The Diffusion of Religions: A Sociological Perspective

Article excerpt

The Diffusion of Religions: A Sociological Perspective.

By Robert L. Montgomery. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1996. Pp. xxii, 219. Paperback. No price given.

Robert Montgomery is both minister and sociologist. It was the latter occupation that shaped this book, motivating Montgomery to look for historical patterns that reveal how religious beliefs and practices move through space and time. His thesis: Whether a new religion is opposed, adopted but altered, or absorbed more or less intact is determined by historical context and intergroup relations as much by the intentions of the senders or the culture of the receivers. The "intergroup relations" rubric subsumes such diversity as the method of religious transmission (by force or not); the degree of hostility between senders and receivers; the threat of other outside forces; the stability of the indigenous moral order; social divisions among various targeted groups, the ability of those groups to resist new beliefs, and their efforts to sustain their ethnic identity; and the role of the state in its quest for power and legitimacy.

Armed with these concepts, Montgomery scoured the histories of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, looking for events that tested his theory, a prodigious undertaking that arrived at a parsimonious central conclusion (p. …

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