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1. The Sociology of Religion
2. An Introduction to the Sociology
3. Sociology of Religion for Generations
4. Sociology of Religion: Contemporary
5. Sociology of Religion: A Reader
6. The Sociology of Religion (Prentice-Hall
7. Religion In Society: A Sociology
8. Handbook of the Sociology of Religion
9. Robertson Roland Ed. : Sociology
10. The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive
11. The Religion of Technology: The
12. Religion and Youth (Theology and
13. The Sociology of Religion: Theoretical
14. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of
15. Religion in Sociological Perspective
16. Sociology of Religion (Wisdom
17. Essays on Religion (Monograph
18. The African Religions of Brazil:
19. Readings on the Sociology of Religion
20. Cults and New Religious Movements:

1. The Sociology of Religion
by Max Weber
Paperback: 384 Pages (1993-04-15)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$15.90
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Asin: 0807042056
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Translated by Ephraim Fischoff

With a new Foreword by Ann Swidler ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

2-0 out of 5 stars A "classic" that is now quite archaic
Weber's book was groundbreaking when it was first published.Even today, it is considered a classic.However, the reader should be informed that Weber's book is full of white Germanic Christian bias, a bias so strong attimes that it harms the author's credibility.However, if read in tandemwith later works which critique it, Weber's "Sociology ofReligion" provides a glimpse of early 20th century sociologicalmethodology

5-0 out of 5 stars What is Sociology?
In reading books written by Weber, you should read this book at last. this book is very core of his idea, and it's the most important one in the present term. I profoundly hope you to read this book. You can get thisbook at 17.00$ at Borders book store, though Amazon com sells at18.95.

Buy it, and read over and think about contents. ... Read more

2. An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion: Classical And Contemporary Perspectives
by Inger Furseth, Pal Repstad
Paperback: 241 Pages (2006-09-30)
list price: US$29.95 -- used & new: US$18.50
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Asin: 0754656586
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Is it true that religion is weakening in modern times or are we facing religious resurgence? What is fundamentalism? How does it emerge and grow? Which role does religion play in ethnic and national conflicts? Is religion a fundamental driving force or do political leaders use religion for their own purposes? Do all religions oppress women? These are some of the questions addressed in this book. "An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion" provides an overview of sociological theories of contemporary religious life. Some chapters are organized according to topic. Other chapters offer brief presentations of classical and contemporary sociologists from Karl Marx to Zygmunt Bauman and their perspectives on social life, including religion. Throughout the book, illustrations and examples are taken from several religious traditions. ... Read more

3. Sociology of Religion for Generations X and Y
by Adam Possamai
Hardcover: 235 Pages (2009-10-26)
list price: US$95.00 -- used & new: US$95.00
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Asin: 1845533038
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This book on the sociology of religion makes specific relevance to the generation X and Y from the very first page. Readers and students from this generation are involved in consumer culture, get part of their knowledge through popular culture and/or the Internet, and are more practical than theoretical. The academic world is in great need for such a work that focuses on the need of these generations, and this is done with this book which is at the intersection of consumer, cyber, and popular culture. Each chapter of this book has as an introduction a case study from popular culture or the Internet to draw the reader into a topic. This narrative device is a key approach to bringing readers and students to the heart of the problem and to explore relevant sociological concepts such as secularisation and the multiple modernisation thesis, re-enchantment, the McDonaldisation of society, and the easternisation of the west; while addressing contemporary phenomenon within, for example, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, New Age, Scientology, and Witchcraft groups on and off line. It also addresses new religious phenomena such as the mixing of religion and popular culture on the Internet as found in new groups such as Jediism and Matrixism. While covering classical works in the field, this book uses the writing of cutting edge theorists to understand where religion and spirituality are coming from, where they are at the moment, and where they might be going. The book also highlights the practical relevance of this sub-discipline to readers and students by exploring what sociologists of religion do outside of universities. ... Read more

4. Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments
by Kevin J. Christiano
Paperback: 392 Pages (2008-05-29)
list price: US$59.95 -- used & new: US$42.00
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Asin: 0742561119
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Sociology of Religion charts changes in the sociology of religion without ignoring the continuing relevance of Weber, Durkheim, and Marx. Veteran sociologists Christiano, Swatos, and Kivisto address both the foundations and the profound changes in the field, placing new conceptions against their historical background. Charts, pictures, down-to-earth examples, and a readable style keep the history and new developments within the reach of undergraduates. Instructors who want to give their students a current and comprehensive overview of the field should take a look at Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Sociology of Religion
The book arrived in wonderful shape and much more quickly than expected.I found a brand new copy at Amazon cheaper than the used copy at my college bookstore!

5-0 out of 5 stars great textbook
I used this book for an introductory religion course "religion and culture." I found the book very "student-friendly" with examples and ideas relevant to the lives of students. The prose of the text is well-written,and the structure is logical. The professor can jump around at will or follow the authors' order. Overall, this book is a superb core text for introductory religious studies or sociology of religion courses.
I would also consider using it as a supplemental text in a philosophy of religion course, as it would provide a good empirical reference to the heady theoretical emphasis in such a course. I hope this fine book stays in print. ... Read more

5. Sociology of Religion: A Reader (2nd Edition)
by Susanne C. Monahan, William A. Mirola, Michael O. Emerson
Paperback: 400 Pages (2010-09-30)
list price: US$71.80 -- used & new: US$55.23
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Asin: 0205710824
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For undergraduate/graduate courses in the Sociology of Religion in departments of Sociology; and for courses such as Religious Perspectives on Social Issues in departments of Theology.


