Suggested Readings
 

 

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Religion: The Social Context summarizes a vast literature in the sociology of religion.  Below, I have chosen a few books and articles that are especially relevant to each chapter.  I have included a few works of fiction that illustrate social processes in religious life

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bulletChapter 1: The Sociological Perspective on Religion
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Clifford Geertz. "Religion as a Cultural System." Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, Michael Banton, ed. London: Tavistock, 1966:1–46.

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Melford Spiro. "Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation." Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, Michael Banton, ed. London: Tavistock, 1966: 85–126.

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Arthur Greil and David G. Bromley, eds. Defining Religion: Critical Approaches to Drawing Boundaries between Sacred and Secular. Volume 10 of Religion and the Social Order . Stamford, CT: JAI Press, 2002.

bulletChapter 2: The Provision of Meaning and Belonging
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Peter L. Berger. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967.
     Berger’s interpretation of the contemporary religious situation is based upon a carefully developed theory of identity.

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Thomas Luckmann. The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society. New York: Macmillan, 1967.
     Luckmann develops a theory of modern religion, interpreting nonofficial religion, privatization, and individual religious forms.

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Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer, eds. Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New York: Routledge, 1997.
     This collection includes several fascinating case studies in historical context, as well as theories of apocalypticism.

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Max Weber. The Sociology of Religion. Trans. E. Fischoff. Boston: Beacon, 1963 [1922].
     This book contains Weber’s mature thinking on several important aspects of religion, including theodicy, the idea of salvation, asceticism and mysticism, the role of the prophet, and the religion of nonprivileged classes.

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Walter M. Miller, Jr. A Canticle for Leibowitz. New York: Harold Matson, 1959.
     Describes the role of religion in regenerating civilization following nuclear war, how the Albertian Order of Leibowitz was founded, and how it struggled against the Dark Ages that followed the nuclear holocaust. The few artifacts upon which the new knowledge was built included sacred texts written by the Blessed Leibowitz, such as the following fragment: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels . . . ."

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Sheri S. Tepper. Raising the Stones. New York: Doubleday, 1990.
     Science fictional depiction of cosmic clashes of religions. Clever portrayal of patriarchal and dualistic religions. One finds oneself empathizing with the people whose god appears to be—well, a fungus.

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Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Cat’s Cradle. Baltimore: Penguin, 1963.
     A science fiction account of the end of the world and the ultimate religious movement, Bokonism. Serious humor about the construction of sacred texts, symbols, and meaning.

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Elie Wiesel. Night. New York: Pyramid, 1960.
     A moving personal journal of the author’s experience as a child in a Nazi concentration camp. The issue of meaning is implicit and powerful.

 

bulletChapter 3: The Individual's Religion
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Nancy Tatom Ammerman. Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987.
     This highly readable ethnography shows how members of a fundamentalist congregation maintain their worldview and commitment.

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Eileen Barker. The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.
     Winner of the 1985 Distinguished Book Award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, this book is a methodologically exemplary and highly readable description of the beliefs, recruitment, conversion, and commitment processes of the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

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Lynn Davidman. Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
     This is a rich ethnography of two groups through which young, secular Jewish women make a transition to Orthodoxy, with its traditional patterns of family life and restrictive roles for women.

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Jody Shapiro Davie. Women in the Presence: Constructing Community and Seeking Spirituality in Mainline Protestantism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.
     Based on ethnographic and interview evidence, this well-written book gives a real flavor of the personal spirituality of active Presbyterian laywomen.

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Commitment and Community. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972.
     Using evidence from nineteenth-century American communitarian ventures, this book presents a well-organized theoretical schema for analyzing commitment.

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Mary Jo Neitz. Charisma and Community: A Study of Religious Commitment Within the Charismatic Renewal. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1987.
     An ethnography of Catholic charismatic social reality, conversion, and community experience.

 

bulletChapter 4: Official and Unofficial Religion
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Meredith B. McGuire. "Gendered Spirituality and Quasi-religious Ritual," Religion and the Social Order 4 (1994): 273–287.

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Mary Jo Neitz. "Queering the Dragonfest: Changing Sexualities in a Post-Patriarchal Religion," Sociology of Religion 61 (2000): 369-391.

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R. Steven Warner. "The Place of the Congregation in the Contemporary American Religious Configuration." In American Congregations, J. P. Wind and J. W. Lewis, eds. Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 54–99.

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 Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
     This rich and highly readable ethnographic narrative about a New York Vodou community and its priestess captivates my sociology of religion classes, while it vividly illustrates how an individual’s lived religion often involves elements of both official and non-official religion, interwoven in a complex single fabric.

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Cheryl Townsend Gilkes. "If It Wasn’t for the Women …": Black Women’s Experience and Womanist Culture in Church and Community. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001.
     A collection of essays about African-American women’s religious experiences and struggles for dignity, social justice, and change in their churches and communities, this book highlights the intersection of gender, race, and class.

