American Sociological Association Section on

Sociology of Religion


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Volume VII, Number 1                    Fall 2000


From the Chair
Spotlight on Our New Chair
Officers: Departing and New
Call for Papers
Business Meeting Minutes
Award Winners
Fichter Grant Competition
Reflections on Visit to Tehran
GSS Student Paper Competition
Member News
Job Opportunities
Internet News

Officers of the Section

Nancy T. Ammerman, Hartford Seminary,

Rhys Williams, Southern Illinois University,
Past Chair:
Patrick McNamara, University of New Mexico,
Adair Lummis, Hartford Seminary,
Newsletter Editor:
Joseph B. Tamney, Ball State University,

Marie Cornwall (01), Brigham Young University,
Katherine Meyer (01), Ohio State University,
Michele Dillion (02), Yale University,
R. Steven Warner (02), University of Illinois-Chicago,
Penny Edgell Becker (03), Cornell University,
Michael Emerson (03), Rice University,

From the Chair

Nancy T. Ammerman

With the 2000 meetings in Washington barely behind us, it seems much too early to be thinking about next year’s program – but that’s exactly what many of us are already doing. Meeting in Anaheim, the ASA program theme in 2001 will be "Cities of the Future." I want to urge Section members to submit papers for sessions in various segments of the ASA program. Much of our work bears on the ways in which cities of the future cannot be understood without attention to the religious organizations, ideas, and movements that are located in them and seek to shape them.

In addition to regular ASA sessions, of course, the Section will sponsor three sessions and an hour of roundtable discussions. Descriptions of these sessions and information on submission are included in this newsletter. Plan now to participate.

As we enter our seventh year as a Section, I think we have much to celebrate. I was especially struck this year by the extent to which the analysis of religion was present in a growing variety of sessions throughout the ASA program. Sessions on voluntary organizations, on social capital, networks, race, global civil society, symbolic interaction, and more, highlighted the extent to which the study of religion is making its way into many corners of the field. When I attended a meeting of the AJS editorial board with my section officer badge on, several other editors commented on how religion is becoming a "hot topic" in the field. That growing recognition is something to applaud and nurture.

Still, I also noted that students presenting new work in this field do not always seem to have the benefit of deep faculty resources. Papers well-informed by general social theories sometimes lacked attention to theoretical and substantive distinctions common among sociologists of religion. Presenters of such papers were often students in departments lacking any faculty support in the field. Among the active students who replied to our Section survey of student members, for instance, half have no more than one faculty member who can actively support their work on religion. My suspicion is that the 18% who report that they have no faculty support are but the tip of the iceberg. (We’ll report in more detail on the survey in the winter newsletter.) While we can be gratified by the growing interest in sociology of religion, we still have work to do in establishing our field as an essential part of every department’s faculty roster.

Finally, I want to say a warm word of thanks to Pat McNamara for the wonderfully productive year he gave us as Section Chair. We have much to celebrate and much still to do. Thanks, Pat, for bringing us so far along the way!


Spotlight On Our New Chair

Nancy Tatom Ammerman is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Having received the Ph.D. degree from Yale University, she previously taught on the faculty at Emory University and has held visiting appointments at Princeton, Yale, Notre Dame, and Columbia Universities. She has written extensively on congregational life in the United States, including Congregation and Community (Rutgers University Press, 1997), and took up issues of religious commitment in late twentieth century society in her presidential address to the Association for the Sociology of Religion ("Organized Religion in a Voluntaristic Society"). Earlier, she examined life in a conservative Christian congregation in Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World (Rutgers University Press, 1987) and contributed essays to "The Fundamentalism Project." Her 1990 book Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 1993, she was called on by the Justice and Treasury Departments to assess the lessons to be learned from the Branch Davidian disaster, and she has continued to take a lively interest in issues of religion and public life.

Thanks to Those Who Have Served Our Section

Patrick McNamara, who served as Chair, and Christian Smith and Patricia Wittberg, who served on Council.

Congratulations to Those Who Won This Year’s Election

Rhys Williams, Chair-Elect, and Penny Edgell Becker and Michael Emerson, our new Council members.