A reader that seeks to explore the relationship between the structure and culture of religion and various elements of social life in the U.S.


Sociology of Religion: A Reader, 2e is ideal as either a standalone reader or supplement to the text written by the same author team, Why Religion Matters.  Based on both classic and contemporary research in the sociology of religion, this reader highlights a variety of research methods and theoretical approaches. It explores the ways in which religious values, beliefs and practices shape the world outside of church, synagogue, or mosque walls while simultaneously being shaped by the non-religious forces operating in that world.

... Read more

6. The Sociology of Religion (Prentice-Hall Foundations of Modern Sociology Series)
by Thomas F. O'Dea, Janet O'Dea Aviad
 Hardcover: 144 Pages (1983-08)
list price: US$26.33
Isbn: 0138210667
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7. Religion In Society: A Sociology Of Religion- (Value Pack w/MySearchLab)
by Ronald L. Johnstone
Paperback: Pages (2009-01-17)
list price: US$81.13 -- used & new: US$73.02
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Asin: 0205678548
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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MySearchLab provides students with a complete understanding of the research process so they can complete research projects confidently and efficiently. Students and instructors with an internet connection can visit www.MySearchLab.com and receive immediate access to thousands of full articles from the EBSCO ContentSelect database. In addition, MySearchLab offers extensive content on the research process itself—including tips on how to navigate and maximize time in the campus library, a step-by-step guide on writing a research paper, and instructions on how to finish an academic assignment with endnotes and bibliography.


Using an unbiased, balanced approach, the 8th edition of this text puts religion in its social context by discussing the impact of society on religion while helpg readers understand the role and function of religion in society that occur regardless of anyone's claims about the truth or falsity of religious systems.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Average Textbook
The overall content of the textbook is generally well laid out, it is the explanation that of the content that is lacking in substance. The first 8 chapters are well written and interesting in concept; it is the latter portion of the book that lacks in substance. Too many statistics that seemed to draw very little conclusion regarding church service attendance greatly detracted from the subject of religiosity.the information is adequate for the subject, but was not the most compelling information.

3-0 out of 5 stars Readable with relevant issues but needs updating.
Johnstone organizes his text in a way thatparallels the topics examined in regular introductory sociology texts. Non-majors find this method easy to follow. He is also very readable with many indepth analyses (i.e.Northern Ireland or abortion) that illustrate his material.Unfortunately,the author loses some authority with the students when coveringnon-historical material that is out-dated with statistics from 15-20 yearsago. Teachers need to seek extra sources to continually update materialabout recent developments (i.e. racial attitudes). ... Read more

8. Handbook of the Sociology of Religion
Paperback: 496 Pages (2003-08-18)
list price: US$41.99 -- used & new: US$33.64
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Asin: 0521000785
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Religion is a critical construct for understanding contemporary social life.It illuminates the everyday experiences and practices of many individuals, is a significant component of diverse institutional processes including politics, gender relations, and socioeconomic inequality, and plays a vital role in public culture and social change.This handbook showcases current research and thinking in the sociology of religion.The contributors, all active writers and researchers int eh area, provide original chapters focusing on select aspects of their own engagement with the field.Aimed at students and scholars who want to know more about the sociology of religion, this handbook also provides a resource for sociologists in general by integrating broader questions of sociology (e.g. demography, ethnicity, life course, inequality, political sociology) into the analysis of religion.Broadly inclusive of traditional research topics (modernity, secularization, politics) as well as newer interests (feminism, spirituality, faith-based community action), this handbook illustrates the validity of diverse theoretical perspectives and research designs to understanding the multilayered nature of religion as a sociological phenomenon. ... Read more

9. Robertson Roland Ed. : Sociology of Religion (Pelican)
 Paperback: 480 Pages (1985-05-30)

Isbn: 0140226672
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10. The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach
by Dr. George Lundskow
Paperback: 464 Pages (2008-06-10)
list price: US$61.95 -- used & new: US$39.00
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Asin: 1412937213
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Most Sociology of Religion texts are decidedly staid and uninteresting, covering “contemporary” developments which are only contemporary only from a disciplinary perspective.  They are not contemporary if viewed from the perspective of the religion’s practioners (in religious and non-religious settings).   The textbooks that attempt to be interesting to undergraduate students often fall short because they either try to cover too much in an encyclopedic format, or sacrifice a sociological perspective for a personal one.  Many use real-life examples only superficially to illustrate concepts.


Lundskow’s approach is the opposite-students will learn the facts of religion in its great diversity, all the most interesting and compelling beliefs and practices, and then learn relevant concepts that can be used to explain empirical observations. The book thus follows the logic of actual research-investigate and then analyze-rather than approaching concepts with no real bearing on how religion is experienced in society.  This approach, using provocative examples and with an eye toward the historical and theoretical, not to mention global experience of religion, will make this book a success in the classroom.


The author envisions a substantive approach that examines religion as it actually exists in all its forms, including belief, ritual, daily living, identity, institutions, social movements, social control, and social change. Within these broad categories, the book will devote particular chapters to important historical moments and movements, leaders, and various individual religions that have shaped the contemporary form and effect of religion in the world today.

