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The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective

Lorne Dawson and I are pleased with the release of our book The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective (2014) with Oxford University Press. Like many instructors in Canada we grew tired of exposing our sociology of religion students to textbooks with a near exclusive focus on the United States or Europe. We decided to write our own textbook that is decidedly Canadian from beginning to end, up to date with empirical data on religion in Canada, and accessible to students and lay learners alike.

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In the first half of the book we survey the basic issues in the sociology of religion. This ranges from why one should care about the sociological study of religion to debates over how to define religion, its basic elements, and its social functions to classical and contemporary theories of religion, including a special focus on the exponents and opponents of secularization theory. Much of this content is standard in any sociology of religion textbook, though we offer Canadian data, case studies and illustrations throughout to explain and reflect on the basic insights of the sociology of religion, hopefully helping readers to locate the relevance of this material to their own country and lives.

We use these insights and issues to set up the second half of the book where we explore the current and future place of religion in Canadian society. We pay special attention to several popular new research trends and concerns such as the religious views and behaviours of teens and young adults, the significance of religious socialization, the rise in “religious nones,” the impact of immigration and religious pluralism, and new religious movements. Further, we frame our discussion on the functioning and fate of religion in terms of the specific social changes and challenges of living a meaningful life in what many sociologists call “late modern” societies – societies characterized by de-traditionalization, globalization, expressive individualism, the risk/trust dialectic, and the transformation of intimacy.

Who would benefit from this book? (1) Our main audience is undergraduate students in sociology of religion courses at Canadian universities. We are pleased already that several professors across the country plan to use this book in their courses. (2) Academics looking for an overview to religious life in Canada, one that is historically, empirically, and sociologically current and that helps to describe and analyze the current and future state of religion in this nation. (3) Leaders from different religious traditions in Canada who desire a sound orientation to the past, present, and potential future religious climate in their own backyard – rather than constantly relying on mainly American data and analyses – and who do not mind a bit of theoretical bases for making sense of the place and role of religion in society.

We hope you enjoy the read! Send your feedback, criticisms (we can take it!), thoughts, and reflections to and join the conversation on twitter (@joelthiessen).

Pick up your own copy at Oxford University Press or Amazon.

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