Seeing invisible religion: Religion as a societal conversation about transcendent meaning

Sociological Theory 23 (2):179-196 (2005)
Abstract
Contemporary sociology conceptualizes religion along two dimensions: the institutional and the individual. Lost in this dichotomy is religion's noninstitutional, but collective and public, cultural dimension. As a result, theories of religious modernity, including both sides of the secularization debate, are unable to recognize or evaluate the social power of noninstitutionalized religious communication. This article offers a reconceptualization of religion that highlights its cultural, communicative dimension. Original research on religious talk provides an empirical ground for a theoretical discussion that highlights: (1) the "invisible" nature of religion in modern societies, as theorized by Thomas Luckmann and (2) the social power attributed to communication by contemporary cultural sociologists and cultural theorists. I argue that conceptualizing religion as an evolving societal conversation about transcendent meaning broadens the empirical and theoretical grasp of the religion concept
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