Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour

36:1
0021–8308

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published by Blackwell
Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd Oxford, UK JTSB Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 0021-8308 ©The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2006 36 1Original Article Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience Douglas V. Porpora

Methodological Atheism, Methodological

Agnosticism and Religious Experience

DOUGLAS V. PORPORA

Department of Culture and Communication Drexel University

Peter Berger has been the most seminal of contemporary sociologists of religion
(see Woodhead et al. 2001), so much so that today the form of bracketing Berger
labeled “methodological atheism” is virtually a taken for granted presupposition
of the sociological study of religion. This paper argues that when it comes to the
sociological study of religious experience, methodological atheism prescribes an
inappropriate form of bracketing. More appropriate—and even more in keeping
with Berger’s own deeper convictions—would be a form of bracketing that might
be termed “methodological agnosticism.”
Adopting methodological agnosticism over methodological atheism results in
a revised social constructionism that acknowledges that objects of our experience
are not all entirely constructed socially. Without perhaps actually overturning it,
applied to religious experience, such a revised social constructionism calls socio-
logy’s naturalism into serious question.
Naturalism is the assumption that all scientific explanation must be this-worldly,
never referencing supernatural or transcendental realities. One way of preserving
naturalism is the methodological atheism first articulated by Peter Berger (1967;
1979). Methodological atheism is the practice of bracketing—or refusing to con-
sider—for the purpose of sociological study the ultimate reality of such religious
objects as God, angels, or cosmic unity. As well as preserving naturalism, in its
neutrality about the actual truth of religious beliefs, such bracketing is also intended
to avoid actual atheism in sociology, which, Berger worried, would “liquidate
religious phenomena from within” (Berger 1974: 128). Perhaps because methodo-
logical atheism preserves naturalism in what seems so fair-minded a way, it is now
widely taken for granted, even by sociologists of religion who are not, strictly
speaking, social constructionists (e.g., Bruce 1999: 36–37; Greeley 1996: 2, 12–18;
Stark and Finke 2000: 21).
Another reason why methodological atheism has been so easily accepted is that
in most areas of religious research, the bracketing of anything supernatural is
hardly at issue. When it comes to explaining religious factionalism or schisms, for
example, there is no scientifically viable, supernatural explanation that needs
58

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

bracketing. Even in cases where a putative supernatural explanation may be
implicated, sociologists often can avoid considering it. For sociologists to proceed
with what interests them, for example, it may make little difference whether Joseph
Smith actually met the Angel Moroni or just believed he had. In such cases,
sociology can proceed as naturalistically as physics and biology.
It is otherwise, however, when what is to be explained is religious experience
itself, specifically experiences of sacred objects or realities normally thought beyond
the natural order. In such cases, how researchers bracket the putative object of
experience is very much at issue, and in such cases, this paper argues, methodo-
logical atheism is not as neutral as it appears. It would be one thing if bracketing
involved only sufficient suspension of belief in any putative supernatural object of
religious experience as to allow consideration of alternative, naturalistic explana-
tions of the experience. Such procedure would allow the supernatural explanation
to compete freely against naturalistic rivals so that it becomes an empirical matter
in any given case which kind of explanation is best. This method of bracketing
represents genuine neutrality that might be labeled methodological agnosticism—
for, although it remains open to a consideration of supernatural realities, it neither
asserts nor precludes them.
In contrast, methodological atheism enjoins a stronger form of bracketing.
Belief in the reality of a supernatural object of religious experience is not only
suspended for purposes of comparison. Instead, the reality of any supernatural
object of religious experience is forever debarred from consideration within socio-
logy as a possible—even if partial—explanation of the experience. In essence,
methodological atheism forbids sociology from allowing supernatural explana-
tions of religious experience to compete freely with naturalistic alternatives.
The bracketing demanded by methodological atheism is consistent with the
bracketing of more mundane realities practiced by social constructionism generally.
The social constructionist approach to science, for example, is methodologically
“atheistic” about the realities scientists profess to uncover. The principle Collins
(1981) calls TRASP forbids sociological explanations from appealing to the truth,
rationality, success or progressiveness of scientific formulations. Thus, like methodo-
logical atheism, TRASP forbids consideration of any contribution to knowledge
made by the world. Instead, knowledge is viewed as entirely a social construction.
This paper will argue that such complete bracketing out of the world—whether
mundane or religious—is ultimately untenable and injurious to sociology’s aims.
In the first place, social constructionism aims to establish the constructedness of
reality as a research finding. Yet, the bracketing of methodological atheism actu-
ally deprives the constructedness of reality of such empirical status. If the world’s
contribution to knowledge is always to be bracketed out from the start, then the
constructedness of reality is effectively removed from empirical contestation and
surreptitiously fixed instead as an unfalsifiable, disciplinary premise.
Worse, such thorough bracketing out of the world threatens the very category
of experience. In any proper experience, the object of experience contributes
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

