Bibliographic Reflections on the Sociology of Religion

The manuscript for the 7th edition of my textbook, Religion in Sociological Perspective, is due to Sage Publications by the end of 2019. Which is just days away. One of the the last major tasks I had to complete was the bibliography. This was no small task. Including the 269 new citations I added for this edition (almost 20 per chapter) and all of the old citations (many of which would eventually be deleted), the bibliography ran to 136 double-spaced pages.

Because I don’t use citation management software (to be remedied for the 8th edition for sure), I had to cross-check every citation in the 600 manuscript pages of text against the bibliography (with considerable assistance from my spouse!). In the end, the final bibliography runs 87 double-spaced pages. (A 51 page single spaced version is available as a PDF document here.)

Although time consuming (it took 6 hours), doing this by hand rather than by machine allowed me to observe some interesting patterns in the bibliography.

A core idea of the textbook is that the sociology of religion as a field involves an ongoing conversation among scholars in dialogue with existing scholarship and the social world. The field is constantly evolving as more and new voices enter the conversation and new aspects of the social world emerge or are discovered.

My textbook’s bibliography reflects my particular view of that conversation. This can be seen in those scholars I cite most, those who are up and coming, and those who have largely been excised from this edition of the text.

Most Cited

  • Pew Research Center – 21 reports cited plus 7 “Factank” blog posts covering every possible aspect of individual religiosity in the US and globally.
  • Rodney Stark – 18 citations (11 of which he is first author, dating back to the 1960s, and 6 of which are co-authored with Roger Finke).
  • Mark Chaves – 15 citations including essential work on secularization theory, women’s ordination, congregations, and religious trends.
  • Christian Smith – 12 citations on a range of topics from evangelicals to social movements to youth.
  • Robert Wuthnow – 9 citations from his work on new religious movements in the 1970s, the restructuring of American religion in the 1980s, small groups and spirituality in the 1990s, and global religion in the 2000s.
  • Darren Sherkat – 9 citations. I was a bit surprised by this at first, but his work is very empirically sound, approachable, and addresses issues that are very central to the field in a number of areas.
  • Robert Bellah – 7 citations. The number doesn’t fully reflect his influence on me as his work on religious evolution is really foundational to my understanding of religion.
  • Phil Gorski – 7 citations. One of Bellah’s students, who was a TA for Bellah’s sociology of religion course when I took it as an undergrad at UC-Berkeley, Gorski ended up serving on my dissertation committee at Wisconsin. If Bellah highlights the Durkheimian side of the Durkheim-Weber nexus that informs his work, then Gorski highlights the Weberian side.
  • Nancy Ammerman – 7 citations. If you could only read one person on congregations, start and end here.
  • Michael Emerson – 7 citations, all but one of which addresses the struggle for racial integration in religious organizations. It is that big an issue.

Up and Coming (Alphabetical)

Here I list not the TOTAL number of citations to each scholar, but the number of additional citations added in the 7th edition (which may but does not necessarily equal the total number of citations).

  • Amy Adamczyk: +3 citations on religion and LGBTQ-related issues
  • Orit Avishai: +4 citations on religion and gender
  • Kelsey Burke: +3 citations on religion and sexual behavior
  • Ryan Cragun: +5 citations on nonreligion/atheism and sexual/gender minorities
  • Kevin Dougherty, Mitchell Neubert, Jerry Park: +5 citations on religion, work, and entrepreneurship
  • Gerardo Marti: +5 citations. His 8 total citations actually puts him on the “most cited” list but I put him in the up and coming section because of the large number of new citations in this edition.
  • Samuel Perry: +4 citations on 3 different topics (pornography, bivocational clergy, and Christian nationalism)
  • Landon Schnabel: +3 citations on gender and sexuality
  • David Smilde: +3 citations on research programmes in the sociology of religion
  • J.E. Sumerau: +3 citations on the cisgendered reality of contemporary religion
  • Andrew Whitehead: +3 citations on sexuality and Christian nationalism

Missed Friends

Not really an analytic category, but I was surprised when I was surveying the changes to the bibliography and saw that some old friends of mine didn’t get as much play as they deserved in previous editions. The following individuals had +2 new citations added to this edition of the textbook: Joseph Baker, Courtney Bender, Tricia Bruce, Lynn Neal, Melissa Wilcox, Melissa Wilde, Richard Wood, and Bradley Wright.

Excised from the 7th Edition

Looking back at previous editions of this textbook (the first of which was published in 1984) is like looking at time capsules of the field at different points in time. To avoid bloat, I deleted about one old reference for every new reference I added to the bibliography.

Rather than naming names, I will indicate what subjects I have scaled back on considerably in this edition of the textbook. In no particular order:

  • Sects: Sect-formation, sect-development as part of church-sect theorizing
  • Mystical/ecstatic/religious experience, including the paranormal
  • “Why conservative churches are growing,” the “circulation of the saints,” and related debates
  • The changing shape and future of mainline Protestantism
  • Promise Keepers, Satanism, violent cult stuff
  • 1950s/60s era racial prejudice work
  • Televangelism
  • Magic (as distinguished from religion)

Some of these deletions are not because I find the areas unimportant, but simply because it is impossible to fit everything into a single textbook. The material on religious experience is a case in point.

Excluded from the 7th Edition

If the sociology of religion as a field is like a mighty river roaring by me, this textbook reflects my attempt to pull a bucket of water out of it.

I have consciously attempted to diversify the content of the 7th edition, including trying to get beyond Christianity, congregations, beliefs, borders, and even beyond religion itself. I do this to the extent possible given limitations on my time, energy, and intelligence, and existing scholarship, but know I can do better.

If you look at the bibliography for the 7th edition, who and what am I missing? Revisions for the 8th edition start on 1/1/2020.