... Read more

11. The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention
by David F. Noble
Paperback: 288 Pages (1999-04-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$6.99
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Asin: 0140279164
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Are religion and science really at war with oneanother? Not according to David F. Noble, who argues that the flourishing of both religion and technology today is nothing new but rather the continuation of a 1,000-year-old Westerntradition.

The Religion of Technology demonstrates that modern man's enchantment with things technological was inspired by and grounded in religious expectations and the quest for transcendence and salvation. The two early impulses behind the urge to advance in science, he claims, are the conviction that apocalypse is imminent, and the belief that increasing human knowledge helps recover what was lost in Eden. Noble traces the historyof these ideas by examining the imaginings of monks, explorers, magi, scientists, Freemasons, and engineers, from Sir Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Wernher von Braun.

Noble suggests that the relationship betweenreligion and technology has perhaps outlived its usefulness. Whereas it once aimed to promote human well-being, it has ultimately become a threat to our survival. Thus, with The Religion of Technology, Noble aims to redirect our efforts toward more worldly and humane ends.Amazon.com Review
The Religion of Technology is equal parts history andpolemics. Noble explores the religious roots of Western technology bylinking today's secular technophilia with the ancient Christian dreamof humanity's redemption. Noble argues that, historically, the mostpowerful technological advances (Newtonian physics, the engineeringprofession, space exploration) have been driven by explicitlyspiritual and humane ambitions, but that the last several decades havebrought a new kind of technology that is impatient with life andunconcerned with basic human needs. The Religion of Technologyis an authoritative, erudite, and often persuasive book. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

3-0 out of 5 stars Intriguing yet Rushed
As some other reviewers have said, Noble crosses a vast expanse of history in this slim volume, and it seems that the intimidating density of information presented would have been less so if the historical sections had been more expansive and less list-like; overall the effect is rather rushed, even truncated--1000 years is a long time, and to cover it in about 300 pages is nigh on quixotic.

This book is certainly interesting, and the portions on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the detailed history of Freemasonry, are especially strong, and his connection of the efforts of AI researchers to the ancient ideal of parthenogenesis is a lovely observation. But the final chapter and the conclusion are disappointing: they both collapse into the standard party line among postmodern critics that all but demonizes scientific inquiry and bemoans the ideology of dominance over nature while never proving why nature's subordination to man is in fact a bad thing. The conclusion is as such vague in the manner typical of such critiques--technoscience is of course the big bad wolf in the forest, but the contributions that technoscience has made to the lives of not only Westerners but many throughout the world are conspicuously ignored. His thesis suggests that if scientific motives were divorced from religious ideals then science would take a more practical, and less lofty, direction, but this seems to unfairly assume a level of uniformity among members of the scientific community that very well may not exist.

I enjoyed this book and would read it again; however, it becomes frustrating to read treatise after treatise on technoscience that does little more in the end than rehash the typical postmodernist critique of scientific inquiry as little more than another one of the hegemonic patriarchal West's grand narratives.

3-0 out of 5 stars Once Upon a Timeline
I read The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention by David F. Noble for a college course called Philosophy of Technology.I read this book in the context of the required reading of other philosophers such as: Bill Joy, Raymond Kurzweil, Douglas Kellner, Don Ihde, Jacques Ellul, Hans Jonas, Martin Heideggar, Albert Borgmann, and Arnold Pacey.

Noble's writing style reminded me of reading an encyclopedia or a "collective biography" - it focused on the lives of several individuals with a connection among them.He provided the name of an influential person, their time period, a brief description of what they did, and maybe a quotation or two.

Though fascinating, I think this book can be intimidating if you lack some background knowledge on the European philosophers that Noble mentions in the book.To fully appreciate the metaphors that Noble highlights, I think you also need a good understanding of the four books of the Bible - Genesis and three books of prophesy: Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelations - otherwise his arguments won't seem very significant.I am a Christian, so was impressed with the extent of Noble's knowledge of specific scriptures in the Bible, but it didn't seem like Noble himself is a Christian, as he refers to "Christian mythology" (p. 103) and "so-called born again fundamentalists" (p.109).He has obviously read up on major Christian leaders - I was surprised to find William Tyndale (p.43), Billy Graham, and Jerry Falwell mentioned (p.109) in the book.Usually when Christianity, especially Creationism, is brought up, Charles Darwin is usually brought up as well, but not so in this book, evolution did not make an appearance. I was surprised too that Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison, were discussed, but there was no mention of Albert Einstein - I think Einstein was a pretty important guy to leave out.Other well-known historical figures that appeared in the book include: Christopher Columbus, Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Neil Armstrong, Adolf Hitler, and Karl Marx.

I feel like Noble presented history in a rather "cut and paste" fashion, which I think detracts from some of his credibility and can be sited as a weakness in his methodology. He used a lot of ellipses in his quotations, which I myself use sometimes, but the result seemed choppy and a bit suspicious.I realize that he was trying to move quickly through about 1,000 years of history, pointing out key individuals along the way, and to include full quotations would have probably been unrealistic. Still, I was uncomfortable with the excessive hodgepodge and serious risk of statements being taken out of context - for example, I looked up footnote #14 from page 110 and discovered that the quote was compiled from statements the speaker made on three separate pages.

So, while I did find the historical details and comparisons to Christianity interesting, this book read a lot like a timeline, and I'm not sure I agree with where it is projected as going.