59

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

something to the content of experience. The object in other words is part of what
explains the content. Yet if objects of experience—whether in religion or science—
are methodologically bracketed out of consideration, they are disallowed a priori
from doing any explanatory work. The unavoidable implication is that there
are no genuine experiences of anything so that the very category of experience
dissolves.
When it comes to religious experience specifically, methodological atheism
inevitably slides—or so it will be argued—into the actual, disciplinary atheism
Berger struggled so hard to avoid. Religious realities end up no less liquidated by
social constructionism than they previously were by functionalism. If objects of
religious experience appear constructed, it is because construction is the only
possibility methodological atheism allows.
Whatever the strength of these arguments against constructionism, many
doubtless will still balk at the prospect of questioning naturalism in sociology,
particularly when in America, Christian fundamentalists are questioning natural-
ism in biology. If biologists need not introduce supernatural entities as explana-
tory mechanisms, why must sociologists?
Even apart from the supernatural, sociologists often must invoke concepts that
have no parallel in the natural sciences. Consider such matters as a theory’s accord
with data, explanatory scope, and inter-theoretical coherence. These concepts are
not themselves biological and explain nothing in biology. They are, however,
concepts that sociologists of science require to explain why biologists hold the
biological beliefs they do.
So it is with the category of experience. Whereas atoms have no (cognitive)
experiences, people do—whether such experiences are purely subjective or inter-
subjectively shared. Thus, whereas natural scientists may construct their explana-
tions without speaking of experience, sociologists cannot. To explain the behavior
of people, sociologists need to explain their experiences. Minimally, that means
not to rule out tout court what people say they are experiencing.
Even so, the argument of this paper is not that sociologists

must necessarily

admit
or even

presuppose

supernatural realities. It may be as an entirely empirical matter
that there are no supernatural realities out there to be experienced and that all
are mistaken who think they do experience such things. The argument of this
paper instead is that such assessment should be an empirical conclusion rather
than an a priori disciplinary assumption, which as such forever remains equally
beyond either support or contestation.
Even with the thesis of this paper so modestly formulated, it nevertheless chal-
lenges Popper’s line of demarcation between science and non-science. The issue
therefore remains explosive, and important questions persist about any abandon-
ment of naturalism. Does a non-social component of religious experience neces-
sarily connote something supernatural? Is a putative experience of God truly
comparable to the experience, say, of an apple? Can putative supernatural entities,
like natural entities, scientifically explain anything other than the bare perception
60

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

of them? And if putative supernatural entities are successfully brought into the
wider causal web of the world, do they thereby cease being supernatural?
Although we will return to touch on these questions at the end, any full treatment
remains beyond the scope of the present paper. Suffice it to say that such ques-
tions hardly surface while naturalism in sociology complacently rests on the pillar
of social constructionism. With the removal of that pillar—or, actually now, entire
edifice, all these questions spring to the fore. Thus, raising a whole new set of
questions is one way to view the contribution of this paper.

BERGER’S METHODOLOGICAL ATHEISM

Berger presents the principle of methodological atheism in several places. In an
article, he says, “the scientific study of religion must bracket the ultimate truth
claims implied by its subject” (Berger 1974: 133). In

The Heretical Imperative

(HI),
Berger provides a more expansive statement.

If the religious phenomenon is approached in the empirical attitude just described, it is clear
that it will, at the very least initially, appear as a human phenomenon. That is, if the intention
is to locate what is commonly called religious experience within a wider spectrum of human
experiences, then, at least while this inquiry is being undertaken, all metahuman explanations
of the phenomenon must be bracketed, put aside. (Berger 1979: 36)

Berger’s fullest statement is in the work most familiar to sociologists,

The Sacred
Canopy

(SC).

