Religion is a critical construct for understanding contemporary social life. It illuminates the everyday experiences and practices of many individuals; is a significant component of diverse institutional processes including politics, gender relations, and socioeconomic inequality; and plays a vital role in public culture and social change. This handbook showcases current research and thinking in the sociology of religion. The contributors, all active writers and researchers in the area, provide original chapters focusing on select aspects of their own engagement with the field. Aimed at students and scholars who want to know more about the sociology of religion, this handbook also provides a resource for sociologists in general by integrating broader questions of sociology (e.g., demography, ethnicity, life course, inequality, political sociology) into the analysis of religion. Broadly inclusive of traditional research topics (modernity, secularization, politics) as well as newer interests (feminism, spirituality, faith-based community action), this handbook illustrates the validity of diverse theoretical perspectives and research designs to understanding the multilayered nature of religion as a sociological phenomenon.
Michele Dillon is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. She chaired the American Sociological Association's Section on Religion, 2002–3, and is book revieweditor for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In addition to numerous journal articles, Dillon is the author of Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power (Cambridge, 1999) and Debating Divorce: Moral Conflict in Ireland (1993). She is currently writing on the life course patterns and implications of religiousness and spirituality.