The role of religion is gaining respect among sociologists. Over the last 30 years there has been a significant increase not only in the quantity of work done by sociologists on religion, but also in how religion is treated in those publications, according to a recent study published reported in Inside Higher Ed. To cite but one example, it was only in the relatively recent history of the field -- 1994 -- that the American Sociological Association created a section on the sociology of religion. The combined Society for the Scientific Study of Religion / Religious Research Association, which I attend each year, draws several hundred scholars.
Religion is hardly a new topic for sociologists, of course, given the work of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and other giants of the discipline's early history. But the recent shifts end many decades in which religion has been widely dismissed under the assumption that as societies became more advanced, the role of religion will decline. Instead, according to the research project that analyzed 587 sociology journal articles on religion published between 1978 and 2007, most general sociological journals have been publishing a modestly growing number of articles about religion.
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation. Recent blog posts include Report from “The Unthinkables,” Unusual Ways of Taking the Church to the People, Meet Some Amazing Leaders Reaching Hispanics in America, More Large Churches Are Bridging the Racial Divide, Why Is “Everyone” Interested in Leadership Development, What’s New in Young Adult Ministries, Questions Raised by Executive Pastors, Downtown Churches: How Visible?, What Is Your Church Learning about Outreach?, What Are the Most Urgent Questions Tomorrow’s Church Must Face? and Nigerian-Based Church Comes to North America.