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David H. Hall, ed., Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.
     An anthology of historical, sociological and anthropological case studies of U.S. popular religious expressions as "lived religion."

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Edward Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
     This highly readable social history presents essential background for sociological interpretation of contemporary European and Euro-American official and non-official religious practices.

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Wade Clark Roof, Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.
     A deeper exploration of the spiritual journeys of the Baby Boom generation than his 1993 work, Roof’s volume discusses the differences in patterns of religiosity or spirituality among five American subcultures—dogmatists, Born-again believers, mainstream believers, metaphysical believers and seekers, and secularists.

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Susan Starr Sered. Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women. New York: Oxford, 1994.
     Drawing on anthropological studies of a wide range of religious groups, subcultures, and social movements, this volume examines the themes particular to women’s religious experience and expression, such as childbirth and healing, ritual space and time, food and other material concerns, trance and possession, and women’ religious leadership and relationships.

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James V. Spickard, J. Shawn Landres, and Meredith B. McGuire, eds., Personal Knowledge and Beyond: Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2002.
     A collection of personal reflections of some of the best current ethnographers of religion, with trenchant feminist and post-colonialist critiques of the old ethnography, together with thoughtful ideas for going beyond the current "state of the art" toward reshaping our ways of knowing.

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R. Stephen Warner and Judith G. Wittner, eds. Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.
     Based on fieldwork in immigrant communities from L.A. to New York, this collection examines the varieties of immigrant religious expression and the place of religious communities and practicesin the immigrant experience in the U.S.

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Margaret Atwood. Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1985.
     A dystopian vision of a society governed by a fundamentalist theocracy that has drastically reshaped gender and family roles.

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Ursula LeGuin, Always Coming Home. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
     An imaginative futuristic novel written as an anthropologist’s field-notes (complete with sketches of symbols, transcripts of songs, etc.) about two religious cultures – one patriarchal, aggressive, and rigidly rule-based, and the other androgynous, creative, and spiritual – that dwell in the remnants of what was once central coast California.

bulletChapter 5: The Dynamics of Religious Collectivities
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David G. Bromley and Jeffrey K. Hadden, eds. The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America. Vols. 3A and 3B of Religion and the Social Order. Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1993.

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Lorne L. Dawson, ed. Cults in Context: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1998.

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Nancy Tatom Ammerman. Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990.
     A richly contextualized analysis of ongoing conflicts within one of the largest U.S. denominational groups.

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Phillip Charles Lucas. The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1995.
     The fascinating transition of a religious movement from cultic synthesis of diverse New Age and older nonofficial religious paths to becoming an order within the Eastern Orthodox church.

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Armand L. Mauss. The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
     Illustrates the ongoing tension in a large, established religious movement between retaining some of its dissenting tension with "the world" and accommodating to the larger society in which it has become a prosperous participant.

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R. Stephen Warner. New Wine in Old Wineskins: Evangelicals and Liberals in a Small-Town Church. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
     A highly readable ethnography of a single Presbyterian congregation as it underwent significant internal changes, growth, and divisions; this book received the 1989 Distinguished Book Award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

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Umberto Eco. The Name of the Rose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.
     Set in a fourteenth-century Italian monastery, this novel is full of mystery, historical and philosophical webs, occult and esoteric allusions, theology and religious history, semiotic riches, and, above all, the love of words—spoken words, written words, read words, experienced words.

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Frank Herbert. Dune (1965); Dune Messiah (1969); Children of Dune (1976) all published by Berkley Books, N.Y. God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse Dune (1985) are published by G. P. Putnam & Sons, N.Y.
     This science fiction series includes many excellent illustrations of religious movement formation, mobilization, charisma, routinization, sectarianization, and so on.

 

bulletChapter 6: Religion, Social Cohesion, and Conflict
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Robert N. Bellah. "Religion and Legitimation in the American Republic." Society 15 (4), 1978:16–23.

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Robert N. Bellah. "Civil Religion in America." Daedalus 96, 1967:1–21.

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Theodor Hanf. "The Sacred Marker: Religion, Communalism and Nationalism." Social Compass 41 (1), 1994: 9–20.

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R. Scott Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.
     Analyzing the histories of such conflicts as South Africa, Palestine, Northern Ireland, India, and the former Yugoslavia, this book explores how religion is involved in promoting not only violence and war, but also peace and reconciliation.

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Anthony D. Buckley and Mary Catherine Kenney. Negotiating Identity: Rhetoric, Metaphor, and Social Drama in Northern Ireland. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.
     With a theoretically sophisticated appreciation of the social construction of identities, this book is a highly readable ethnography of the everyday practices by which rural Northern Irish Protestants accomplish separate identities from those of their Catholic neighbors with whom they share a largely common culture.