Call for Papers 2001 Section Sessions

The Sociology of Religion Section will sponsor three regular sessions as part of the 2001 ASA Program. Papers may be submitted by any ASA member, and the deadline is January 10, 2001. Watch for further details in the ASA Call for Papers. Themes and organizers for the Section sessions include:

"Religion and Public Policy

Organizer: Patricia M. Y. Chang
Center for American Religion and Public Life
Boston College
24 Quincy Road
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Phone: 617-552-1861

"Futures for Urban Religion: New Forms, New Faiths, New Seekers"

Organizer: Michael Emerson
Department of Sociology, MS28
Rice University
Houston, TX 77251
Phone: 713-348-2733

"African American Religious Experience: New Models and Changing Spaces"
session jointly sponsored with the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Organizer: Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Department of Sociology
Colby College
Waterville, ME 04901
Phone: 207-872-3133

In addition, briefer papers and works in progress can be submitted for the Roundtables.

Organizer: James Cavendish
Department of Sociology
University of South Florida
College of Arts and Sciences
Tampa, FL, 33620
Phone: 813-974-2633

Call For Papers 2001 Joint Section/ASR Sessions

Please send completed paper by January 10, 2001 for consideration in these sessions to:

"Mainstream Participants, Marginal Religions: The New Age, Witchcraft, and Neo-Paganism"
Organizer: Helen Berger
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Telephone: 610/436-2349
Fax: 610/436-2525

"The Centering, Decentering, and Recentering of Religion in Urban Contexts"
Organizer: William Mirola
Department of Sociology
Marian College
3200 Cold Spring Road
Indianapolis, IN 46222-1997
Telephone: 317/955-6033

"Religion in the Lives of New Immigrants to the United States"
Organizer: Jon Miller
Center for Religion and Civic Culture
URC 106
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0751
Telephone: 213/740-3546
Fax: 213/740-3535

"Generational Cohort Differences in Religiosity/Spirituality"
Organizer: D. Paul Johnson
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409
Telephone: 806/742-2400
Fax: 806/742-1088
e-mail: D.Paul.Johnson@TTU.EDU

Business Meeting Minutes

From the meeting on AUGUST 13, 2000, 8:40 a.m., at WASHINGTON DC.

Thirty members attended the sixth annual business meeting of the Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association. Patrick McNamara, Chair, opened the meeting, greeting those present.

After the 1999 business meeting minutes, published in the Section newsletter, were approved unanimously, McNamara asked for the Treasurer's report. Adair Lummis, Secretary-Treasurer, handed out sheets giving the 1999 final income and expenditures, the income and expenditures to date for the 2000 budget, and the proposed 2001 budget. She explained that at the end of 1999, the Section had a carry-over of $1,625.41. By mail votes in the winter and spring of 2000, Council members approved two expenses not in the 2000 budget to be taken out of carry-over funds if necessary: $222.90 for the purchase of address lists of faculty who teach sociology of religion; and $500 to pay half the cost of a survey of graduate student members of the Section (Rod Stark paid the remaining $500 directly to those collating the survey results). The Treasurer then presented the draft of the 2001 budget. She explained that the current and incoming Section Chairs asked that there be a special line in the 2001 budget of $500 for "Section Development", so that the research on faculty and graduate students interested in the sociology of religion which was begun in 2000 could be continued into 2001. Adding this cost for "Section Development" to the proposed 2001 Section budget will raise the anticipated expenses $500 over the expected income for the Section. She pointed out to Council, however, that there will be at least $1,000 carry-over of funds expected at the end of 2000, which would leave a safe margin of $500 for carry-over into 2002. The budget was approved without dissent.

McNamara then turned to Madeleine Cousineau, chair of the web site committee, to give a report. She said that the web site has improved immensely, in large part due to the efforts of her committee, Nancy Ammerman, Lynn Clark, and Scott Thumma. The web site, generally maintained by ASA, is updated regularly by Cousineau and her committee. She asked for suggestions from Section members as to what they would most like to see on the web site, and especially requested that those chairing committees let her know who they are and what they are doing for the web. The submission deadlines and committee chairs of the award committees for best book, article, and student paper will be on the web site. Nancy Ammerman added that the Section web site will also include information about organizations that provide funding for research, including links to their web sites. Ammerman further mentioned that the Section has a listserve of e-mail addresses of members, which is maintained and updated by ASA once a month. The listserve can be used to alert people to new things posted on the web site, and serve as a channel of disseminating time-sensitive critical material in addition to print. McNamara thanked those who had worked on the web site.

Mary Jo Neitz, chair of the nominations committee which included Helen Rose Ebaugh, Nancy Eiesland, and Chris Smith, announced that two new members of Council have been elected: Penny Becker and Michael Emerson. The new newsletter editor is Joe Tamney. For 2000-2001 the graduate student representative appointed to Council is Robert Woodberry. In 2001-2002, the by-laws change will have gone into effect and therefore in the next election the graduate student representative will be elected. Neitz reminded Section members that Pat McNamara will be the next chair of the nominations committee, and suggestions for names should be forwarded to him. The other members of the nominations committee for 2000-2001 will be Robert Beckley, Loretta Morris, and Milagros Pena.