In all its manifestations, religion constitutes an immense projection of human meanings into the
empty vastness of the universe—a projection, to be sure, which comes back as an alien reality
to haunt its producers. Needless to say, it is impossible within the frame of reference of scientific
theorizing to make any affirmations, positive or negative, about the ultimate ontological status of
this alleged reality. Within this frame of reference, the religious projections can be dealt with only
as such, as products of human activity and human consciousness, and rigorous brackets have to
be placed around the question as to whether these projections may not also be something else
than that (or, more accurately refer to something else than the human world in which they
empirically originate). In other words, every inquiry into religious matters that limits itself to the
empirically available must necessarily be based on a ‘methodological atheism.’ (Berger 1967: 100)

It is in this last passage that Berger refers to the practice of bracketing as “methodo-
logical atheism.” Personally, Berger (1970: ix; 1979: xiii) is not an atheist but a
religious Lutheran. Thus, he hardly means to preclude the possibility that God
exists. Berger’s personal religious inclinations can be consistent with an atheistic
sociological methodology. Yet even as a professional, Berger (1974: 128) is quite
critical of sociological approaches that he says serve as “quasiscientific legitima-
tions” for either “the avoidance of transcendence” or of “a secularized world
view.” Instead, as is indicated in the passage cited above, Berger intends the prac-
tice of bracketing to be ontologically neutral. In an appendix to

SC

, he reiterates
this position.
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

61

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The argument in this book has moved strictly within the frame of reference of sociological
theory. No theological or, for that matter, anti-theological implications are to be sought
anywhere in the argument—if anyone should believe such implications to be present sub rosa, I
can only assure him that he is mistaken. (Berger 1967: 179)

In terms of his intentions, Berger should be taken at his word. He never intended
for methodological atheism to favor actual atheism in sociology. Yet in addition
to intended consequences of action, there are also unintended consequences.
Thus, as we will see, by

A Rumor of Angels

(RA) (1970: ix), Berger himself is less
sure that methodological atheism is theologically neutral.
To assess the implications of methodological atheism, we need to be clearer on
the meaning of the bracketing it stipulates. As first used by Husserl (1977), bracket-
ing means to suspend belief in. It is entirely appropriate in the scientific study of
religion for the sociologist to suspend belief in the truth claims of the religious
subject. Religious subjects may claim, for example, that they experience God
because God is there to be experienced. The sociologist cannot take this claim at
face value but must instead bracket or suspend belief in it long enough to inves-
tigate alternative explanations of the subject’s experience. This approach is part
of what Berger is counseling in the first, short statement above and in the second,
longer passage cited.
The bracketing of methodological atheism, however, requires more than just
suspension of belief. In the first passage, Berger says that what is bracketed must
be “set aside.” What does it mean for what is bracketed to be set aside? The
implication is that we are not only to suspend our belief in what is bracketed but
also not to consider it at all. This implication is made explicit in the second and
third passages above. The second and third passages instruct the sociologist not
at all to consider “metahuman explanations” of religious phenomena.
It is one thing for the sociologist to suspend belief in all religious truth claims
and even to decline consideration of some. That “God is the author of all things”
or that “Jesus is lord” are religious truth claims that do not clearly help us explain
any human phenomena. The case is different, however, for the religious truth
claims involved in religious experience. In the case of religious experience, reli-
gious truth claims are simultaneously explanations—and very direct explana-
tions—of the phenomenon in question. If one thinks one has experienced God,
then certainly one possible explanation of this experience is that God truly is there
to be experienced (Alston 1991; Swinburne 1979).
Berger does not deny that transcendental realities might be there to be experi-
enced. On the contrary, in both RA and

HI

, Berger (1970; 1979) actually argues
that they are. Significantly, however, neither of these books is addressed to socio-
logists. What Berger does deny in the passages above is that experiential transcen-
dental realities fall within the purview of sociology, that they can be entertained
as explanations of religious experience by the scientific study of religion. In effect,
the bracketing of Berger’s methodological atheism entails more than just the
62

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

suspension of belief. It further encompasses the a priori exclusion from sociolog-
ical consideration of an entire class of explanation, a class of explanation that,
ironically, Berger himself extra-sociologically favors.
How does Berger justify the a priori exclusion from sociology of a class of
explanation that he himself thinks may actually account for the phenomena in
question? The answer goes beyond the sociology of religion to encompass the
entire program of social constructionism. In

