Judaism: A Sociology

Judaism: A Sociology

Judaism: A Sociology

Judaism: A Sociology

Excerpt

Modern Judaism, in a historical and comparative framework, has gone largely uninvestigated in sociology. A number of recent studies of contemporary Jewish communities, mainly in the United States and using quantitative methods, have provided valuable statistical data on the relationship between religious identity and practices and social variables; but sociologists of religion have paid scant attention to the enormous changes that have occurred, especially since the eighteenth century, in the practice and ritual forms of post-biblical Judaism. Where sociologists have studied change in modern Judaism, they have generally limited their analyses to one society, and research has been almost exclusively focused on Judaism in the United States.

There are a number of intellectual histories of modern Judaism but these have rarely touched on problems which are of interest to the sociologist. The historians have traced the development of religious ideas among an intellectual élite; the sociologist of religion is interested more in the religious beliefs and practices of the majority, and in showing the interrelationships between religion and other cultural and social dimensions of society. This analysis will be concerned more with changes in religious ritual than with changes in religious belief. In the context of the modern Western world, Judaism may be classed as a comparatively ritualistic religion. Unlike Christianity, which sets forth general principles of action and, especially in Protestantism, leaves decisions in particular cases to the conscience of the believer, Judaism prescribes highly detailed patterns of religious behaviour. Most Jews measure religiosity by the number of rituals that are kept, and by the . . .

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