Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Begun in August 1994, the purpose of the Sociology of Religion section of ASA as stated in the section bylaws is "to encourage and enhance research, teaching and other professional concerns in the study of religion and society" by promoting "communication, collaboration, and consultation among scholars" in this field.

More than 400 people joined the section during its first year. Two factors likely contributed to the late arrival of this section in the ASA. The first was the belief among many sociologists in the earlier part of the twentieth century that religion had lost its relevance as a social force. This belief led to the isolation of sociologists of religion, who founded separate associations. This created the second factor: Many members of these associations opposed the creation of an ASA section out of a concern that it would lead to the demise of the smaller groups. Others believed that the sociology of religion was growing so rapidly that it could support numerous organizations and that it was time to move it into the mainstream of the profession. Research on the membership growth and meeting attendance of the separate associations thus far has borne out the latter view.

Helen Rose Ebaugh, who was a major leader in the creation of the section, was elected to be its first chair, succeeded by Robert Wuthnow, Rodney Stark, and Ruth Wallace. Initial activities of the section have included, in addition to writing bylaws and preparing slates of officers, the organizing of sessions at the ASA annual meeting, the publication of a newsletter, the setting up of an electronic network, and a program of awards.

Madeleine R. Cousineau

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