Researching Religion: Why We Need Social Science

Research output: Book/ReportBook

7 Citations (Scopus)


Basic questions about religion in the modern world (such as whether it is becoming more or less popular and who believes what) can be answered only with the perspectives and methods of social science. While the arts and humanities can help us understand religious beliefs and behaviour, only social science can provide us with the evidence that will allow us to discern and explain the social patterns, causes, and consequences of religious belief. Only through the statistical examination of big data can we be confident of what any case study represents. In a text described by one reviewer as ‘brilliantly accessible’, an internationally renowned sociologist addresses the major problems of theory and methods in the study of religion. Important topics in religious studies such as conversion, the relative durability of different types of religion and spirituality, and the social circumstances that strengthen or undermine shared beliefs are used to demonstrate the importance of social science and to address methodological issues such as bias, partisanship, and research ethics. Bruce presents a robust defence of a conventionally scientific view of value-neutral social science against its partisan and postmodern critics.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9780198786580
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2018


  • social research
  • social science methods
  • researching religion
  • religious beliefs
  • religion
  • spirituality


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