Religion and Knowledge: Sociological Perspectives (Hardback) book cover

Religion and Knowledge

Sociological Perspectives

Edited by Mathew Guest, Elisabeth Arweck

© 2012 – Routledge

308 pages

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About the Book

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.

Reviews

’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

Table of Contents

Contents: Religion and knowledge: the sociological agenda, Mathew Guest; Part I Institutions of Knowledge: Reified knowledge about ’religion’ in prisons, James A. Beckford; Faith and the student experience, Ian Fairweather; Young people in mixed faith families: a case of knowledge and experience of two traditions?, Elisabeth Arweck and Eleanor Nesbitt; The Amish in North America: knowledge, tradition and modernity, Elisabeth C. Cooksey and Joseph F. Donnermeyer. Part II The Religious Knowledge Economy: New atheism as identity politics, Teemu Taira; Rejection or accommodation? Trends in evangelical Christian responses to Muslims, Richard McCallum; Knowledge, tradition and authority in British Islamic theology, Stephen H. Jones; Choosing my religion: young people’s personal Christian knowledge, Sylvia Collins-Mayo; Safe and risky readings: women’s spiritual reading practices, Dawn Llewellyn; Intelligent design as a science enabler: prolegomena to a Creationist left, Steve Fuller; The influence of fundamentalist beliefs on evolution knowledge retention, Ryan T. Cragun, Deborah L. Cragun and Jason Creighton; The sea of faith: exemplifying transformed retention, Douglas Davies and Daniel Northam-Jones. Part III Knowledge, Religion and Academic Endeavour: On the materialization of religious knowledge and belief, Peter Collins; Bracketing out the truth? Managing bias in the study of new religious movements, Rebecca Catto; Index.

About the Editors

Dr Mathew Guest is Lecturer in Theology and Society at the Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University. He has published widely on contemporary British evangelicalism and on Christianity in general, including contributions to Theorising Faith (ed. Arweck and Stringer, Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press, 2002), The Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements (ed. Peter Clarke; London: Routledge, 2004), Studying Local Churches: A Handbook (ed. Cameron et al; London: SCM, 2005), Redefining Christian Britain: Post-1945 Perspectives (ed. Garnett et al, London: SCM, 2007), A Sociology of Spirituality (ed. Flanagan and Jupp, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion (ed. Peter Clarke, Oxford: OUP, 2009) and Reading Genesis After Darwin (ed. Barton and Wilkinson, New York: OUP, 2009). He has co-authored Modern Christianity: Reviewing its Place in Britain Today (with Douglas Davies; Reading: South Street Press, 2000) and Bishops, Wives and Children: Spiritual Capital Across the Generations (with Douglas Davies, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), has co-edited Congregational Studies in the UK: Christianity in a Post-Christian Context (with Karin Tusting and Linda Woodhead; Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), and is the author of Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007).

Dr Elisabeth Arweck is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Warwick (Institute of Education). She is a member of a number of national and international learned societies in religious studies and the sociology of religion. She is a Council member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion. She is an editor of the Journal of Contemporary Religion. She has co-edited a number of volumes, including Reading Religion in Text and Context (with Peter Collins) (Ashgate 2006), Materialising Religion (with William Keenan) (Ashgate 2006), and Theorising Faith (with Martin Stringer) (Birmingham University Press, 2002). She is the author of Researching New Religious Movements in the West: Responses & Redefinitions (Routledge, 2007) and co-author (with Peter Clarke) of New Religious Movements in Western Europe: An Annotated Bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1997). She has published a number of articles in journals (with Eleanor Nesbitt), book chapters, and entries in handbooks and encyclopaedias.

About the Series

Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series in Association with the BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group

The British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group began in 1975 and provides the primary forum in Britain for scholarship in the sociology of religion. The nature of religion remains of key academic interest and this series draws on the latest worldwide scholarship in compelling and coherent collections on critical themes. Secularisation and the future of religion; gender; the negotiation and presentation of religious identities, beliefs and values; and the interplay between group and individual in religious settings are some of the areas addressed. Ultimately, these books reflect not just on religious life but on how wider society is affected by the enduring religious framing of human relationships, morality and the nature of society itself. This series is part of the broader Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series edited by Douglas Davies and Richard Fenn.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHI022000
PHILOSOPHY / Religious