The following awards were made in August, 2000: Penny Edgell Becker won the book award for Congregations in Conflict: Cultural Models of Local Religious Life, Cambridge University Press, 1999. (The book award committee was chaired by Larry Greil and included Mansoor Moadell and John Wilson.) The winner of the best article award is Rhys H. Williams, "Visions of the Good Society and the Religious Roots of American Political Culture" pp. 1-34 in Sociology of Religion, 60, Spring 1999. (The article award committee was chaired by Helen Berger and included Pat Wittberg and Harriet Hartman.) Bradford Wilcox won the best student paper award (a paper which has been published): "Conservative Protestant Childbearing: Authoritarian or Authoritative?" pp. 796-809 in the American Sociological Review, 63, 1998. (The student paper committee was chaired by David Yamane and included Nancy Eiesland and Roger Finke.) McNamara reported that in the Council meeting they had worked on a codification of the procedures for these award committees; particularly the terms of appointment of the three committee chairs. Although a proposed amendment had been discussed in Council, it was tabled for further work and later reformulation.

McNamara next brought up the possibility of one of the three Section newsletters being on the web site, reporting that the Sociology of Education Section has done this, saving them about $600. He summarized the discussion of this matter in Council, mentioning that several voiced strong preferences on receiving all in print form, either because they do not automatically check web sites for newsletters or anything else, or do not want to take the trouble of printing out the newsletter, and are generally unlikely to read the newsletter if it does not come as regular mail. Similar comments were made in the business meeting. Madeleine Cousineau suggested the possibility of "transitioning" into having one newsletter on the web, allowing some to get hard copies of all newsletters for a while. Rhys Williams asked for what purpose the Section was trying to save money, since it seemed to be financially quite stable. McNamara responded such money could be used for possible research agendas and gathering of resources for this use and the web. Marie Cornwall suggested that the Section think more about what material needed to go into the printed newsletter and what might be better disseminated over the web or e-mail listserv, and consider the cost solution of SSSR which just has two newsletters a year, both mailed. McNamara noted that the discussion indicated that these decisions are complex and will take more thought over the next year or so.

The first results of the survey of graduate student members of the Section were presented by Pat McNamara. Students and others sent in suggestions for questions to include, and Nancy Ammerman and Steve Warner edited the many submissions into a survey. This survey was mailed in April, resulting in 63 out of 162 responding, or a 39% return rate. The April mailing and the likelihood that not all graduate student members of the Section have a primary interest in the sociology of religion, were suggested as probable reasons for a lower than hoped-for response rate. Among students responding, three-fourths are writing or intend to write a doctoral dissertation focusing on religion. McNamara was glad to report that the majority of these graduate students do not seem to feel isolated or indifferently treated in their departments; rather most responding have good library resources for research in the sociology of religion, and peers as well as faculty who are interested in their work. Bob Woodberry will be doing further analysis of this survey.

McNamara thanked all those he has worked with over the year as Chair, and introduced the new Chair, Nancy Ammerman. She announced that the 2001 ASA meeting in Anaheim would have the theme "Cities of the Future." As Section program chair, she and her committee of Jim Cavendish, Patty Chang, and Mike Emerson, will be planning sessions in this area; she asked Section members to send them session ideas and papers. The business meeting was adjourned at 9:30.

Respectfully submitted,

Adair T. Lummis


Award Winners

Congratulations to the Graduate Student Paper Award Winner

W. Bradford Wilcox, "Conservative Protestant Childrearing: Authoritarian or Authoritative?" American Sociological Review 63 (1998), 796-809.

Congratulations to the Author Receiving Honorable Mention

Mark Regnerus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Moral Communities and Adolescent Delinquency: Subcultural Aspects of Social Disorganization."

Congratulations to the Winner of our Distinguished Book Award

Penny Edgell Becker, Congregations in Conflict: Cultural Models of Local Religious Life. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Congratulations to the Winner of our Distinguished Article Award

Rhys H. Williams, "Visions of the Good Society and the Religious Roots of American Political Culture." Sociology of Religion 60, 1 (Spring, 1999), 1-34.

