Are We ‘Bowling Alone’ — And Does it Matter?

Article by Mark Chaves

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 …

Chapter 3: Religious Discourse as Public Rhetoric  in  Rediscovering the Sacred: Perspectives on Religion in Contemporary Society

Book Chapter by Robert Wuthnow

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.

Chapter 4: Perspectives on Religious Evolution  in  Rediscovering the Sacred: Perspectives on Religion in Contemporary Society

Book Chapter by Robert Wuthnow

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.”

Chapter 7: International Realities  in  Rediscovering the Sacred: Perspectives on Religion in Contemporary Society

Book Chapter by Robert Wuthnow

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.

Clergy Morale: The Ups and Downs

Article by Susan Harrington DeVogel

Ministry is a people-intensive profession. But ironically, a large number of professional ministers appear to be rather lonely people. A recent study of morale among United Methodist ministers in Minnesota indicates that while almost all enjoy their work and feel satisfied with their professional performance, they are also afflicted with self-doubts and loneliness. Experiencing the …

Communities that Change, Congregations that Adapt

Article by Richard H. Bliese

Church growth studies, Nancy Ammerman notes, have often followed "success stories" that correlate with key demographic changes. In this respect, church growth is almost predictable. "Where there is a pool of white, middle-class, home-owning families-with-children on which to draw, mainline churches are likely to grow, no matter what their theological orientation." Ammerman prefers, however, to …

Debunking Some Pentecostal Stereotypes

Article by John Dart

Pentecostalism and related “Spirit-filled movements” are rightly seen as a hard-driving engine fueling the global spread of Christianity, but their adherents are often wrongly seen as apolitical, otherworldly enthusiasts bent on “speaking in tongues,” according to two separate studies on the century-old phenomena. A groundbreaking survey of such believers in 10 countries, including the United …

Did You Really Go To Church This Week? Behind the Poll Data

Article by C. Kirk Hadaway and P.L. Marler

Church attendance in the U.S. is, apparently, stable and strong. Year after year 40 percent of Americans tell pollsters that they attended church or synagogue in the last seven days. From this evidence, American religion seems quite hardy, especially compared to the statistics from European nations. If the poll data can be believed, three decades …

Epistemological Modesty: An Interview with Peter Berger

Article by Peter Berger

What does it mean to study “economic culture”? Our institute’s agenda is relatively simple. We study the relationship between social-economic change and culture. By culture we mean beliefs, values and lifestyles. We cover a broad range of issues, and we work very internationally. I’m fanatical about very few things, but one of them is the …

Essays in the History of Religions

Book by Joachim Wach

(ENTIRE BOOK) This book is a collection of essays by Joachim Wach representing each major phase of his scholarly career. Wach emphasizes that both historical and systematic dimensions are necessary to its task, and he argues that the discipline’s goal is "understanding."

Faith, Hope and Bigotry

Article by Milton Rokeach

All Organized religions assume that religion teaches man distinct values that he might not otherwise have—moral values that guide him, in his everyday relations with his fellow man, toward higher, nobler or more humane levels than he might reached without religion. But is it true? Do the religious have distinct moral values that set them …

Introduction by Joseph M. Kitagawa  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

This introduction by Kitagawa is a biography of Wach. He began his teaching career in Germany which ended in 1935 under pressure of the Nazis because of his Jewish lineage, even though the family had been Christian for four generations. Thereafter he taught in the U.S. at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and later at the University of Chicago.

Looking for the Mainline with Roof and McKinney

Article by David Heim

Book Review: American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future, by Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney (Rutgers University Press, 279 pp.’ $27.00; paperback, $10.00) The recognition that the term “mainline churches” is something of an anachronism now extends to the funny pages. In the past two decades, while conservative churches have experienced steady growth, …

Master and Disciple: Two Religio-Sociological Studies  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

The student admires in the teacher the greatness and significance of his learning; and his merit consists in his willingness to give freely of this treasure. The student is dear to the teacher to the extent that he is willing to open himself to the teacher’s communication; the student’s value depends on his individual success or failure to appropriate the subject matter. This entire relationship is born and lives by means of the common interest in the object of study. A diversion from it results in the disintegration of the relationship between them.