The Social Construction of Reality

(SCR),
Berger and Luckmann (1966: 2–3) counsel sociologists to study not reality itself,
which is the preserve of philosophy, but only what sociology’s human subjects
think is reality. In terms of the Kantian distinction between the noumenal and
phenomenal worlds, the sociologist is only to study the phenomenal world—the
world as apprehended by humanity. The noumenal world—the world as it is in
itself—falls outside the province of sociology.
This delimitation of sociological study is not problematic in itself. What begins
to make it problematic is that Berger and Luckmann (1966: 13) eschew as exclu-
sively philosophical and not at all sociological all epistemological questions. To
dismiss as Berger and Luckmann (1966: 13) do epistemological questions about
their sociological approach represents an empiricism that excludes fundamental
questions simply by appeal to disciplinary turf. If their approach is philosophically
suspect, then whatever its empirical merits, its tenability is in doubt. Today, when
all sociological paradigms have been subject to epistemological critique, social
constructionism cannot retain any privileged immunity. Especially not when with
the rise of postmodernism, social constructionism itself now is regularly deployed
in the epistemological critique of other paradigms and even of such other fields
as the natural sciences.
More problematic, however, is the exclusion of epistemology within social con-
structionism itself. Berger and Luckmann (1966) speak of social construction as
following three moments of a Hegelian dialectic. First, humanity collectively
externalizes or projects a part of itself onto the world. These projections then
become objectified or institutionalized as independent social realities. Finally,
these social realities are reinternalized as subsequent generations become social-
ized into them. In this account of the social construction of humanity’s pheno-
menal worlds, the noumenal world—the world as it is in itself—plays no
epistemological role. Instead, social reality originates in what humans project out
or “externalize” from what is originally only within themselves.

SCR

addressed itself specifically to social reality, the origin of which is not
unreasonably located in human projection. By

SC

, however, social reality comes
to encompass all reality. Each society, Berger (1967: 27) tells us, constructs not
only itself but an entire world, which it then identifies “with the world as such.”
In other words, since all knowledge is social, all knowledge—and not just know-
ledge of social reality—is a social construction. Thus, in

SC

, Berger now speaks
even of non-social reality as originating in human projection, a word, Berger
(1967: 88–89, 98) further tells us, is adopted from Feuerbach. This borrowing is
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

63

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

significant because for Feuerbach, projection owes nothing to the world but is only
a human imposition on it.
What drops out from Berger’s account is all epistemic activity even among lay
actors and with it the noumenal world. Do not lay actors ever engage in epistemic
activity designed to better match their constructions of the world with the way the
world actually is? If so, what is the status of these efforts? These questions too are
bracketed (Berger and Luckmann 1966: 3). Thus, in extending social construc-
tionism to all reality, Berger renders the noumenal world of no account in the
formation of our phenomenal understandings of the non-social world. Whereas
for Kant, the noumenal world informed the phenomenal world, in Berger’s social
constructionism, the two radically separate. It is not just religious realities that
disappear. When Berger refers to the bracketing of “metahuman” explanations,
he evidently means the metahuman broadly. Not even nonreligious reality plays
a role in our construction of phenomenal worlds.
Gone as well is very the category of experience, which would otherwise link the
noumenal and phenomenal worlds. Although Berger (1967: 19) does sometimes
talk of the social construction of reality as an ordering of experience, the pheno-
menal experience of an outside (noumenal) world has no place in the dialectic that
forms his main theory. Nor does it have any place in projection. Since experience
must always be an experience of something, a something Berger says we must
bracket, it is difficult to see what place remains for the genuine experience of
noumenal reality. When it comes to religion specifically, there is no place. Berger
(1967: 88) very explicitly notes that the sociologist of religion cannot in principle
approach religious experience as if it were “genuine.”
Instead, as is evident in the third passage cited above, sociology must treat
religion not as a response to the noumenal world as experienced but only as a
projection onto that world of what is entirely internal to humanity. The world as
such Berger describes as an “empty vastness,” evidently without cognizable fea-
tures. Thus, even beyond religious realities, humans are no longer in experiential
dialogue with a noumenal world ontologically independent of them. Instead, the
noumenal world is a kind of tabula rasa, a blank projection screen.
Berger’s social constructionism here is more extreme than those contemporary
variants that claim only that our articulated perspectives are always underdeter-
mined by our experiences of the world or by the data we draw from it (Collins
1985; Hesse 1980; Hacking 1999; Quine 1953). In such contemporary accounts,
there remains some experiential contact between the phenomenal worlds we con-
struct and the noumenal world as it is in itself. Indeed, the current debate often
concerns how strong this contact is (Hacking 1999; Latour 1993; Pickering 1995).
In Berger’s social constructionism, however, all such contact is severed. As far as
any epistemic contribution to our phenomenal worlds is concerned, the noumenal
world might just as well be different. It need not even exist.
As previously noted, one legacy of Berger’s social constructionism is the now
normative bracketing of the whole question of religious truth even by those who
64