Fichter Research Grant Competition 2001

Applications are invited from scholars anticipating promising research on women and religion, gender issues, and feminist perspectives on religion. For the 2001 competition, a total of $10,000 is available to be awarded. Dissertation research qualifies for funding. Scholars at the beginning of their careers are particularly encouraged to apply.

Applicants must be members of the Association for the Sociology of Religion at the time of submission. Membership information is available from the ASR web page:

A proposal of not more than five double-spaced pages should outline the rationale and plan of research. Review briefly previous research and theory that forms the background for the study, describe methods and timetable, and summarize succinctly what the research aims to discover. A detailed, one-page budget should be attached, indicating the amount being applied for and the exact purposes for which it will be used. Include a brief curriculum vitae.

Simultaneous submissions to other grant competitions are permissible if the applicant is explicit about which budget items in the Fichter grant proposal do not overlap items in other submitted proposals.

All submissions must be postmarked by March 1, 2001. Awards will be announced by May 1, 2001. Send four copies of the proposal, budget and c.v. to:

Lori G. Beaman, Chair
Fichter Research Grant Committee
Department of Sociology
University of Lethbridge
4401 University Drive
Lethbridge, Alberta, T1K 3M4, CANADA
Fax: 403-329-2085


Reflections on a Visit to Tehran, Iran

For the past five years I have been involved in an international comparative study of Muslim religiosity which involved surveying about 4500 respondents in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Kazakstan. One of the key findings of this study is that integration of religion and politics is strongly related to the decline in trust in religious institutions.( These and other findings of the study will be published next year in: Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society, by the Oxford University Press). In order to further test this finding I am seeking to extend my study to Iran. In August this year I visited Tehran to explore the possibility of finding Iranian colleagues who may be interested in joining me in this research.

I was able to have extended discussions about my research with around 12 people from all walks of life. The Islamic Republic of Iran is perhaps the most visible and authentic model of an Islamic State in the modern Muslim world in which religion and politics have been fused together. One impression I gained from my discussions is that by and large there is widespread disillusionment with the current political and institutional configurations of the state. The religious institutions and religious elite do not enjoy the level of public trust, which they did before the Islamic Revolution, according to most of my respondents.

At the public level the most dramatic evidence of this is the popularity of the Alternative Thought Movement, led by philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush, a former ideologue of the Islamic state. The Alternative Thought Movement has gained widespread support in most sections of Iranian society, including theology students. They are concerned about the future of religion as an institution: they feel the basis of its legitimacy and prerogatives are being eroded amid the growing anti-clericalism in Iranian society.

The Alternative Thought Movement is neither anti-Islamic nor secular, but seeks to redefine the capacity of religion to address complex human needs in the modern age. It calls for a hermeneutic reading of the Quran, rejecting a "single reading" or an exclusive "expert reading" by the Ulema. The movement seeks to end the professionalisation of religious interpretation by clergy. It serves as an implicit critique of the idea of Velayat-I-Faqih, the rule of the supreme jurist, which is the political basis of Islamic Republic of Iran. It advocates management of society not through religion but through scientific rationality and calls for the establishment of a secular democratic state that accommodates Islam as a faith.

Socially the most visible symbol of the Islamic Revolution is the dress code for women which requires them to dress in long overalls or chador and a head scarf. However since the election of President Khatami there has been some relaxation and women are now permitted to wear clothes other than black, long overalls. They are also permitted to wear make-up in public. I have no evidence but my general sense is that the dress codes are by and large resented by women but not by men.

Paradoxically, the Islamic Revolution appears to have been very instrumental in increasing women's participation in higher education and the labour force which has changed the economic status of Iranian women. By making the chador compulsory, the Islamic Revolution has unexpectedly given a powerful boost to the 'emancipation' of women. It has made possible the mass enrolments in schools and universities of girls whose traditional families had refused to send them to school in the days of the monarchy when wearing of the chador was forbidden. Women now make up 50 per cent of the students, compared with 25 per cent during the time of the Shah. Modestly dressed women have also entered the labour market in large numbers. Both these developments have led to the rise of several feminist movements seeking gender equality under the law, regarding matters such as inheritance and divorce, and in general made the improvements of women's position in Iran a key plank of the reform agenda.

Riaz Hassan
Professor of Sociology, Flinders University. Adelaide, Australia
September 8, 2000

General Social Survey Student Paper Competition

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago announces the latest annual General Social Survey (GSS) Student Paper Competition. To be eligible papers must: 1) be based on data from the 1972-1998 GSSs or from the GSS's cross-national component, the International Social



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