2-0 out of 5 stars Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Amazing how I could use the title "Religion of Technology" and counter Noble's thesis.Key to understanding this book is to grasp the milieu in which Noble writes:he wishes to utilize historical critical methods in deconstructing the evolution of technology.Fascinating idea, and his ideas are intriguing; but he is misguided.The key problem lies in the Cartesian dichotomy of spirit vs. body.

Noble argues that the spirt-man, through Christianity, emboldened western culture to utilize technology for salvation. One glaring defect in this argument is his inability to explain how Christianity departed from Augustine's view of man's sinfulness to Joachim's view that mankind could obtain perfection through his own efforts (technology).Unable to explain this, Noble's premise splutters on, lacking the foundation to prove his thesis that the spirit-man is behind technology.In reality, the body-man is the catalyst of technology.

The body-man is best portrayed as Goethe in the 19th century.Herald of romanticism, Goethe wrote with ease and genius -- a true creative artist who seemed to instinctively acheive greatness.The cry of romanticists was "get back to nature."Ironically, these body-people whose love of instinctiveness and the natural (Nature) fell into the trap of defining successful living as fulfilling 'bodily' desires.The delicious irony is that right around this era of romantacism western society underwent its captilistic industrial revolution.Fastforward to the neo-romantic movement of the 1960s.Here we have free love, drugs, etc. true body-orientation.Interesting how the decade of greed (80s) came around from these same '68ers'.Further, these 68ers created the capital to usher in an intense period of technological growth (contrast this to the earlier generation supporting NASA, and how bored we are with what NASA does now compared to Sony Playstation 2).

Approaching the excessively long-winded, I will conclude with this:the body, not the spirit, is behind technology's latest thrust (19th-21st century).Unfortunately, Mr. Noble could not step out of the 'modern' condition to grasp the greater reality behind technology.We've believed the myth of the jock (body) vs. nerd (spirit), thinking this is reality.Harmonizing body with spirit, something which hasn't been done since Descartes, will provide the proper understanding of technology.I'm still waiting for a great book on technology.

4-0 out of 5 stars People are giving this book less credit than it deserves....
This is a good book and a bit of a fun read though in its nature-- in what it tries to be-- it alienates itself from whatever group is intended to be its core audience. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile and well-written; though I gather than some, from its reviews, have had some problems with its difficulty and subject matter.

This is meant, I think, to be a popular book rather than an academic text. The author has his story-line and sticks too it fairly well: as with any 'popular' book, if you dig from one discipline into its minutia, you're going to find flaws and biases. Books can be great still. Because it is a popular book dealing with more or less of an arcane area, it does have a tendency to ramble between lots of stuff that most people generally haven't heard of: if you sit back and let the whole picture come into focus, I have found, in the end, you're still left with a worthwhile read.

To the reviewer who said that this book only focused on the development of technology and its interplay with religion in the West: it could be argued that only in the West could the author's thesis be proved: religious devotion was a cause of technolgical development and not vice-versa (i.e. religion/religious groups reacted to technology in the form of change in doctrine, practice, etc.: like the development of the different 'modern' branches of Judaism in the nineteenth century OR changes in Islam toward fundamentalist, anti-Western belief caused partially by technology... I can't think of any better non-Western examples...)

This is a worthwhile read; I'm pretty sure that its worth the fifteen dollars or whatever it costs. Buy it if you're in the mood for a challenging, good read on this sort of subject matter....

4-0 out of 5 stars People are giving this book less credit than it deserves....
This is a good book and a bit of a fun read though in its nature-- in what it tries to be-- it alienates itself from whatever group is intended to be its core audience. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile and well-written; though I gather than some, from its reviews, have had some problems with its difficulty and subject matter.

This is meant, I think, to be a popular book rather than an academic text. The author has his story-line and sticks too it fairly well: as with any 'popular' book, if you dig from one discipline into its minutia, you're going to find flaws and biases. Books can be great still. Because it is a popular book dealing with more or less of an arcane area, it does have a tendency to ramble between lots of stuff that most people generally haven't heard of: if you sit back and let the whole picture come into focus, I have found, in the end, you're still left with a worthwhile read.

To the reviewer who said that this book only focused on the development of technology and its interplay with religion in the West: it could be argued that only in the West could the author's thesis be proved: religious devotion was a cause of technolgical development and not vice-versa (i.e. religion/religious groups reacted to technology in the form of change in doctrine, practice, etc.: like the development of the different 'modern' branches of Judaism in the nineteenth century OR changes in Islam toward fundamentalist, anti-Western belief caused partially by technology... I can't think of any better non-Western examples...)

This is a worthwhile read; I'm pretty sure that its worth the fifteen dollars or whatever it costs. Buy it if you're in the mood for a challenging, good read on this sort of subject matter.... ... Read more

12. Religion and Youth (Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series in Association With the Bsa Sociology of Religion Study Group)
by Pink Dandelion
Paperback: 298 Pages (2010-07-01)
list price: US$34.95 -- used & new: US$23.96
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Asin: 0754667685
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What is the future of religion given the responses of young people? What impact do existing religious forms have on youth? What kind of spirituality and religion are young people creating for themselves? Written by leading scholars in the field, this book presents an accessible, yet cutting edge, guide to the key issues in the study of youth and religion, including methodological perspectives. It provides a key teaching text in these areas for undergraduates, and a book of rigorous scholarship for postgraduates, academics, and practitioners. Offering the first comprehensive international perspective on the sociology of youth and religion, this book reveals key geographical and organisational variables as well as the complexities of the engagement between youth and religion.The book is divided into six parts organised around central themes: Generation X and their legacy; The Big Picture - surveys of belief and practice in the USA, UK, Australia and Europe; Expression - how young people construct and live out their religion and spirituality; Identity - the role of religion in shaping young people's sense of self and social belonging; Transmission - passing on the faith (or not); Researching Youth Religion - debates, issues and techniques in researching young people's religion and spirituality. James Beckford writes the Foreword. ... Read more

