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Sociology of Religion  

Resources for the study of society related to religious belief and practice or to the social-scientific study of communities of faith.
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Have you heard of "The Protestant Ethic" or "American Civil Religion?"  We have sociologists to thank for those concepts and for many of the ways we understand our world.  According to Michael Emerson in Contemporary American Religions (McMillan, 1999): "The sociology of religion seeks to understand humanly constructed aspects of religion in their social context. In contrast to other viable approaches to studying religion, the sociology of religion searches for patterns and processes underlying the interdependence of religion and society. To do so, it relies on models, theories, observation, and analysis." Though philosophers have written about  the relationship between religious belief and human society for centuries, it was not until sociology developed as a discipline that this field of study proliferated. Emile Durkheim and Max Weber were two pioneers of sociology in the twentieth century who also contributed significant theory and study in the sociology of religion. Associations of scholars continue the work through empirical methods, modeling, observation, and publication. Adjunct fields of anthropology of religion, comparative religion, congregational studies, public theology,  religious demography, and religious ethics add both depth and breadth to the field. 


Web Sites

  • Center for the Study of Religion and Society
    A research and instruction center associated with University of Notre Dame. An excellent reading list is posted under "Seminars and Courses."
  • Insights into Religion
    A portal to Lily funded studies on congregations, denominations, and demographics.
  • Religion Dispatches: Critical Analysis for the Common Good
    Produced at Emory, "a daily online magazine dedicated to the analysis and understanding of religious forces in the world today, highlighting a diversity of progressive voices and aimed at broadening and advancing the public conversation." (from the website)
  • Religion and Ethics Weekly
    Produced by PBS, a weekly look at the religious news offering "distinctive, cutting-edge news coverage and analysis of national and international events in the ever-changing religious world." (from the web site)
  • Wabash Center Internet Guide
    Top recommended websites. Many topics to select: Religion & culture, religion & anthropology/sociology, religion study & teaching.

Recent Works

Cover Art
The Sacred in the Modern World - Gordon Lynch
Call Number: BL60 .L96 2012
ISBN: 9780199557011
Publication Date: 2012-02-20

Cover Art
Faith No More - Phil Zuckerman
Call Number: BR517 .Z83 2012
ISBN: 9780199740017
Publication Date: 2011-11-01

Cover Art
The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity - J. B. Stump (Editor); Alan G. Padgett (Editor)
Call Number: WOODRUFF BL240.3 .B62 2012
ISBN: 9781444335712
Publication Date: 2012-05-29

Cover Art
Religion and Modern Society - Bryan S. Turner
Call Number: WOODRUFF BP173.25 .I74
ISBN: 9780521858649
Publication Date: 2011-03-31


Reference Resources

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Religion - Lindsay Jones
Call Number: BL31 .E46 2005
This reference work is helpful for sociology of religion on many levels: Comparative religious practices, explored by topic such as funeral rites, marriage, or pilgrimage, etc.; full entries for seminal theorists such as Comte, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Berger, etc.; lengthy essays on sociology and religion and the sociology of religion; and observations on history and society within articles on world faiths.

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Religion and Society - William H. Swantos
Call Number: Ref. BL60 .E53 1998
Wide in scope, this work covers groups, historical movements, scholars, and themes in the field in relatively short entries written by over 100 international experts. Each entry has a bibliography attached. Link above is to an online version.

Cover Art
A Dictionary of Sociology
Call Number: Woodruff Ref. HM425 .D5735 2005

Encyclopedia of Sociology
Call Number: Online

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Contemporary American Religion - Wade Clark Roof
Call Number: Ref. BL2525 .C65 2000


General Works

Cover Art
Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion - Peter B. Clarke
Call Number: BL60 .O94 2009
54 essays by top scholars exploring classic theorists, methods, secularization, and other current issues related to the scientific study of religion. Each essay has extensive reference list.

Cover Art
Sage Handbook of the Sociology of Religion - James A. Beckford and N. J. Demarath III, eds.
Call Number: BL60 .S34 2007
Thirty-five international scholars offer essays on themes ranging from theory and methods, to power and politics to identity and behavior.

The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion - Russell T. McCutcheon
Call Number: BL41 .I46 1999
A classic text to understand the basis for objective study of religions.

The Church as a Social Institution: The Sociology of American Religion - David O. Moberg
Call Number: BR517 .M62 1984
An early book on the sociology of the Christian Church that examines intra- and inter- group dynamics, role in broader society, place of the clergy, and effects on members. Though somewhat dated in statistics, the comprehensiveness and analysis hold up well.


  • Field Work in Religion
    Fieldwork in Religion is an internationally peer reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. The journal publishes articles, review essays and book reviews relevant to the theoretical engagement with and practical undertaking of fieldwork in religion. (from the website)
  • Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion
    An open source journal from Baylor University.
  • Journal of Contemporary Religion
    Journal of Contemporary Religion is an international peer reviewed journal. Its purpose is to both document and evaluate the anthropological, sociological, psychological, and philosophical aspects of emerging manifestations of religiosity in any part of the world�whether within innovative movements or mainstream institutions. (from the website)
  • Journal of Empirical Theology
    This journal publishes articles on comparative research in religion at the macro-level of society, the meso-level of institutions and the micro-level of identity and group formation. (paraphrased from the journal)
  • Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
    The journal of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. According to the association's website, it is the most cited resource in the field. Many data-rich study reports.
  • Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
    The journal of the North American Association for the Study of Religion.
  • Religion and Society
    A quarterly journal published by the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society in Bangalore, India. Provides inter-cultural perspective.
  • Review of Religious Research
    The journal seeks to provide a regular channel for the exchange of information on methods, findings and uses of religious research. It contains a variety of articles, book reviews and reports on research projects. (from the website)
  • Social Compass
    Each quarterly issue is thematic, offering in-depth coverage of a key area of current social research on religion in society. Recent themes include: teaching and research in the social sciences of religion; religion, culture and identity; and state reconstruction of the religious field. (from the web site)
  • Sociology of Religion
    Journal of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, a long-tenured group with roots in the Roman Catholic Church.

Subject Headings

When searching by subject heading, use:
Religion and Sociology
Religion Study and Teaching

Or use the name of any faith group, adding  "customs and practices, for example: "Hinduism customs and practices."

Using the faith group as a modifier for sociology results in works done from a particular faith perspective.
Buddhist Sociology
Christian Sociology
Hindu Sociology
Islamic Sociology
Jewish Sociology

To a country or city subject search, add "religious life and customs" to find works of sociological interest. For example: India religious life and customs.

To some general subject headings, adding "religious aspects" will yield books about the religious dimensions of a topic, such as "Marriage religious aspects."


ATLA Subjects

The ATLA Religion Database indexes many of the journals mentioned in this guide. These subject terms will be fruitful in the ATLA database.

Society and Church

Culture and Christianity

Secularization (Religion)


More Databases

Because this is an interdisciplinary field, many articles can be found in the following databases.

Academic Search Complete (Largest general database)

SocIndex with Full Text (Recommended sociology database)

Theses two Ebsco databases use similar subject terms for this discipline: religion, religion & sociology, religion & culture, religion study & teaching, church, any of the names of religious groups, or secularization.

Writings by Emory Faculty

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