Current Revivals of Interest in Religion: Some Sociological Observations / Regain d intérêt récent pour la religion: quelques observations d ordre sociologique. - article ; n°2 ; vol.58, pg 159-174
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Current Revivals of Interest in Religion: Some Sociological Observations / Regain d'intérêt récent pour la religion: quelques observations d'ordre sociologique. - article ; n°2 ; vol.58, pg 159-174

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1984 - Volume 58 - Numéro 2 - Pages 159-174
16 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1984
Nombre de lectures 30
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Ivan Oliver
Current Revivals of Interest in Religion: Some Sociological
Observations / Regain d'intérêt récent pour la religion: quelques
observations d'ordre sociologique.
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 58/2, 1984. pp. 159-174.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Oliver Ivan. Current Revivals of Interest in Religion: Some Sociological Observations / Regain d'intérêt récent pour la religion:
quelques observations d'ordre sociologique. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 58/2, 1984. pp. 159-174.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1984.2331 soc des Rel. 1984 55/2 octobre-décembre) 159 174 Arch
Cet article ne se propose pas de fournir des détails empiriques té
moignant des récents regains intérêt envers la religion Il pose
une question dans quelle mesure la sociologie peut-elle contribuer
les comprendre auteur considère que histoire de la disci
pline surtout au XIXe siècle abouti une compréhension inadé
quate de la religion toujours en retrait par rapport la sicence
est pourquoi la sociologie été maints égards surtout en rai
son de la conception positiviste de la science sur laquelle elle repo
sait mal équipée pour disserter sur les réveils religieux Puisque les
faits religieux comme tous les faits sont dans une certaine
mesure theory dependent abandon du positivisme en faveur
une position herméneutique plus favorable devait créer un climat
intellectuel mieux adapté examen des problématiques contem
poraines telles que le dialogue chrétien-marxiste le fondamenta
lisme et la politisation de la religion La sociologie wébérienne
semble fournir un cadre méthodologique et théorique intérieur
duquel il devient possible de discuter et non plus de rejeter exis
tence du renouveau religieux suggère aussi que attention de
Weber aux doctrines de la théodicée et du salut peut servir expli
quer non seulement le sens profond de la religion qui persiste tra
vers la recherche de identité personnelle mais aussi improbabi
lité de sa disparition finale selon divers arguments prédisant la fin
de la religion
Religion does not consist of set of given facts waiting passively as
it were to be observed what counts as religion is mediated through the theore
tical spectacles one wears Moreover wish to suggest that many of the theoreti
cal assumptions sociologists and anthropologists have inherited from the past
are embarrassingly wrong when the question of religious revival is discussed
Wrong largely because they rested on inadequate assessments of the relation
ship between religion and the sciences that were held to be replacing it Most no
table here was the assumption that the intellectual and moral problems tackled
by religion could be answered by science itself now conceived of as the most
complete form of knowledge Finally and in opposition to these claims the sug-
gestion is made that Max sociology addresses itself to elements of reli
gious life which help us to understand the persistence of religion against all
claims for its long expected collapse
On some readings of the history of sociological theory discussion of these
issues ought not to be viable part of late XXth century social science This
claim is based on the commonplace observation that substantial portion but
by no means all of the bequest of XVIIIth and XIXth century social theory
amounts to an argument for the end of religion The end or decline of many
aspects of social life have been predicted with varying degrees of enthusiasm
the end of ideology the loss of Gemeinschaft the decline of the working class
and so on Amongst these predictions few have been espoused from so many dif
fering and often mutually contradictory sources than that advanced for the
overcoming of religion
Although the following will offer both an outline of some of the sources
which inspired the end of religion argument and examples of the ample evi
dence against such claims the aim is to provide neither history of sociological
theories of religion nor lengthy discussion of particular religious movements
Rather the intention is to examine one aspect of the contribution of sociology to
the understanding of that which ought not to have happened namely the per
sistence and recrudescence of interest in religion not only as modern cults but
also in some of its most traditional and fundamentalist manifestations
The question is then what part can sociology play in understanding at
tachment to religious beliefs and the place of these beliefs in giving meaning
purpose and sense of identity to lives Why is it that the
first question asking the name and requiring response identifying
the individual as the child of God still finds ready certainly of
the most varied kind in terms of growing allegiance to the world religions
Whatever else is intended or achieved in this discussion there will be no at
tempt whatever to offer the explanation of religion or to see sociological ac
counts as in some sense more real or fundamental than others In my view such
attempts lie beyond the limits of sociology of religion although this is in no
way intended to deny the valuable part that sociology can and does play in the
analysis of religious beliefs and practices As in all other areas this analysis will
be shaped by whole range of theoretical and methodological assumptions
which are usually placed under the rubric of the philosophy of social science
The philosophy of social science and the sociology of religion
This is not the place for lengthy discussion of trends in the philosophy of
social science but one basic feature of much recent literature seems to be an in
sistence that knowledge is conceptually formed Thus in opposition to the empi
ricist view that the facts speak for themselves there is growing willingness
other major disagreements apart to recognize these facts as in some sense
theory dependent Even though recently prominent this is not new idea
and ought to be traced back at least as far as critical philosophy
Critique of Pure Reason whilst agreeing with empiricism to the extent
that knowledge begins with experience adds immediately that it does not
follow that it all arises out of Knowledge is in this view of
things conceptually formed to the extent that the priori categories of the un
derstanding provide the framework through which the otherwise chaotic mass of
sense impressions is rendered intelligible 5)
The upshot of this insistence on the conceptual formation of knowledge is
as far as sociology is concerned that there can be no question of simply seeing
religion out there in the real world That is as facts passively waiting to be
grabbed by the throat and forced into the sociology of religion Nor are these
facts neutral and mutually agreed amongst interested scholars readily available
in order to build this or that theory of religion These points are naturally not in
tended to deny the reality of religion Sacred texts and their interpreters reli
gious leaders and followers temples churches monasteries theologies dogmas
and liturgies are all real enough The point is rather that there exists an almost
literally infinite range of possible relevant facts which must be assessed ranked
appropriated or discarded None of this can be done in presuppositionless
way Differing theoretical spectacles guide us towards and this is the key point
differing interpretations of what are to count as the relevant facts for socio
logy of religion Particularly for present purposes how we might understand
the persistence and growth of religious orthodoxies
Nothing said so far is intended to encourage creeping methodological pa
ralysis If the view is taken that nothing can be achieved without the right
theories and methods then to put it mildly results will be delayed for very
long time Nor should there be the slightest suggestion that approaches to empi
rical work can be read off in mechanistic way from cookbook of methods
The traffic between theories methods and substantive work has to be much
more open than this Too great an emphasis on methodology would in Max
timely reminder be reminiscent of attempts to walk by self consciously
applying the principles of anatomy In both cases we would be in ever present
danger of falling over 6)
The purpose in drawing attention to the relationships between theoretical
and empirical propositions is then not to glorify theory at the expense of
fact but rather to guard against too ready an acceptance of incontrovertible
conclusions which are such if and only if the often implicit theoretical premises
upon which interpretations rest are themselves acceptable If one accepts We
argument for the eternal youth of the cultural and social sciences the
ever flowing stream of culture brings new problems perspectives theoretical as
sumptions a

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