13. The Sociology of Religion: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives: Second Edition
by Malcolm Hamilton
Paperback: 320 Pages (2001-09-21)
list price: US$43.95 -- used & new: US$32.62
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Asin: 0415226678
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An expanded second edition, this clear and comprehensive introduction to the sociology of religion incorporates the ideas of the main theorists with a wide range of material that illustrates the large expanse of religious beliefs and practices. Malcolm Hamilton presents a broad comparative view that draws on insights in history, anthropology and sociology. The Sociology of Religion encompasses both classic and contemporary theories to present a full picture of the variety and span of theoretical perspectives.

The newly expanded second edition brings the discussion fully up to date reflecting the current debates and developments in the field. ... Read more

14. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion
by Peter L. Berger
Paperback: 240 Pages (1990-10-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$6.80
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Asin: 0385073054
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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This important contribution to the sociology of religion provides an analysis that clarifies the often ironic interaction between religion and society.  Berger is noted for his concise and lucid style. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Good old Peter Berger
Ha ha. Good old Peter Berger and his sacred canopy. Years ago, when I took comparative religion classes, this book was required reading already at the very first course, which included students fresh out of senior high.

Don't worry. None of us understood it either. The poor professor (a competent Indologist, by the way) had to spend an entire lecture explaining Berger's opus.

But no, the book isn't incomprehensible. Not really. However, unless you are pretty grounded in Hegel, Weber, Durkheim, Luckmann or Marx (not necessarily in that order), you might find this a hard read. When I re-read parts of the book this week, I thought it was easier than average scholarly literature. But then, that's me. I also noticed Berger's uncanny humour, which I didn't ten years ago. As when the author writes: "My communication with denizens of the realm of theology has, much to my regret, shrunk in recent years. But I would like to mention James Gustafson and Siegfried von Kortzfleisch as two theologians in whom I have always found an unusual openness to sociological thinking for which I have been grateful on more than one occasion".



The book itself is difficult to summarize, but here goes.


The first part is a theoretical exposition of Berger's sociological theory of religion. Berger believes that humans are biologically fated to "exteriorize" and fill their world with meaning, i.e. create a culture, which is then "interiorized" by a process of socialization. Often, this leads to "alienation", since humans start to regard products of their own activity as natural, unchanging and eternal objects "out there". Humans suffer the constant dread of anomie, a terror of meaninglessness. Religion is a potent weapon against anomie, ironically precisely because it alienates man from his real existence. Religion functions as a protective canopy, bestowing meaning on the world, including the meaning of suffering or even death. Often, religion has a conservative function in society, giving a sacred character to the rulers or dominant institutions. Thus, to be against the system means that you are both insane and evil. Berger admits, however, that religion in some instances also functions as a de-alienating force, precisely by *refusing* to grant a sacred status to certain institutions, against whom it thus becomes right to rebel. However, Berger doesn't believe in a complete abolition of alienation, nor does he think that alienation is a product of class society. Rather, alienation is rooted in our anthropology. Berger also attacks something he calls "the masochistic attitude", which he believes is a innate human tendency and plays a central role in religion, especially mystic religion and monotheism.

Since I haven't read Berger's magnum opus "The social construction of reality" (co-written with Thomas Luckmann), it might be risky to criticize this, but Berger sounds too "constructivist" for my tastes. He does admit that humans are biologically fated to produce a culture through exteriorization, but he seems to think that the concrete products of exteriorization are all sui generis. This is unconvincing. While human cultures are indeed very different from each other (just compare the Aztecs and the Indus Valley civilization, or a penal colony with a sociology class), there is still an underlying unity more fundamental than simply the rather trivial observation that all humans have a culture. Indeed, Berger himself seems to believe that "the masochistic attitude", fear of death and meaninglessness, and mystic experiences are universal human traits. But surely these are rooted in our shared nature?

Berger mentions language as an example of a human construct that moulds our thinking, while implying that each language is unique. But all languages have categories such as subject, verb and object, or present and past tenses, and all (as far as I know) can be translated to any other language, once again showing an underlying unity. Language does indeed expand or inhibit our thinking (yes, really!), but it also creates a certain shared conception of the world. Humans aren't exteriorizing tabulae rasae, but share a kind of common nature (let's call it "creative and co-operative") which directs the exteriorizations. Some of these are common, others rare and some non-existent.

Berger does point out that human products can start to "live their own life" and subordinate humans to their wishes, so to speak, as when humans become dependent on certain tools or technologies they have invented themselves. However, he doesn't emphasize this enough, creating the strange impression that human cultures can somehow take any shape at any time, since they are human-created rather than natural.


