The New Sociology of Religion: History
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The new sociology of religion differs from the classical and mainstream sociology, which was in force until the end of the last century, in that it no longer considers religion only as an independent variable, but places it together with other dependent variables, so that it becomes possible to investigate new themes, especially those that do not consider religious involvement—from atheism to the phenomenon of ‘nones’ (non-believers and non-practicing), from spirituality to forms of para-religions and quasi-religions and the varied set of multiple religions. 

  • sociology
  • religion
  • secularization
After the start given by the classical authors (in particular Durkheim and Weber, but also Simmel and W. James) to the scientific approach aimed at the knowledge of the religious fact, subsequent scholars have ventured, firstly, into the examination of religious practice (in the 1950s and 1960s) and then into the vexata quaestio of secularisation [1][2], a topic that has held sway for several decades, until the end of the last century and the beginning of the new millennium (the peak of interest was recorded between the second part of the sixties and the first part of the seventies). Subsequently, but particularly since the 1980s, the discourse on the post-secular or post-secularisation has developed [3][4][5]. Thus, albeit by way of contrast, the topic of secularisation has remained central even in the new millennium [6]. In the meantime, however, other research has been conducted on entirely new (or almost new) topics: prayer [7], spirituality [8][9], Eastern religions [10] and Chinese religions in particular [11][12][13][14], everyday [15] and/or lived religion [16], digital religion [17][18][19], gender [20], visual analysis [21][22], the phenomenon of megachurches [23][24][25][26], televangelism [27], Protestantism [28], atheism [29][30][31] and so-called nones [32][33]. Finally, in some cases, there has been a slide (understood as a fact and certainly not as an evaluation) towards para-religious or quasi-religious aspects, like in studies on Scientology [34][35], UFOs [36] or Pastafarians [37] (pp. 132–140) [38]. These contents were previously absent or poorly considered and are now visibly emerging, occupying the spaces of the most important journals, dedicated encyclopaedias and series. If the beginnings were characterised by a rather confessional propensity (for example, what is now the journal Sociology of Religion was called American Catholic Sociological Review from 1940 to 1963 and Sociological Analysis from 1964 to 1992), then gradually religious sociology became sociology of religion and ultimately of religions. In this regard, the diachronic dynamics of the original Conférence Internationale de Sociologie Religieuse (1948), which then became the Conférence Internationale de Sociologie des Religions (1981), and finally the Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions (1989), is exemplary.


  1. Martin, D. The Religious and the Secular. Studies in Secularization; Routledge & Kegan Paul: London, UK, 1969.
  2. Martin, D. On Secularization. Towards a Revised General Theory; Ashgate: Burlington, VT, USA, 2005.
  3. Habermas, J. Secularism’s crisis of faith: Notes on post-secular society. N. Perspect. Q. 2008, 25, 17–29.
  4. Dillon, M. Postsecular Catholicism. Relevance and Renewal; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2018.
  5. Beaumont, J. (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Postsecularity; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2020.
  6. Bruce, S. Secularization; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2011.
  7. Giordan, G.; Woodhead, L. (Eds.) A Sociology of Prayer; Ashgate: Burlington, VT, USA, 2015.
  8. Jupp, P.C.; Flanagan, K. A Sociology of Spirituality; Routledge: London, UK, 2007.
  9. Ammerman, N.T. Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes. Finding Religion in Everyday Life; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2013.
  10. Pouillon, F.; Vatin, J.C. (Eds.) After Orientalism: Critical Perspectives on Western Agency and Eastern Re-appropriation; Brill: Leiden, The Netherlands, 2015.
  11. Yuet, C.A. (Ed.) Religion in Contemporary China. Revitalization and Innovation; Routledge: London, UK, 2010.
  12. Yang, F. Religion in China. Survival and Revival under Communist Rule; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2012.
  13. Cao, N.; Giordan, G.; Yang, F. (Eds.) Chinese Religions Going Global. Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion; Briil: Leiden, The Netherlands, 2020; p. 11.