Measuring Church Growth

Article by Carl S. Dudley

Objective information on the dynamics of church membership growth — and lack thereof — is crucial, especially in a time of decline. Leadership myths and factional claims too often become the language of misunderstanding and the weapons of internal conflict. Well-intentioned denominational programs for membership recruitment have been based on fragmentary evidence, parochial success, and …

New Religious Consciousness: Rejecting the Past, Designing the Future

Article by Robert N. Bellah

The disturbances and outbursts in America in the 1960s were hardly unique in modern history. Indeed in a century where irrationalities and horrors of all sorts–mass executions, mass imprisonments, wars of annihilation, revolutions, rebellions and depressions — have been common, the events of that decade in America: might even be overlooked. But it is precisely …

On Understanding  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

All theories of understanding which try to analyze its nature and the stages of its development will have to begin with a concept of existence, and this means, implicitly if not explicitly, with a metaphysical decision. As I see it, there exist three possibilities which I should like to call the materialistic, the psychophysical and the spiritual interpretations of existence.

Pious Materialism: How Americans View Faith and Money

Article by Robert Wuthnow

Pundits dubbed the 1980s the Decade of Greed. Yuppies, Rolex watches, Avia sneakers, Michael Milken, Charles Keating and the Trump shuttle defined the period. Now, faced with a multitrillion-dollar national debt, we have apparently decided that pocketbook issues should occupy our attention. A new president has been elected to put our financial house in order; …

Radhakrishnan and the Comparative Study of Religion  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

The challenge by Christian critics of Hinduism — Radhakrishnan’s own faith — impelled him at the time of his student-days at Madras to "make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it." Again and again in writings, he has traced historically phases of development in Western (Greek and Christian) and Indian (Brahmanic, Hindu and Buddhist) religious thought, and has analyzed in systematic fashion basic notions in Hinduism and Christianity.

Rediscovering the Sacred: Perspectives on Religion in Contemporary Society

Book by Robert Wuthnow

(ENTIRE BOOK) Wuthnow proposes that the term "rediscovery" rather than "revival" clarifies what is happening in religion today. He provides personal background which informs this choice, then outlines his case using insights from other sociologists as well as social commentators. This volume offers a contemporary survey of sociology of religion, as well as challenging suggestions for further work.

Sociology Of Religion  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

Sociology of religion shares with the sociology of other activities of man certain problems and, in addition, has its own problems due to the peculiar nature of religious experience and its expression. The greatest differences and varieties can be found in the structures of religious groups. The French School of Sociology of Religion, the German, the English, the North American, are discussed, along with expressions of concern to those interested in the systematic development of the temporal, the spatial, the ethnic and cultural, and the religious viewpoint.

The Church in the Centrifuge

Article by Wade Clark Roof

The mainline churches are facing a new kind of Christ-and-culture problem. Since the accommodating Christ-of-culture formulation no longer serves us very well, we have been forced to rethink a Christian response to an increasingly pluralistic and religiously demonopolized environment. Not just religion but the culture generally is in the grips of change. Francis Fitzgerald describes …

We Are What We Read

Article by Michael Leach

The most popular novel of the past few years had nothing to do with violence or sex; it was a religious parable about a celibate bird. And the best-selling nonfiction book had nothing to do with he latest recipe or the newest diet; it was (and is) a recent version of the oldest book of …

Wilhelm Von Humboldt  in  Essays in the History of Religions

Book Chapter by Joachim Wach

Wilhelm Von Humboldt was a Protestant in whose worldview Hellenism strongly colored Christianity. He looked to metaphysics or philosophy for justification. Language, to him was the medium in which he followed the growth and articulation of human freedom. He devoted profound and penetrating thought to the nature of speech, to the structure of language, to its psychological and sociological problems, to its typology and its function in the development of human civilization.

Worship and Renewal: Surveying Congregational Life

Article by David A. Roozen

Analysts of industrial nations often are perplexed by the continuing high level of religious activity in the United States. According to historians, this persistent vitality of congregational life is the result of overlapping waves of renewal rather than a steady growth from pioneer strengths. A recent survey, known as Faith Communities Today (FACT), reveals that …