(1929-) First as Lecturer, then as Reader and Professor at the London School of Economics (1962-1989), Martin has been a prolific contributor to public as well as sociological debate about religion. The author of some 20 books, he has established creative lines of thinking both within the sociology of religion and at the interface between sociology and theology. President, International Society for the Sociology of Religion, 1975-1983.
Early books include Pacifism (Routledge 1965), The Sociology of English Religion (SCM 1967), and The Religious and the Secular (Routledge 1969), but Martin is best known for his magisterial A General Theory of Secularization (Blackwell 1978), which questioned the inevitability of secularization in modern societies. The secularization issue is complex, contingent, and infinitely variable, requiring detailed comparative analysis. Later work, notably Tongues of Fire (Blackwell 1990), elaborates the Latin American case within the "secularization" framework. Forbidden Revolutions (SPCK 1996) continues the commitment to comparative sociology, and Reflections on Sociology and Theology (Oxford University Press 1996) collects a series of essays on the title theme.
The work on secularization remains, however, not only seminal but central to the continuing debate about religion in the modern world. In Martin's own words some 20 years after the publication of A General Theory , this is true not only of his "critique . . . of one-directional theories of secularization in terms of covert philosophical assumptions, selective epiphenomenalism, conceptual incoherence, and indifference to historical complexity" but also of the view that "whether in its hard version as the death of religion or in its soft form as marginalization, secularization should be treated as contingent in particular on the situation in Europe since the Enlightenment." North and South America and the Middle East, "for example, show how things can be otherwise, and even in Europe the hostilities of the last two centuries are over" (British Journal of Sociology , Vol. 42, No. 3, 1991).
As a teacher, Martin has initiated at least two generations of scholars into the discipline; organizationally he has promoted the sociology of religion both in Britain, through the British Sociological Association's Sociology of Religion Study Group, and internationally, through the SISR. His distinction can be quantified in numerous invitations to give the most prestigious public lectures in the field and in a variety of academic appointments in both Europe and the United States. In England, Martin is equally well known in church circles, and indeed beyond, for his vigorous defense of the continued use of the (1662) Book of Common Prayer as opposed to more "contemporary" revisions.
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