The next section deals with the process of secularization in the West, and here Berger does mention salient material factors, such as industrialization, bureaucratization, and so on. He extends Weber's classical analysis of the secularizing function of Protestantism to include Old Testament Judaism as well. (This is unconvincing.) The rest of his analysis of American religion was probably correct in 1967, when the book was originally published. Thus, Berger describes how Christianity has lost its monopoly on truth, how Christian groups compete as if on a marketplace, how religion becomes more private and psychological, and how American churches have survived by adapting to the trends of secularization. Parts of this analysis still holds, but it needs to be heavily amended, due to the rise of Christian fundamentalism and various religious cults or near-cults after 1967. Also, Berger's analysis feels too "local" in today's globalized reality. What about Muslim fundamentalism? What about a nation such as Japan, which combines Buddhism and Shintoism with modernity? Can China's secularization be explained by the character of Chinese religion, or is it all due to Communism?

The major shortcoming of "The Sacred Canopy", however, is that it never seems to face up to the consequences of its own theory. If humans need to exteriorize and interiorize, if they fear anomie and if religion (be it alienating or de-alienating) is the most potent weapon against it, shouldn't we expect a resurgence of religion? Whence and wither secularism? At the very least, we should expect the rise of substitute "religions". It can hardly be denied that science plays such a role to many people, including scientists. (This is not to suggest, by the way, that science isn't sound. Such ontological claims must be rigorously bracketed in any sociological analysis.) The frantic and obviously megalomaniacal search for a "theory of everything", Consilience, Artificial Intelligence or whatever, is clearly connected to the idea of the scientist as hierophant. To other people, the substitute might be some obscure political philosophy, hedonistic pleasure-seeking, body building or what not. Personally, I get my kicks by writing reviews on Amazon...

That being said, Peter Berger's "The Sacred Canopy" is still an essential read for everyone interested in the whys and whats of religion. My personal copy of the book is filled with marginal notes, often just as hilariously funny as the iconoclastic humour of the author (as when I exclaim: "yawn", "oh my god, what on earth is the point", or "MAKE UP YOUR MIND, BLOODY IDIOT"). And yes, I got a straight A at that course!

Recommended. Sort of. ;-)

2-0 out of 5 stars A mediocre and incomplete discussion of pluralism
Peter Berger uses pluralism as a key part of his discussion of how religion has changed from its previous roles in human culture, but the "modern" society he describes is actually quite old. His oversight is not even a Western bias: the example I am thinking of predates the medieval, Catholic society that he uses as its precursor. In pre-Christian Europe, there was an extraordinary variety of religions all being tolerated under the cultural banner of the Roman Empire. Most of these religions were local and focused on specific rituals and practices. There was no real overlap between the cults of Athena, Odin, and the Jewish God. Yet religion played a central role in Roman society; it was rare for a Greek or Roman to make a speech without acknowledging all the gods in a pluralistic gesture.

Berger's key statement about the effect of secular society on religion is that it "represents a severe rupture of the traditional task of religion, which was precisely the establishment of an integrated set of definitions of reality that could serve as a common universe of meaning for the members of society". (p.134) This statement simply does not stand up very well when measured up to pre-Christian European history. Certainly, in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, religion has the task of "placing the experiences of ... society in the context of a history ... that transcends them all". (41) They stress universality over locality. In the Abrahamic traditions, too, religion has a monopolistic nature; acknowledgement of the God of any of these religions is also a denouncement of the animist pantheon.But even in today's Sri Lanka, Burma, and Japan, not to mention some regions of Africa, animism is a locally defined entity that is not threatened by the humanist claims of modern society and has no real need to refocus its energy on maintaining "relevance" (147) or "results". (138) As for a de-emphasis on issues affecting all society, the religious leaders of these traditions had no interest in politics or economics in the first place; why start now?

To be fair, a majority of the world's population today subscribes to one of the Abrahamic religions. But Berger is making a bolder claim: he is saying that his model applies to all religions. Even if we narrow his statement about "a severe rupture" of a "traditional task" to the category of major world religions, we still find it is problematic: historically speaking, Buddhism has almost always coexisted with other beliefs in areas it is dominant, be they animist, secularist or nationalist. The attitude of nearly all Buddhist monastic communities has been to not tell the laity what to do. They do not see the enforcement of a "common universe" as a "task" on their checklist for right living.
Some statements of Berger's have broader applications. Regardless of whether any given religion is monopolistic in nature, it is still probable that "the same human activity that produces society also produces religion". (47) But it is only when a religion is bound up with a need to have a single way of life for all society that secularism becomes an issue. This monopolistic instinct is not inherent to all of the social traditions that we commonly categorize as religious.

5-0 out of 5 stars Seminal Sociological Text
A seminal work in sociological theory.Berger's argument that the process of being religious comes from a deep seated biological need for humans to structure their environments is both empirically demonstrable as it is important for theologians in order to understand the assumptions that govern doctrine.

The process is a dialectic from externalizing structures of understanding reality that create order.These are then apprehended as objects by others and internalized.From this internalization new structures will then emerge as the process continues.Epistemologically, this process is then regulated in terms of plausibility and legitimation.As structures of order are created, different ways of knowing and understanding the world are made plausible and thus different forms of knowledge are seen as legitimate ways of understanding and maintaining order in the world.The end of this process is to make the world a habitable place by mitigating the effects of disorder or "anomy".

The last piece on secularization traces the division of the numinous reality of God and the spiritual things of God and the physical structures of experience.This begins in the radical division between Yahweh and Israel, is re-united in medieval Catholicism, and then re-divided in Protestantism.Rationalism in the Nineteenth century then creates a challenge where theology is forced to define itself against a more plural environment where the plausibility of religious dogma is challenged by other equally plausible structures of reality.Maintaining these religious plausibility structures is legitimated in terms of marketing their respective value rather than assuming that one's dogma must be true in itself.

