Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

The ASR began life as the American Catholic Sociological Society (ACSS) at a 1938 meeting in Chicago. In its infancy, the ACSS provided a haven for Catholic sociologists who felt professionally isolated by the then American Sociological Society. The secular sociologists of the ASS (now ASA) approached sociology in a way that was supposed to be objective and scientific. For Catholic sociologists, this created an environment that was "for all practical purposes antimoral and anti-religious" (Morris 1989). Thus a plan to recognize Catholic sociology and organize its adherents nationally was implemented, and the ACSS began to meet concurrently with ASS.

In March 1940, the first issue of the American Catholic Sociological Review appeared; questions of finances and editorship remained intermittently problematic until the early 1960s. By 1963, the journal had become Sociological Analysis and the content focused increasingly on the sociological study of religion with a particular, but not exclusive, interest in Catholicism. The subtitle A Journal in the Sociology of Religion was formally added in 1967, replacing A Publication of the American Catholic Sociological Society .

Changing the journal's name and emphasis did not suit everyone; many longtime members left the ACSS. At the same time, however, changes in Catholicism as a result of Vatican II encouraged greater openness to non-Catholics. In 1970, the organization's name became the Association for the Sociology of Religion, reflecting the changes that had already taken place in the association's publication. This finalized a divorce from the social problems/social action aspects that were part of the ACSS's earliest concerns (Kivisto 1989). Religious research and religious commitment in the ASR were bracketed from each other.

Today, the ASR's journal (renamed Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review in 1993) remains the only English-language journal devoted exclusively to the sociology of religion. With more than 700 members worldwide, the ASR continues to hold annual meetings at the same time and place as the ASA, with a full program of thematic and regular sessions covering current scholarship and research into a wide range of sociologically relevant topics. As in the era of the ACSS, a spirit of gemeinschaft pervades these meetings, where many sociologists of religion get their first chance to interact with the leading scholars of the field. Plenary speakers, including an annual Paul Hanly Furfey lectureship, often reflect on a lifetime of research or on the main controversy of the day. In spite of the addition in 1995 of a section on the sociology of religion to the American Sociological Association, separate from the ASR, the ASR-ASA connection remains a part of the ASR's organizational meeting strategy, to the apparent advantage of both groups.

In addition to its journal, the ASR publishes a quarterly newsletter and copublishes an annual series, Religion and the Social Order. It also annually provides Joseph H. Fichter research grants competitively to members, a Robert J. McNamara student paper award, and Ralph A. Gallagher travel grants to assist graduate students and non-North American members to attend its meetings.

See also American Catholic Sociological Society, Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review

Barbara J. Denison and William H. Swatos, Jr


P. Kivisto, "The Brief Career of Catholic Sociology," Sociological Analysis 50(1989):351-361

L. Morris, "Secular Transcendence," Sociological Analysis 50(1989):323-349.

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