  14. Feuchtwang, S. (Ed.) Handbook on Religion in China; Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA, 2020.
  15. Ammerman, N.T. Finding religion in everyday life. Sociol. Relig. 2014, 75, 189–207.
  16. Ammerman, N.T. Lived religion as an emerging field: An assessment of its contours and frontiers. Nord. J. Relig. Soc. 2016, 1, 83–99.
  17. Wagner, R. Godwired Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality; Routledge: New York, NY, USA, 2012.
  18. Campbell, H. Digital Religion. Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds; Routledge: London, UK, 2013.
  19. Merle, K. Religion in der Öffentlichkeit. Digitalisierung als Herausforderung für kirchliche Kommunikationskulturen (Religion in Public Sphere: Digitization as a Challenge for Church Communication Structures); De Gruyter: Berlin, Germany; Boston, MA, USA, 2019.
  20. Llewellyn, D.; Trzebiatowska, M. Secular and religious feminisms: A future of disconnection? Fem. Theol. 2013, 21, 244–258.
  21. Pezzoli-Olgiati, D.; Rowland, C. Approaches to the Visual in Religion; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen, Germany, 2011.
  22. Williams, R.R. (Ed.) Seeing Religion. Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion; Routledge: London, UK; New York, NY, USA, 2015.
  23. Thumma, S.; Travis, D. Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches; Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA, USA, 2007.
  24. Einstein, M. Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age; Routledge: London, UK, 2008.
  25. Fath, S. Dieu XXL: La révolution des megachurches (Megachurches Revolution); Autrement: Paris, France, 2008.
  26. Pace, E. Cristianesimo Extra-Large: La Fede Come Spettacolo di Massa (Extra-Large Christianity: Faith as Mass Spectacle); Edizioni Dehoniane: Bologna, Italy, 2018.
  27. Bruce, S. Pray TV: Televangelism in America; Routledge: New York, NY, USA, 2019.
  28. Possamai, A. The I-zation of Society, Religion and Neoliberal Post-secularism; Palgrave Macmillan: New York, NY, USA, 2018.
  29. Arweck, E.; Bullivant, S.; Lee, L. (Eds.) Secularity and Non-Religion; Routledge: London, UK, 2014.
  30. Lee, L. Recognizing the Non-religious: Reimagining the Secular; Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2015.
  31. Stolz, J.; Könemann, J.; Purdie, M.S.; Englberger, T.; Krüggeler, M. (Un)Believing in Modern Society. Religion, Spirituality, and Religious-secular Competition; Routledge: London, UK, 2016.
  32. Zuckerman, P. Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2011.
  33. Thiessen, J.; Wilkins-Laflamme, S. Becoming a religious none: Irreligious socialization and disaffiliation. J. Sci. Study Relig. 2017, 56, 64–82.
  34. Terrin, A.N. Scientology. Libertà e Immortalità (Scientology. Freedom and Immortality); Morcelliana: Brescia, Italy, 2017.
  35. Westbrook, D.A. Among the Scientologists: History, Theology and Praxis; Oxford University Press: New York, NY, USA, 2019.
  36. Reece, G.L. UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture; Tauris: New York, NY, USA, 2007.
  37. Cusack, C.M. Invented Religions. Imagination, Fiction and Faith; Ashgate: Burlington, UK, 2010.
  38. Ranzato, J. Le Tagliatelle in Piedi a Tutela Della Famiglia Tradizionale Pastafariana. Un’indagine Sulle Connessioni tra Attivismo Politico e Religioso nel Tessuto Urbano Italiano (Standing Tagliatelle Pasta to Protect the Traditional Pastafarian Family. An Investigation into the Connections between Political and Religious Activism in the Italian Urban Context). In Definire il Pluralismo Religioso; Saggioro, A., Ed.; Morcelliana: Brescia, Italy, 2020; pp. 233–258.
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