Berger closes with the state of this process in the late 1960's where theology was in the process of coming out of the neo-orthodox reassertion of the otherness of God and primacy of Scripture and investing itself with psychological and existential legitimation.He uses Tillich as an example of this.

It is important for theologians to understand that in the process of doctrinal analysis and synthesis, that theology is relative to social constructions that shape doctrine by virtue of being human.The tendency is to mask theology as some discipline which is beyond the reproach of answering the challenge of what we can observe empirically.This is not the case is theology is a discipline that can develop and progress as do other disciplines in the field of what humans can know and understand about the world and themselves.

3-0 out of 5 stars Religious Studies
People will have problems with some of Berger's ideas; namely that religion is a social construction. So, of course removing "truth" with a capitol T will offend. However wordy or latinate his words get, he is still, by far, much more lucid and friendly to native english speakers than the majority of those who write in this feild.
Those interested in the modern, g-d-free, clean shiny secular religious studies will find a useful text here.
Those complaining about his lingistic machinations simply have not been plunged into the rather absurdity that populates the majority of religious studies. It is not an "easy read" as one would read say non-fiction for enjoyment, but, by far, much more lucid and approachable than other writers.

1-0 out of 5 stars In other words.....
Peter Berger's "The Sacred Canopy", while containing some insightful ideas, are too muddled down with Berger's personal terminology to be considered an interesting read. Does Berger point out some interesting and intriguing thoughts? Yes. But that's not the argument here. I consider myself an intelligent, university-educated individual, but Berger makes up his own words, comes up with entirely new meanings for existing terms, and throws in as many Latin terms as he can in one sentence, that simply trying to comprehend one sentence becomes a chore. Moreover, each chapter feels redundant with ideas expressed in previous areas throughout the book. Berger's inflated language gives the reader a feeling of his pompousness and self-importance. If you'd like the condensed version of the book, here it is: Religion was/is created by man as a "sacred canopy" to give us meaning as human beings, but we forget that religion is man-made and thus give power to religion to control us. The End. ... Read more

15. Religion in Sociological Perspective
by KeithA. Roberts
Paperback: 445 Pages (2003-07-09)
list price: US$109.95 -- used & new: US$69.50
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Asin: 0534579515
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This text is a highly sociological view of religion and as such stresses theoretical perspectives about religion. The text also focuses on the methodology that sociologists have used to study religion. Keith Roberts states that his own preferred approach is open systems theory, which he says focuses equally on structure and dynamics. Other texts may lean toward the religious studies end of the market, but Roberts is a true sociology text. ... Read more

16. Sociology of Religion (Wisdom Library Number 65)
by George Simmel
Mass Market Paperback: 76 Pages (1959-02)
list price: US$18.95
Isbn: 0405121202
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17. Essays on Religion (Monograph Series (Society for the Scientific Study of Religion), No. 10)
by Georg Simmel
Hardcover: 244 Pages (1997-01-31)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$49.97
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Asin: 0300061102
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The noted German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel wrote a number of essays that deal directly with religion as a fundamental process in human life.These essays set forth Simmel`s mature reflections on religion and its relation to modernity, personality, art, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and science. They also include his views on methods in the study of religion and his thoughts on achieving a broader perspective on religion. Originally published between 1898 and 1918, the last twenty years of Simmel`s life, the essays are collected here in English for the first time. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Religion and modern life!
The revival in Simmel scholarship that started in the early 1990s continues with this very fine collection of Simmel's lesser known essays on religion. Here, one will find Simmel at his very best where the impressionist style does not abstract from the complexity of the issues which he deals with. Such issues include the relationship between the 'religious' and 'scientific' paradigms, various aspects of religious art (an excellent piece on Rembrandt among others), and the relationship and relevance of religion to modern life. Simmel's argument is difficult to organize into a system with clear contours; nevertheless, the argument proceeds with admirable dialectical subtlety capturing as many sides as possible of the concept of God and its relevance for the social. One of the most impressive essays is "The Personality of God" where Simmel develops within the context of modern individualism the notion of pantheism and how it may, or may not contain all aspects of reality. Simmel's concern on this issue betrays his 'flirt' with a notion of pantheistic monism which does not exclude pluralism or 'difference', as he inherits it from Spinoza and Hegel. The translation is excellent doing justice to the German original and the volume includes a short but enlightening introduction by the editors. Very enjoyable and mind-blowing stuff! ... Read more

18. The African Religions of Brazil: Toward a Sociology of the Interpenetration of Civilizations (Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture)
by Roger Bastide
Paperback: 494 Pages (2007-05-04)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$20.00
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Asin: 0801886244
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Written by one of France's most brilliant and creative anthropologists, The African Religions of Brazil is regarded as a classic in Afro-American studies. First published in France in 1960, the book represents a singular effort to develop a theory of the interpenetrations of African, European, Christian, and non-Christian cultures in Brazil from colonial times to the present. Addressing a remarkable range of topics -- from mysticism and syncretism to the problems of collective memory, from the history of slavery in Brazil to world-wide race relations -- the work is shaped by the author's rich and original conceptual framework. The result is a compelling study of the origins and growth of a native religious environment.

