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Theory as a Tool in the Social Scientific Study of Religion and Martin Riesebrodt's

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No single paradigm or debate currently orients the social scientific study of religion. Because of this, those engaged in the multidisciplinary study of religion find that a public conversation is often difficult. In this article and the Forum it introduces, we explore Martin Riesebrodt's recently published book, The Promise of Salvation: A Theory of Religion. Responding to the inadequacies of secularization paradigms, rational choice models, and postmodern criticism, Riesebrodt proposes an approach that ideal‐typically reconstructs the subjective meanings of institutionalized religious practices (liturgies). These subjective meanings center on the prevention and management of crises—social, natural, and bodily—through appeal and access to superhuman powers. This pragmatic emphasis on the superhuman defines religion as a distinct sphere of social action transhistorically and transculturally. Riesebrodt's theory creates new analytical possibilities, especially for understanding the modern resurgence of religion under conditions of secularization.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame 2: Department of Classics and World Religions, Ohio University, Athens 3: Department of Sociology, University of Kansas

Publication date: 01 September 2012

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