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David Chidester. Shots in the Streets: Violence and Religion in South Africa. Boston: Beacon, 1991.
      Although South Africa has moved politically beyond its decades-old policy of apartheid, this analysis of the complex ways that religion has been linked with cohesion and conflict will continue to be useful for understanding the problems that country will face in the future, as well as those it faced in the immediate past.

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Emile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Tr. K. Fields. New York: Free Press, 1995 [1915].
     Durkheim’s classical study uses illustrations from the religion of the Arunta of Australia to explicate his theory of the social foundations of religious beliefs and practices. This new translation is far superior to the older English edition.

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David Kertzer. Ritual, Politics and Power. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.
     A lively analysis of how ritual promotes cohesion and conflict, liberally illustrated with examples from many different cultures and historical periods.

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Stanley Tambiah. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
     How does a religious group that has historically promoted peace and renunciation of worldly power and gain become entangled in nationalistic politics, violence, and war? Without oversimplifying the complexities of this small country’s postcolonial development, Tambiah explores the role of Buddhism in its social cohesion and conflict.

bulletChapter 7: The Impact of Religion on Social Change
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Hans A. Baer and Merrill Singer. African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century: Varieties of Protest and Accommodation. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.
     Traces both hegemonic and counterhegemonic elements in diverse African-American religious expressions, locating each in its historical and socioeconomic context.

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Fredrick C. Harris. Something Within: Religion in African-American Political Activism. New York: Oxford, 1999.
     A careful re-analysis of 1960s survey data and historical record to understand which aspects of African-American religion promoted civil rights activism and which promoted quietism. The book received the 2000 Distinguished Book Award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

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Roger N. Lancaster. Thanks to God and the Revolution: Popular Religion and Class Consciousness in the New Nicaragua. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
     With rich ethnographic description, the author compares and contrasts the religious expressions of Nicaraguan peasants and recent rural immigrants to cities: official Catholicism, folk religion, the Popular church, and evangelical Protestantism.

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Liston Pope. Millhands and Preachers. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1942.
     A classic sociohistorical analysis of the role of religion in a famous mill strike.

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Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Tr. T. Parsons, New York: Scribner, 1958.
     The most readable of Weber’s classical studies of religion, originally published in 1904.

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Peter Worsley. The Trumpet Shall Sound. New York: Schocken, 1968.
     A neo-Marxian analysis of Melanesian cargo cults. Worsley’s critique of Weber’s social change theories is the weakest part of this highly readable, well-documented study of religion’s change-promoting impact in a concrete historical setting.

bulletChapter 8: Religion in the Modern World
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Nancy Ammerman. "Organized Religion in a Voluntaristic Society," Sociology of Religion 58(3) 1997: 203-215.

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James Beckford. "The Restoration of ‘Power’ to the Sociology of Religion." Sociological Analysis 44 (1), 1983:11–32.

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Robert N. Bellah. "Religious Evolution." American Sociological Review 29 (3), 1964:358–374.

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N. J. Demerath, III, and Rhys H. Williams. "The Mythical Past and Uncertain Future." Pp. 77–90 in T. Robbins and R. Robertson (eds.), Church–State Relations: Tensions and Transitions. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1987.

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Frank J. Lechner. "Global Fundamentalism." Pp. 19–36 in W. Swatos (ed.), A Future for Religion? New Paradigms for Social Analysis. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1993.

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Thomas Luckmann. "Shrinking Transcendence, Expanding Religion?" Sociological Analysis 50 (2), 1990:127–138.

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Ole Riis. "Religion Re-Emerging: The Role of Religion in Legitimating Integration and Power in Modern Societies." International Sociology 13(2), 1998: 249-272.

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Roland Robertson. "The Globalization Paradigm: Thinking Globally." Religion and the Social Order 1 (1991): 207–224.

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James Beckford. Religion and Advanced Industrial Societies. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
     A critical synthesis of sociological theories about religion, modernization, and the nature of advanced industrial societies.

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Peter Beyer. Religion and Globalization. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1994.
     This book gives a lucid thematic explanation of the contributions to globalization theory by Wallerstein, Meyer, Luhman, and Robertson, followed by succinct applications of these themes to case studies of the New Christian Right in the U.S., Liberation Theological movements in Latin America, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, new religious Zionism in Israel, and religious environmentalism.

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José Casanova. Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
     Following a theoretical discussion of the impact of modernization for public and private religions, this book examines five case studies: Spain, Poland, Brazil, Evangelical Protestantism, and Catholicism in the United States. Winner of the Distinguished Book Award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

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Finke, Roger, and Rodney Stark The Churching of America: Winners and Losers in the Our Religious Economy, 1776–1990. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
     This book interprets America religious history through the lens of supply-side theory, illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of that approach.

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Danièle Hervieu-Léger. Religion as a Chain of Memory. Simon Lee (tr.). New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000.
     By reframing the definition of religion, this book takes a fresh and theoretically sophisticated look at the location of religion in complex modern societies.

 

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