The English translation is supplemented with a biographical foreword by Richard Price and a thematic introduction by Brazilian sociologist Duglas T. Monteiro.

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5-0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT
This is excellent work by Bastide. Thorough sociological perspective on the syncretism of Catholicism and Africanism in Brazil. He uses a wealth of sources to support his brilliant thesis. Highly recommend for anyone interested in Candomble, or evolution of Afro-religious development in Brazil. ... Read more

19. Readings on the Sociology of Religion (Readings in modern sociology series)
by Thomas F. O'Dea, J.K. O'Dea
 Paperback: 240 Pages (1973-04)

Isbn: 0137619405
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20. Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader (Blackwell Readings in Religion)
Paperback: 312 Pages (2003-06-09)
list price: US$45.95 -- used & new: US$28.29
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Asin: 1405101814
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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What is a cult? Why do they emerge? Who joins them? And why do tragedies such as Waco and Jonestown occur? This reader brings together the voices of historians, sociologists, and psychologists of religion to address these key questions about new religious movements.

  • Looks at theoretical explanations for cults, why people join and what happens when they do.
  • Brings together the best work on cults by sociologists, historians, and psychologists of religion.
  • A broad-ranging, balanced and clearly organized collection of readings.
  • Includes coverage of topical issues, such as the 'brainwashing' controversy, and cults in cyberspace.
  • Section introductions by the editor situate the nature, value, and relevance of the selected readings in context of current discussions.
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting
Very interesting book, it's part of a university study course.
Had worse study books :)

5-0 out of 5 stars Cults and New Religious Movements
If they are well-written, like this particular one is, I have discovered I love to read the "a reader"-type of books. You can go from zero knowledge about a phenomenon to a well above average knowledge about a subject just by reading one book. The best way to summarize the book in the rather limited space allowed by Amazon in book reviews is perhaps to give the names of the chapters. The eight chapters each have two articles in them, varying from a few pages to well over 30. "The Study of New Religious Movements", "The Nature of New Religions", "New Religious Movements in Historical and Social Context", "Joining New Religious Movements", "The Brainwashing Controversy", "Violence and New Religious Movements", "Sex and Gender Issues and New Religious Movements" and finally "New Religious Movements and the Future", are the chapters included in the book. Apart from the chapter "The New Spiritual Freedom", which is basically just 30 pages of brainwashed non-sense about how the trouble caused by the coloureds and their Jewish allies during the 60's in the US was somehow this great "spiritual revolution" and the usual "feminist" rubbish in the two articles about "gender", every article in the book is more or less a wonderful read. As one quickly realizes by the name of the book, the general usage in the academic milieu is not the very negatively charged term "cult", but rather "new religious movement", which is of course more proper as well.

The book pretty much covers every aspect of new religious movements and quite thoroughly as well. There are also a few shocking parts of the book, as when they show what kind of Stalinist environment the supposedly "free academic discourse" has become, on page 22; "I know of two sociologists of religion who have been warned that they would be denied tenure or not be awarded their Ph.D. if they did not make it clear their monographs were exposés". Quite similar to the treatment Dr. Kevin MacDonald has received for his scholarship on Judaism that weren't sufficiently kosher enough for the Semitical Correctness jury.

I recommend you read this marvellous book on new religious movements, hopefully with the full weight of what is said on page 167 in mind; "[...] We do not call all types of personal or psychological influences 'brainwashing'. We reserve this term for influences of which we disapprove". Truer words have seldom been said. 5 stars and recommended reading for pretty much anyone remotely interested in religion and culture.

5-0 out of 5 stars How Religious Sausage is Made
This is one of those "breaking the spell" books on religion in which the intricate social psychology--the underbelly of new religious movements--is laid bare and demystified.

The book consists of thought-provoking essays on cults by social scientists, psychologists, and historians. The editor has clearly attempted to give readers a handle, both theoretical and historical, on how new religious movements get started and thrive. Some of the essays in the book are so good that they justify, in and of themselves, the purchase of the book. Roy Wallis' essay, for example, makes some fascinating distinctions between "world denying religious movements" and "world affirming religious movements" that are extremely helpful. The sociologist Rodney Stark's essay is also excellent. It discusses how the proclamations of cults function as "compensators" for general, and unachievable longings (such as eternal life).

Lastly, this book is especially useful for reflecting on how the world's major religions (Christianity and Islam etc.) likely had their beginnings. In other words, the patterns typical of new religious movements are suggestive of how the old religious movements got their start. Short of a time machine, the study of contemporary new religious movements (cults) is as close as we are likely to get to witnessing the early beginnings, and evolution, of mature religions. This book is thus an excellent introduction to the scientific study of religion generally.

1-0 out of 5 stars Tranquillity, really, without pills? Don't fall for it.
The title is a decent statement about the "TM" type of meditation. It's about as far as this meditation is likely ever to take anyone, but that is a good, if limited, thing.

However, the real purpose of the book is to get you hooked into the Maharishi's very expensive, very elaborate and very questionable "tranquillity" which in the 1990's cost something like $3000 for just the introductory method!

Do yourself a favour. Do some searching. Ask as many teachers as you can what meditation is and what it is for! Be VERY concerned about cost because the best teachers teach for free, or for very little. "TM" as a meditation method is more about making the Maharishi and his organization rich.

I recommend How to Meditate: A Practical Guide By Kathleen McDonald -- you won't get hooked/hoodwinked into a cult and you'll learn how to meditate. ... Read more

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