Religion in the Contemporary World

Religion in the Contemporary World : A Sociological Introduction

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In the new edition of this widely read text, Alan Aldridge examines the complex realities of religious belief, practice and institutions, ranging from the high growth rates of successful minority religious movements such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, to the phenomenal rise of Pentecostalism, the challenge of 'fundamentalism' and the apparent turn from religion to spirituality. Religion is a powerful and controversial force in the contemporary world, even in supposedly secular societies. Almost all societies seek to cultivate religions and faith communities as sources of social stability and engines of social progress. They also try to regulate real and imagined abuses and excess: cults that brainwash vulnerable people, fundamentalism that threatens democracy and the progress of science, and terrorists who carry out atrocities in the name of religion. The second edition has been carefully revised to make sure it is fully up-to-date with recent developments and debates.
Major themes in the revised edition include religious diversity and its implications for social cohesion, and the paradoxical fate of religion in societies that appear to be obsessed with individualism and consumerism. This book will appeal strongly to a range of readers, especially students taking courses in the sociology of religion and anyone who is interested in the place of religion in the contemporary world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 162 x 233 x 22mm | 540g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised
  • 2nd Revised edition
  • 0745634044
  • 9780745634043
  • 2,326,946

Table of contents

Acknowledgements. 1 Religions and the Challenge of Diversity. The religious factor - The challenge of diversity. A clash of civilizations?. Grassroots Christian responses to diversity. 2 Defining Religion: Social Conflicts and Sociological Debates. Scientology: authentic religion or imposture?. Baha'is: world faith or apostasy?. Advantages of being recognized as a religion. Disadvantages of status as a religion. Defining people as religious. Max Weber: on not defining religion. Emile Durkheim: defining religion sociologically. Contemporary sociological definitions of religion. Religion and definition in use. 3 Varieties of Religious Movement. Church and sect. Denominations and cults: tolerating diversity. New religious movements. The limits of classification. 4 Secularization: the Social Insignificance of Religion?. Auguste Comte and the Law of Three Stages. Karl Marx and the projection theory of religion. Emile Durkheim and the social functions of religion. Max Weber and the disenchantment of the world. Georg Simmel: an alternative classical view. Defining secularization. Secularization from within. Decline of community. Marginalization of charisma. Cultural amnesia. Pluralization, relativism and consumer choice. Reason, rationality and science. A consensus on dystopia?. 5 Secularization Challenged: a New Paradigm?. A secularization theorist recants. Believing without belonging. A new paradigm. Voluntarism according to Talcott Parsons. The demand for religion: a rational choice?. The supply of religion: the benefits of competition?. The Mormons: a new world faith?. Jehovah's Witnesses: overcoming the failure of prophecy. The new paradigm and the rise of the megachurches. The Pentecostals. 6 Fundamentalism. Bible believers. Fundamentalism and monotheism. Islamophobia. 7 Civil Religion and Political Ritual. Ritual and social integration: the legacy of Durkheim. In God We Trust: civil religion in the United States. A failure of civil religion: Canada. Symbolic division in society: Northern Ireland. Political religion in an atheist society: the Soviet Union. Political religion and charismatic leadership: Nazi Germany. Character and society. 8 Brainwashing, Consumer Protection and the State. Brainwashing - old and new. The power of the brainwashing metaphor. What new religious movements offer their recruits. Disengaging from new religious movements. Consumer protection and the regulation of abuses. Cult scares and the anti-cult movement. Doomsday cults: five case studies. Apocalypse and self-destruction. A role for cult watchers?. 9 Religious Identity and Meaning in Consumer Society. Individualism unchecked?. Individualism and authority: the Roman Catholic Church. Sexuality and gender. From religion to spirituality?. A New Age?. Religion and spirituality online. Consuming religion. Afterword: dialogues in a post-secular world. Bibliography Index
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Review quote

"As good an introduction to the sociology of religion for the uninitiated as any current volume. Just about every topic that might be expected is to be found, thus providing a comprehensive reader." Sociological Review "The new edition of Religion in the Contemporary World is a timely guide to the social significance of religion. It is comprehensive, clear and convincing. Alan Aldridge is to be congratulated for writing such a well-informed and readable account of both the routine and the eye-catching aspects of religion in various regions of the world. From 'cults' to civil religion, from secularization to state control, and from diversity to identity, the analysis of arguments and examples is challenging and shrewd. This is the sociology of religion at its best." James A. Beckford, University of Warwick "Alan Aldridge provides a theoretically rich and empirically wide-ranging introduction to the pluralism of contemporary religion. His nicely integrated approach, coupled with a highly-accessible writing style, will enhance students' appreciation of the many complexities that characterize religion and society today." Michele Dillon, University of New Hampshire
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About Dr. Alan Aldridge

Alan Aldridge is Associate Professor and Reader in the Sociology of Culture at the University of Nottingham.
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