Religions have always been associated with particular forms of knowledge, often knowledge accorded special significance and sometimes knowledge at odds with prevailing understandings of truth and authority in wider society. New religious movements emerge on the basis of reformulated, often controversial, understandings of how the world works and where ultimate meaning can be found. Governments have risen and fallen on the basis of such differences and global conflict has raged around competing claims about the origins and content of religious truth. Such concerns give rise to recurrent questions, faced by academics, governments and the general public. How do we treat statements made by religious groups and on what basis are they made? What authorities lie behind religious claims to truth? How can competing claims about knowledge be resolved? Are there instances when it is appropriate to police religious knowledge claims or restrict their public expression? This book addresses the relationship between religion and knowledge from a sociological perspective, taking both religion and knowledge as phenomena located within ever changing social contexts. It builds on historical foundations, but offers a distinctive focus on the changing status of religious phenomena at the turn of the twenty-first century. Including critical engagement with live debates about intelligent design and the ’new atheism’, this collection of essays brings recent research on religious movements into conversation with debates about socialisation, reflexivity and the changing capacity of social institutions to shape human identities. Contributors examine religion as an institutional context for the production of knowledge, as a form of knowledge to be transmitted or conveyed and as a social field in which controversies about knowledge emerge.
’This book deals with a whole series of controversies over religion in a way that could make a real difference because it clarifies what a social scientific approach can and does involve when it comes to genuinely understanding what is at stake. Whatever the topic, whether it is the polemic of the New Atheists promoted as science or Intelligent Design seen as scientifically illiterate or the philosophical presuppositions of anthropologists in presenting their findings, there is much material here to inform and surprise. It is a fresh, vital and an innovative contribution to what can sometimes appear tired topics.’ David Martin, Lancaster University and London School of Economics, UK ’A stimulating look at the interaction between religion and what people think they know. We learn how religion shapes knowledge in several concrete settings and how, in turn, knowledge shapes religion. Sociology needs case studies like these. Without ever losing their concreteness, the authors draw out the implications for social theorizing.’ Jim Spickard, University of Redlands, USA ’What counts as knowledge in both religious and not-so-religious contexts? This book is full of nuanced and at the same time engaging sociological studies of tensions, modes of co-existence and negotiations between carriers of knowledge in various parts of society. It is a well-integrated anthology, despite the broad empirical field it covers, including churches, universities, families, media and other social institutions.’ PÃ¥l Repstad, University of Agder, Norway '... provide[s] fascinating windows on to the complex nexus between religion and knowledge. There will be something of interest for most scholars involved in some way with studying that interface.' Journal of Contemporary Religion ’...valuable insights and makes a worthwhile contribution to its field. Those undertaking the academic study of religion and wanting to gain sociological perspectives on that will find it a useful comp