Sociology and the Study of Religion: Theory, Research, Interpretation

Sociology and the Study of Religion: Theory, Research, Interpretation

Sociology and the Study of Religion: Theory, Research, Interpretation

Sociology and the Study of Religion: Theory, Research, Interpretation

Excerpt

The sociological study of religion has become increasingly popular in this country, whether judged by activity or production, the sale or the writing of books, or the offering of and enrollment in courses in colleges and universities. This growth seems to reflect two notable tendencies in our contemporary intellectual life. The first is the continuing popularity of the social sciences; the second, the increasing concern with religious studies which is also to be seen in an increase in academic departments, course offerings, and enrollments of graduates and undergraduates.

These phenomena allow for various interpretations and are no doubt related to and reflective of basic changes taking place in American society. One interpretation which seems eminently plausible to the author may be suggested here. The distinctive social experience of our time is one of crisis, conflict, turmoil, and widespread malaise in political, intellectual, and religious life. Such a situation suggests to many of our contemporaries that social science may have something important to contribute to understanding our predicaments and clarifying our experience. The social sciences represent the endeavor to adapt, extend, and apply systematically the attitudes (intellectual and emotional disciplines) and the methodology (perspectives, methods, and techniques) of the natural sciences to the study of human problems. In this way it is hoped to go beyond a commonsense understanding of our experience and to achieve insights not available on that level. Although this demands fragmentation of perspective and specialization of method, it makes possible a more controlled and more concentrated attention to the aspects chosen for investigation. Moreover, it is hoped that later discussion and synthesis will put the pieces together in a larger whole, deeper and better grounded than the products of commonsense thought, which will provide valid and relevant information and . . .

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