Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1933-) Professor of Sociology, Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana); editor Sociology of Religion , 1995-2000.

Tamney's research in the sociology of religion has focused on the reasons for religiosity and on religious change. His publications emphasize a cross-cultural approach that is equally amenable to both quantitative and qualitative data. He works comfortably in the study of contemporary Christianity and in East Asian traditions. His major book-length studies are The Resilience of Christianity in the Modern World (SUNY Press 1992), an account of the persistence of Christian belief and practice in contradistinction to predictions of secularization theories, and American Society in the Buddhist Mirror (Garland 1992), an assessment of the appeal of Buddhism in the United States.

Tamney has published extensively in the major journals in the social scientific study of religion. His articles on religion in the United States emphasize religion-and-politics issues—the religious right generally and abortion-related topics specifically. Because Muncie is the locale of the historic "Middletown" studies conducted by the Lynds in the 1920s and 1930s, a significant portion of his research has used that site as a database. In non-U.S. settings, Tamney is a recognized authority on the sociology of Islam in Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country. He has also written on Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism in East Asia generally and in Singapore specifically. Tamney has traveled extensively in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Singapore from 1968 to 1971, prior to coming to his present position. He was chair of the Sociology Department at Marquette University from 1963 to 1967.

Especially after working in Singapore, Tamney has used modernization theory to understand religious change. In The Struggle over Singapore's Soul: Western Modernization and Asian Culture (de Gruyter 1996), Tamney describes the conflict among a capitalist dominant ideology, the state's "Asian" civil morality, and the response of oppositional groups espousing a counter-culture that includes religious and humanist values. Tamney's work emphasizes the continual need for religion to change, as society changes, to remain popular.

William H. Swatos, Jr .

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