Encyclopedia of Religion and Society

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Encyclopedia of Religion and Society

The social scientific study of religion began in earnest a scant century ago. Although precedents for a "scientific attitude" toward religion may be found at least as far back as the pre-Socratics of ancient Greece, it is principally with the works of Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Sigmund Freud that we can begin to chart something of the development of today's insights into the "phenomenon" of religion.

The Encyclopedia of Religion and Society marks a unique venture in that it attempts to bring together in a single-volume compendium a state-of-the-art summary of the insights gained by the principal social sciences of religion: anthropology, psychology, and sociology. To do so is to take, admittedly, a "one-sided" approach to the religion-and-society nexus. One could perhaps consider an alternative posture, more ethical in nature-namely, one that considers what religions think about society. This would really be an encyclopedia of religious social ethics, and it is not within the scope of this project.

We have tried to assemble entries, both lengthy and brief, that survey as broadly as possible the different theoretical traditions and research styles that have emerged over the century. Although more heavily oriented toward North America, the scope is global, and an effort has been made to address the major traditions of world religious experience.

We also have attempted to provide a historical reference tool particularly with regard to the major professional societies in the social scientific study of religion: the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Religious Research Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions-and as much as possible the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry and Research Committee 22 (sociology of religion) of the International Sociological Association. Entries are also provided for the sections of the major professional organizations, the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. This resource is intended to aid each of these organizations in historical retrieval, and we hope that subsequent editions of this work may increase the detail that can be provided.