Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(SSSR) Created in 1949 as the Committee for the Scientific Study of Religion, the SSSR name was adopted by the mid-1950s and by the early 1960s the society had its Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion . The CSSR was initiated by discussion between J. Paul Williams, Mount Holyoke College, and Walter H. Clark, Middlebury College. According to William M. Newman, who has written the definitive article about the early history of this organization, other early participants included Gordon Allport, Allan Eister, Horace Kallen, Prentiss L. Pemberton, James Luther Adams, Paul Tillich, Pitirim Sorokin, and Talcott Parsons. Over the years, the society has continued to have the involvement of the leading figures in the social and behavioral scientific study of religion.

In the early years, meetings occurred on college and university campuses on the East Coast, and organizational matters were arranged informally. As the organization grew, becoming a national society (with an increasing number of international members), the office of the executive secretary became more important. In those developmental years especially, William V. D'Antonio as executive secretary and Lorraine D'Antonio as business manager were prominent in this office. Annual meetings are now held in major cities in North America.

The first issue of the JSSR states that the aim of the members in joining together is

(1) To encourage the study of religion through the media of their respective sciences, (2) To facilitate cooperation between groups and individuals engaging in such studies, (3) To make known . . . the nature, progress and findings of their diverse inquiries, (4) To stimulate free and friendly inter-communication between students in the field . . . , (5) To publish a Journal which . . . will further free inquiry, knowledge and understanding among religions.

These statements and other material from this issue reflect a membership drawn not only from social psychology and sociology but also from religious studies, religion, and philosophy. Some members had strong interest and training in the "hard sciences" as well.

Sometimes over the years the organizational question was raised on whether the SSSR should stand alone or, instead, be affiliated with either the American Psychological Association or the American Sociological Association. On occasion, the question of merging the SSSR and RRA was raised by various members and officers. However, as Jeffrey Hadden wrote, "The fact that SSSR members by and large insisted that the roles of faith and science were independent and that RRA members insisted on seeing the two as integral seemed to reinforce the gap between the two groups." There was also a third group, the Association for the Sociology of Religion (formerly the American Catholic Sociological Society). The SSSR and RRA typically hold a joint meeting in late October, and the ASR meets in August just prior to the meeting of the American Sociological Association. The diversity of disciplines represented among SSSR members discouraged mergers and affiliation with either the ASA or the APA. In recent years, sociologists have come to predominate in the SSSR; even so, the continuing interdisciplinary nature of this organization adds to the intellectual stimulation of its annual meeting.

The society has about 1,600 members and its journal is subscribed to by the major research libraries and perhaps as many as two-thirds of college and university libraries in the United States. An important part of this journal is its book reviews. A research fund is created yearly from general revenues and dues, and members can apply for funding. Awards are given annually for the outstanding book and the outstanding article published by a social scientist on religion as well as for the outstanding student paper given at the annual meeting. Current addresses can be found in recent issues of the JSSR .

Hart M. Nelsen


J. K. Hadden, "A Brief History of the Religious Research Association," Review of Religious Research 15(1974):128-136

W. M. Newman, "The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion," Review of Religious Research 15(1974):137-151.

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