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Religion and the Social Sciences

Basic and Applied Research Perspectives

Edited by Jeff Levin

Foreword by Rodney Stark

With Julie J. Exline, PhD Linda K. George, PhD Anthony J. Gill, PhD Barry G. Hankins, PhD William E. Jeynes, PhD Byron R. Johnson Charles M. North, PhD Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD

In recent years, researchers across the social sciences have made important contributions to the study of religion. Thanks to their inquiry, we have greatly improved our understanding of how religion influences the vital dimensions of our lives, communities, and institutions.

To give this research the attention it deserves, editor Jeff Levin assembled a panel of preeminent social scientists and gave them a single directive: write the ultimate statement on religion from within their respective social science discipline or field. The result is this single volume, “state-of-the-science” compendium—a first of its kind for the study of religion.

Comprising ten essays, this book details the development of religion as it is studied across nine basic and applied areas of social science. Along with a critical introduction to this subject, these essays include the expert contributions of:

  • Kenneth I. Pargament & Julie J. Exline on psychology
  • Anthony Gill on political science
  • Charles M. North on economics
  • Barry Hankins on history
  • Annette Mahoney on family studies
  • Byron R. Johnson on criminology
  • Linda K. George on gerontology
  • William H. Jeynes on education
  • Jeff Levin on epidemiology

Each essay features:

  • An introduction to the history of the discipline’s or field’s religious research, as well as its most important people and published works.
  • A comprehensive overview of key research findings and theories.
  • A detailed research agenda to guide future scholars.
  • An annotated bibliography of seminal works for the reader’s further consideration.

Broad in scope and essential in focus, Religion and the Social Sciences is a significant addition to the field. It will prove indispensable to both new and established scholars looking for a comprehensive treatment of the subject and seeking promising avenues to pursue in their own research.

Foreword / ix
Acknowledgments / xi
Chapter 1 Introduction / 3
Jeff Levin

Chapter 2 The Psychology of Religion: The State of an Evolving Field / 17
Kenneth I. Pargament and Julie J. Exline

Chapter 3 Religion and Political Science: The Dimensions of a Social Scientific Great Awakening / 39
Anthony Gill

Chapter 4 The Economics of Religion / 73
Charles M. North

Chapter 5 “Like a Shot”: The Historical Study of (Mostly American) Religion, 1870–2014 / 109
Barry Hankins

Chapter 6 Faith and Families: The Scientific Pursuit of Relational Spirituality / 143
Annette Mahoney

Chapter 7 The Role of Religion in Advancing the Field of Criminology / 181
Byron R. Johnson

Chapter 8 Religion and Social Gerontology / 209
Linda K. George

Chapter 9 Research on Religion and Education / 235
William H. Jeynes

Chapter 10 The Epidemiology of Religion / 259
Jeff Levin

About the Contributors / 287

Index / 289

“Hands down, the most comprehensive and engaging volume in existence on why religion matters in the social sciences. This is required reading for academic scholars, graduate students, the educated public, and anyone else who recognizes that in order to understand the world today, we must understand religion.” 

Robert A. Emmons, professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, and author of The Psychology of Gratitude

"This is an important and timely addition to the burgeoning literature on religion in the social sciences. These chapters offer concise overviews and insightful commentaries on the study of religion in diverse fields. This book should be required reading for scholars and researchers and students—and indeed, for anyone interested in the vast and growing body of work on religion and its implications for social life. The contributions here will help to chart the agendas for multiple fields for years to come.”

Christopher G. Ellison, professor of Sociology, Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Social Science, University of Texas at San Antonio

“This collection covers a wide variety of subjects and provides the reader with a crisp and current introduction to the literature in each of the respective subfields of study. It is highly recommended both for advanced scholars and inquiring minds in related fields of study, such as criminology, education, economics, history, and psychology.”

Wilfred M. McClay, G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, University of Oklahoma

“I am deeply grateful to my colleague and friend Jeff Levin for producing this important work. His rigorous exploration of the ‘faith factor’ in medicine and the health sciences is pioneering and his diligent scholarship in editing this book is a major contribution to the social sciences.”

Jay Hein, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

“This is a truly stellar contribution by one of the pioneers in the study of religion and health. I know of no other volume that provides such a genuinely comprehensive overview of the field by reviewing research in every social scientific discipline. This book is essential reading for any social scientist.”

Neal Krause, Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Public Health, The University of Michigan, author of Aging in the Church