Journal Article

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference? Freedom, Control and the Sociology of Religion

Eileen Barker

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 64, issue 3, pages 285-307
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712486
And the Wisdom to Know the Difference? Freedom, Control and the Sociology of Religion

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This is a theoretical essay, but it is grounded in the empirical observations of the sociology of religion; and it has a political twist to it. The main thrust of the argument rests on the assumption that freedom is a socially relative concept, and, as such, not only can it be both increased and decreased according to circumstances, it can also be increased or decreased through a knowledge or ignorance of such circumstances. Questions are asked about the ability of individuals to choose their own religion, some of the potential consequences of their choices, and ways in which the state apparatus can regulate religious groups. The not-so-hidden agenda is that social scientists might further contribute to our freedom through an increased understanding of those things that we cannot change, and of how best to change those things we can — and, perhaps, of our wisdom to know the difference.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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