth century, to the Cult. What were the forces that brought about this change? What is the real role for the Church in the modern world?Professor Steve Bruce answers these questions in a clearly argued and accessible way. Including substantial chapters on religion in the USA, religion and ethnicity, and the New Age, Religion in the Modern World is an invaluable resource for students of sociology, religion or history and anyone witha real interest in looking behind the headlines for the place of religion in today's society.

Excerpt

By tradition the preface of a serious book is the place where the author relaxes, drops his careful and measured prose, and reveals a little of himself. In order to honour a man who meant a great deal to me, I intend to take full advantage of that tradition.

One of the great insights, if not innovations, of sociology is the simple point that knowledge is not neutral. How we see the world is in good part a product of our experiences, and many of those are common to our culture and society and to the various smaller social groups in which we were raised and in which we five. All knowledge is partial and socially constructed. Try as we might, we can never completely rid ourselves of those values and beliefs into which we were socialized. Various sociological currents of a Marxist hue try to solve the problem of the relativity of all knowledge by claiming that there is an objective course to human history and that, by aligning ourselves with the 'right' social group, which is the working classor more exactly what the Marxist intellectuals think the working class ought to be -- one can achieve the correct vantage-point. By being on the side of history we can move from peddling ideology to discerning truth. There is a less popular but very similar position taken by Christian sociologists. For them the salvation from relativism is salvation in the traditional Christian sense. Get right with God and we no longer see through a glass darkly.

I had the good fortune to be taught sociology by someone who was committed to the pursuit of disinterested scholarship. Roy Wallis was a good enough sociologist to know that we are all products of our worlds and that our biographies cannot fail to affect how we see the world around us, but he was also a good enough philosopher to appreciate that there is a difference between saying that we are products of our past and saying that all our intellectual endeavours can be no more than a representation of our class interests. His response to the relativism problem was that which, until the excesses of the late 1960s, was the orthodoxy in social science. You work hard to leave aside your prejudices and preferences, do your best to clarify arguments, collect evidence as honestly as you can . . .

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