Sociology and Religion

Richard K. Fenn

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780199543656
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Sociology and Religion

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In studying social order, sociologists of religion investigate the sacred. When a social system begins to emerge from the flux of everyday life, it develops boundaries that separate it from those outside. To signify the continuity of certain relationships over time, to give them an identity, and to mark their difference from other relationships, social systems define themselves in symbols, construct themselves through rituals, and realize themselves through practices. Whether it is called the numinous or the holy, charisma or mana, the sacred is always somewhat mysterious. In all of its manifestations, whether personal or social, natural or supernatural, the sacred provides only a limited embodiment of unfulfilled possibilities. What might well be called the upper-case Sacred, then, or the Sacred itself, comprises the set of all possibilities that any social system must necessarily exclude.

Keywords: social order; Sacred; sacred authority; social system; supernatural

Article.  8423 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion and Science ; Sociology of Religion

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