Religion Research is on the Rise

October 18, 2000

Source: The Los Angeles Times

On October 18, 2000, The Los Angeles Times reported that "in Pennsylvania, researchers are documenting how religion keeps young people from drugs and delinquency. In Cambridge, professors are pondering how faith propels environmentalism and inner-city economic development. And in one of the world's most religiously diverse laboratories--Southern California--scholars are visiting such sacred sites as Sikh gurdwaras, Chinese Buddhist temples and Armenian apostolic churches to scrutinize the powerful role that religion plays in the lives of new immigrants. Across the nation, scholars have begun to promote a new paradigm in academia: Religion matters. Once a largely forgotten factor in social research, dismissed by those who believed that society would inevitably secularize and cast spirituality aside, religion is now a hot field of inquiry. Until recently, a long-standing academic bias against religion has blinded many scholars to its powerful role in shaping both private lives and the public culture. 'While millions, even billions, of people view so many different human concerns through the lens of religious faith, this crucial subject remains one of the most understudied social phenomena of the 20th century,' Princeton University President Harold Shapiro said last year. That's changing. Driven by new funding opportunities, a national spiritual resurgence and growing political interest in faith-based initiatives, more people than ever are studying religion. No longer confined to schools of divinity, religion is being increasingly probed in departments of sociology, political science, international relations, even business schools. The new research is expected to 'significantly reshape the social sciences,' said Jon Miller, a USC sociology professor. 'We've started to legitimize the study of religion and help people acknowledge it's a phenomenon people need to pay attention to,' said Donald E. Miller, executive director of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture."

See also: Interfaith, Campus