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The Sociological Study of Religion

Sociology of Religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic and census analysis) and qualitative approaches such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical and documentary materials.

Sociologists of religion study every aspect of religion from what is believed to how persons act while in worship and while living out their stated convictions. They study the changing role of religion both in the public arena (political, economic and media) and in intimate interpersonal relationships. Global religious pluralism and conflict, the nature of religious cults and sects, the influence of religion on racial, gender and sexuality issues, and the effect of the media and modern culture has on religious practices are all topics of interest in current sociology of religion research.

Historically the study of religion was central to the discipline of sociology with early seminal figures such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber writing extensively on the role and function of religion in human society. Social scientists who study religion today perform a vital function in helping journalists and the general public make sense of the rise of religious themes and influences in television, political conflicts, personal issues such as abortion and homosexuality and in highly publicized "cultic" tragedies. The discipline of sociology of religion has much to teach about how religion functions for the individual and in society. Unfortunately research done by sociologists of religion seldom filters out of the "ivory towers" to those "in the trenches."

This web site is one of the few on the Internet devoted to exploring the discipline of sociology of religion. We have assembled here links to all the known sociology of religion sites on the web. We hope to use this site both to provide a reliable and trusted path into the discipline and as a platform for making accessible to the general public the findings and knowledge gained through sociological study of religion.  The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has five faculty members whose primary academic discipline is sociology of religion.  

More information on Sociology of Religion can be found at:

Sociology of Religion
A description of the field written by Grace Davie for the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society.

Why Study Religion Sociologically?
Written by Jeffrey Hadden at the University of Virginia

You may wish to visit our page of Practical Resources  for Sociologists, designed to offer tips on a variety of subjects including presentation skills, interacting with the media, and job searching for sociologists of religion.  

Also, visit our partial guide to Sociology of Religion literature compiled by Nancy T. Ammerman for more information on recent publications in the field.




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