In these comments I want to point to another angle on the tendency to emphasize the positive aspects of religion—one which is not explored directly in the working paper, but which nonetheless concerns me—namely, the issues of which substantive subject areas get explored and how ‘religion’s effects’ are conceptualized. … Even within the study of U.S. Christianity, there is a lot of concern as to whether religion ‘protects’ one from substance abuse, mental depression, divorce, alcoholism, premarital sex, etc.—in other words, a bit of the scholarly version of ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.’ But there is much less research as to whether religion contributes to inequality, whether it fosters discrimination, or whether it facilitates homophobia, racism, and the like. Particularly in the world of youth and religion, what people need protection from has a certain conceptual affinity with traditionally pietistic notions of ‘sin.’Read the rest of Giving the strong program a critical edge.
Rhys H. Williams
Rhys H. Williams is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the Loyola University Chicago. He was editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion from 2003-2008 and is currently President-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. Among his publications are A Bridging of Faiths: Religion and Politics in a New England City (with J. Demerath, 1992), Cultural Wars in American Politics: Critical Reviews of a Popular Myth (1997) and the forthcoming Navigating to Faith (with Steve Warner).