© 2019 by Joel Thiessen. All rights reserved.

The "Gold" of San Francisco

August 19, 2014

I just returned from the Association for the Sociology of Religion annual conference in San Francisco – a wonderful city that I explored a bit when not attending sessions (rented a bike and cycled nearly 40km up some steep hills!). A favourite highlight was cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Lest it appear that I was on a mini-vacation, I gave a presentation on how relatively irreligious individuals by and large adopt a ‘hands off’ approach to religious socialization and that this will likely fuel lower levels of religiosity in the short and long term. I also took in a series of other sessions with remarkable presentations, ideas, and exchanges. Here are a few ‘take home’ points on various topics, all descriptive accounts that advance our knowledge in important respects.

 

  • In American Conservative Protestant homes where both parents are actively involved in their church (i.e. attend weekly) we find less negative perceptions about gender inequality in housework responsibilities at home (and gender inequality is high when it comes to household labour in such homes!), yet ironically high rates of satisfaction with this inequality. This can be explained by a strongly conservative/fundamentalist theology on gender and the religious structures/framework used to build and defend such positions.

  • Countless studies support the beneficial aspects of high religiosity for psychological, physical, emotional, and social well-being. But let us not forget that religion is not always positive in these domains – it also creates immense psychological trauma, emotional hardship, and social divisions too. Both sides of this discussion should help to reveal why religion is worthy of academic study, for better or worse … and many sociologists and funders regrettably do not see why religion is worthy of study.

  • Reflective of religious diversity and ecumenism, Lutherans, Catholics, and Muslims partnered to build “God’s House” on a single site in Stockholm, Sweden. This consists of a building with dedicated space for Lutherans and Catholics and a separate mosque built, with some space between them. I wonder if this will ever happen in Canada, including a building for one of the four new “Sunday Assembly” groups (atheist congregations) launching this fall in Canada?

  • Discussion often surrounds religious transmission from parents to children, but one must consider if this is a bidirectional process where children and parents influence each other’s religiosity.

  • Despite what many might assert, it seems like secularization is charging ahead in the United States and there is little reason to expect this process to stop anytime soon.

  • Some of the best and leading scholars in the sociology of religion had to apply up to five times to receive funding for some of their research, and others had to shop their journal article and book ideas around to several publishing outlets before they were accepted. This is encouraging because I thought I was alone for a moment! #fundingwoes #pleaseacceptmyarticle

 

Later this fall I will travel to Indianapolis, then Los Angeles, and then San Diego for three additional conferences. I will present on three different topics – dwindling religious demand, religious nones, and the afterlife – and also soak in the many great opportunities to learn from others. Such opportunities may sound painful to some, but these professional development contexts are “gold” for academics and if properly approached, will ultimately benefit students back in the classroom, fellow scholars, and one’s own research agenda. Countless research ideas are buzzing around my head … it is time to return and foster some of these and hopefully turn them into gold!

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JOEL THIESSEN, PhD
sociologist