Sociology of religion

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The sociology of religion concerns the role of religion in society; the practices, historical backgrounds, developments and universal themes of religion in society.[1] There is particular emphasis on the recurring role of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history. The sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that it does not set out to assess the validity of religious beliefs, though the process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent "methodological atheism".[2] Whereas the sociology of religion broadly differs to theology in assuming indifference to the supernatural, theorists tend to acknowledge socio-cultural reification of religious practise.

Modern academic sociology began with the analysis of religion in Durkheim's 1897 study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, a foundational work of social research which served to distinguish sociology from other disciplines, such as psychology. The works of Karl Marx and Max Weber emphasised the relationship between religion and the economic or social structure of society. Contemporary debates have centred on issues such as secularization, civil religion, and the cohesiveness of religion in the context of globalization and multiculturalism. The contemporary sociology of religion may also encompass the sociology of irreligion (for instance, in the analysis of Secular Humanist belief systems).


Typology of religious groups

According to one common typology among sociologists, religious groups are classified as ecclesias, denominations, sects, or cults (now more commonly referred to in scholarship as NRMs). Note that sociologists give these words precise definitions which are different from how they are commonly used. Particularly the words 'cult' and 'sect' are used free from negative connotations by sociologists, even though the popular use of these words is often pejorative.

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