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Religion in Sociological Perspective

Religion in Sociological Perspective

Seventh Edition

August 2020 | 464 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
The authors are proud sponsors of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

Religion in Sociological Perspective introduces students to the systems of meaning, structure, and belonging that make up the complex social phenomena we know as religion. Authors Keith A. Roberts and David Yamane use an active learning approach to illustrate the central theories and methods of research in the sociology of religion and show students how to apply these analytical tools to new groups they encounter.

The Seventh Edition departs from previous editions by emphasizing that the sociology of religion is an ongoing conversation among scholars in dialogue with existing scholarship and the social world. This perspective is established in the new second chapter, “Historical Development of the Sociology of Religion.” Other chapters feature important voices from the past alongside the views of contemporary sociologists, and conclude with a glimpse of where the sociology of religion might be heading in the future. At every opportunity, the text has been enriched by research and examples that are meant to challenge parochial limits in the sociology of religion, pushing beyond Christianity, congregations, beliefs, national borders (especially the United States), and even beyond religion itself (to take nonreligion more seriously).

Included with this title:

The password-protected Instructor Resource Site (formally known as SAGE Edge)
offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides. Learn more.

A student activity guide includes chapter specific exercises linked to resources within the ARDA.

About the Authors
Chapter 1. What Do We Mean by the Term Religion?
Substantive Definitions

Functional Definitions

A Symbolic Definition

Invisible Religion

Lived Religion

Spiritual but Not Religious?

The Concept of Religion as Employed in This Text

A Final Word About Definitions

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 2. Historical Development of the Sociology of Religion
The Classical Era

The Secularization Paradigm

New Religious Developments

New Paradigms

Neosecularization Theory

Future Prospects

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 3. A Social Scientific Approach to Studying Religion
The Sociological Approach to Studying Religion

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 4. Becoming and Being Religious
Religious Socialization and the Intergenerational Transmission of Religion

Religion Over the Life Course

Being Religious

Religious “Nones”

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 5. Conversion, Switching, and Apostasy
Conversion, Brainwashing, and the New Religious Movements

Process Models of Conversion

Religious Choices and Commitments: A Rational Choice Model

Religious Switching


Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 6. Churches, Sects, Denominations, and “Cults”
Charisma and the Charismatic Leader

The Routinization of Charisma

Classifying Religious Organizations

The Church–Sect Typology

Denominationalism and the Denominational Society

Beyond Denominations?

New Religious Movements, a.k.a. “Cults”

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 7. Congregationalism and Congregations
Denominations and De Facto Congregationalism

Congregational Demography

What Do Congregations Do?


Multi-Site and Networked Religious Organizations

“New Paradigm” and “Seeker” Churches

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 8. Religion, Economics, and Social Class
Religious Ethics and Economic Action

The Prosperity Gospel and Modern Capitalism

Religion and Work

Religion and Social Class Stratification

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 9. Religion and Race
Religion and Racial/Ethnic Prejudice

The Racialization of Religious Groups

Religion in the African American Community

Racial Segregation in Congregations

Explaining Congregational Racial Segregation

Race/Ethnicity and Religious Affiliation

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 10. Religion and Gender
Religion as a Gendered Social Institution

Gendered Religious Organizational Structures

Gendered Patterns of Religiosity

Negotiating Gender in Religious Communities

Gender Beyond Women

Gender Beyond Male and Female

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 11. Religion and Sexualities
Religion, Heteronormativity, and Homonegativity

Religious Divisions Over Same-Sex Marriage

LGBTQIA+ Clergy Controversies

Congregational Responses to Sexual Diversity

LGBTQIA+ Religious Identities and Practices

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 12. Religion Outside the (God) Box
Religion and the “Old” Media

Religion and the “New Media”

Religion and Sport

Other Manifestations of Religion Outside Traditional God Boxes

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 13. Religion, Social Stability, and Social Conflict
Religion Functions to Provide Meaning and Belonging

Religion and Legitimation of the Social Order

Religion and Social Conflict

Religion: Opiate or Stimulant?

Summary and Looking Forward

Chapter 14. Globalization and Religion
Globalization of Religion

The Impact of Globalization on Religion

Transnational Religious Connections

Glocalization of Religions

Religion in Global Affairs

Summary and Looking Forward

Name Index
Subject Index


Instructor Resource Site

Online resources included with this text

The online resources for your text are available via the password-protected Instructor Resource Site, which offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank.

Possibly adopting. Can I get a print copy to look at. Is there open access?

Ms Bertena Varney
Sociology Dept, Western Kentucky University
February 7, 2024

Provides an excellent grounding in sociological perspectives and is a perfect companion for studying the sociology of religion. I recommend it to my learners for assignments and for extra reading on the topic.

Mr Nasrullah Anwar
Public Services, Runshaw College - Chorley
November 29, 2021

I like parts of it and its claim to be a global perspective. However, its not very global after reading it thoroughly. It has a distinct pro Catholic and Protestant bias. Major world religions: Baha'i Faith, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Taoism are given little coverage. Christian on Christian violence like Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia are given little to no coverage, amazing.

Dr Christopher J Johnson
Sociology Dept, Texas State Univ-San Marcos
January 31, 2021
Key features
  • The open systems approach of previous editions has been reframed to present the sociology of religion as an ongoing conversation between past and present scholars, highlighting the continuous and ongoing development of the field.
  • Each chapter connects students to resources in the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) to explore issues raised in the chapter— enabling instructors to create an active, problem-solving learning environment.

  • A new standalone chapter on Sexualities allows for fuller treatment of that topic.

  • The expanded chapter on Gender includes new coverage of women’s and men’s roles, and considerations beyond the male/female gender binary.

  • Several new “Illustrating Sociological Concepts” boxes provide extended case studies of particular sociological ideas, and new “Doing Research on Religion” boxes highlight the process by which the findings conveyed in the textbook come into being.

  • “Conclusion and Looking Forward” and “Concluding Question(s)” sections added to every chapter, encourage students to look beyond the material presented and contribute to the ongoing dialogue.

  • Survey data has been updated whenever possible, nearly 300 new sources are referenced, and almost half of all photos/illustrations are new to this edition.

  • The presentation has been streamlined reducing the length by 20% shorter compared to the Sixth Edition.


  • Throughout the book, the authors analyze the contributions and blind spots of each theory and emphasize the relationship between research methods and findings.

  • The authors seek to convey the perspective from which sociologists view religion, and to be illustrative rather than all-encompassing.

  • Throughout the book, the authors describe the contributions of various theoretical perspectives (conflict, functional, social constructionist, rational choice); discuss the limitations of each theory; and integrate the various theories into an overarching framework, the open systems model, which stresses both structure and dynamic process.

  • By providing a comprehensive, up-to-date, readable textbook along with hundreds of active-learning strategies, sample syllabi, online learning resources connected to the Association of Religion Data Archives (The ARDA), and a test bank, provides instructors with everything they need to teach the sociology of religion for the first or fiftieth time.

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