Books Reviewed Religion by Region. A series edited by Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh (AltaMira Press): Religion and Public Life in the Middle Atlantic States: Proving Ground for Pluralism. Edited by Randall Balmer and Mark Silk. Religion and Public Life in the Midwest: America’s Common Denominator? Edited by Philip Barlow and Mark Silk. Religion and …
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. By Robert D. Putnam. Simon & Schuster. The phrase “bowling alone” — the title of an article Robert Putnam published in 1995 in a relatively obscure academic journal — quickly became shorthand for the arresting claim that civic engagement is in decline. Putnam’s point was that …
An introduction to Peter Berger’s approach to religion. Wuthnow provides a careful and understandable explanation of Berger’s approach. At the end, three concepts are raised in a critical evaluation suggesting both strengths and weaknesses in Berger ‘s approach.
Wuthnow surveys the work of major sociologists of religion, offering how these contributors relate to one another. This discussion demonstrates the development of this area of study. The argument offers his perspective on where sociology of religion is headed as a field, and what the results of those steps may be.
After noting how religious discourse has been neglected by sociologists, Wuthnow considers why it is important to work in this area, and how this deficit might be remedied. He turns to books by Northrop Frye and Susan Rubin Suleiman as sources which complement each other, offering critical insight for careful reflection on how persons from different perspectives can begin to understand one another.
Do religions evolve? In this chapter we find a discussion of where the theoretical discussion of this question with attention to three contributors to the field. How does one make a case one way or the other? This question provides the foil for analysis of how the theoretical constructs function. Wuthnow’s conclusion is that, “American religion has become more complex, more internally differentiated, and thus more adaptable to a complex, differentiated society.”
Max Weber created sociology of religion. Wuthnow turns to an fresh analysis of Weber’s contribution by examining recent studies of Puritanism by five scholars. The chapter ends with a careful evaluation of how Weber’s theory interacts with these contemporary studies in a way which suggests next steps in the field.
Wuthnow presents four sociological theories relevant to his topic: modernization, world-system, structural contingency, and lifeworld colonization. When he turns to evaluation, he identifies how each of these theories clarify assumptions and suggest fresh ways of approaching careful analysis of religious change.
Wuthnow suggests how awareness of international social dynamics can strengthen sociological analysis. He suggests that three foci offer fresh possibilities for understanding: on generalizable patterns, on deeper changes, and on alternative interpretations. His careful suggestions open up fresh understandings for the religious practitioner as well as the sociologist.
At the beginning of the 20th century, religious leaders in the U.S. confidently looked forward to a “Christian century.” At the end of that century it seems more appropriate to ask whether the next one will hold any place for Christians at all. I do not mean that values long associated with the Christian tradition, …