North American vs European Trends in the research of religion

Essay by ChristeRaeUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2004

download word file, 6 pages 3.7

"Religion is society," is a quote by the famous sociologist Durkheim. In North America and Europe there are many different ideas that sociologists use in writing about religion. These ideas are conflicting because the societies are different.

Andrew M. Greeley has been an opinion leader with a big influence in non-Catholic environments. He persists especially on the experiential dimension of religion, and mourns the excesses of theorization in sociology of religion, choosing empirical research, which he conducts himself. One of his most recent studies was divided over socioeconomic factors among Catholics, Jews and Protestants. There was no evidence of substantive differences among Catholics and Protestants in scientific and economic areas. Also, it was shown that Catholics do not look down either on scientific disciplines or basic values of American society. However, there is evidence that each of these three groups shows distinctive ethical systems that tend toward individualism or community (Cipriani 192-3).

Going beyond traditional boundaries and dealing with broader questions such as civil religion and doubts on differentiation, Richard K. Fern, an Episcopalian priest must be discussed. In Fern's opinion there cannot exist any consistency among culture, structure and personality in a highly differentiated and secularized society. Individuals seem to be in conflict with differentiation and other incompatible values. Cultural diversity is too large to allow for a singular moral order. The notion of society as a moral order established on a religious basis and characterized by similarity is no longer applicable. Finally, religion does not disappear but it does lose its intentional role in society (Cipriani 194).

The famous neofunctionalist, Hans Mol, is certain that men have an insuppressible need for a strong and encouraging identity. Easily enough, religion can satisfy this need. Mol feels that religions are able to handle the social renovation process. Tendencies toward change...