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

are not specifically social constructionists. Indeed, with the postmodern turn, the
retreat from noumenal reality is such that Yamane (2001) has recently argued the
need to bracket not just the objects of religious experience but even the experi-
ence itself. We cannot get to religious experience directly, Yamane maintains; all
we can know are what people say about it. Sociologists must therefore treat not
religious experience but only discourse about it.
The irony is that although sociology has been quite comfortable with Berger’s
position as formulated, Berger himself was disturbed by it. In

RA

, addressed to
non-sociologists, Berger (1970: ix) describes

SC

as reading in places “like a treatise
on atheism.” He goes on to give his second chapter the subtitle “Relativizing the
Relativizers.” Who are the relativizers? The relativizers are sociologists who fol-
low, among other things, the constructionist approach. Among the relativizers
then whom Berger is seeking to counteract is Berger himself, qua sociologist.
Thus, Berger (1970: ix) goes on to say in effect that science does not exhaust our
access to knowledge.
In

HI

, also addressed to non-sociologists, (Berger 1979: xi–xiii) follows up and
deepens the argument of

RA

. In

HI

, Berger praises the—then, largely—Protestant
Biblical critics who courageously subjected their own sacred texts to critical
inquiry. Berger deserves the same praise for he displays the same courage. He,
too, attempts to develop a sociological approach to religion as objectively as he
can with relentless disregard for his own most cherished beliefs.
The result for Berger, however, is that he is left extra-sociologically trying to
counteract the sociology of religion he himself did so much to fashion. To coun-
teract it, he adds for a non-sociological audience what is absent from his sociology.
The first thing absent from Berger’s sociological account that now shows up is the
world. Berger (1970: 46–48) argues that although mathematics is a “pure projec-
tion,” the amazing thing is that it coincides with a mathematical reality external
to us. Analogously, Berger says, although religion too is a projection, it also is a
projection to which noumenal reality may correspond. In other words, whereas
the world is still absent as an input informing our religious projections, religious
projections can still turn out to mirror the world.
It becomes clear that even in Berger’s sociology, the world is not absent onto-
logically. It is only absent epistemologically. From Berger’s sociological perspec-
tive, the world contributes nothing to our projections. If not, then also absent from
Berger’s sociology is epistemology proper, for if not the world as it really is, what
does epistemology address? In place of epistemological criteria that might bear
on the nature of an ontologically independent reality, all that is left to sociology
is non-epistemic social construction. Philosophically, Berger’s sociology arrives at
a complete relativism that judges no claim superior to any other. The good news
for theists, Berger suggests, is that theism then is no less warranted than atheism.
Thus does Berger relativize the relativizers.
But Berger is not done. He introduces something else that by its introduction
only in address to non-sociologists again highlights its absence from his sociology.
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

65

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

That something else is contact with noumenal reality. In

RA

, Berger (1970: 47)
says that although religious phenomena are always in part socially constructed
projections, they may also be something else. Theology, Berger says, may legiti-
mately affirm that “‘in, with, and under’ the immense array of human projec-
tions, there are indicators of a reality that is truly ‘other’ and that the religious
imagination of man ultimately reflects.” Berger (1979: 52) echoes the point in

HI

,
where he speaks of religious experience as “an experience in which a metahuman
reality is injected into human life.” Somehow, as we move from sociology to
theology, we get back in contact with noumenal reality, enough to possess at least
indications of its nature.
With the appearance of indicators of reality, both reality and epistemology
return and with them as well the possibility of genuine experience—that is, the
experience of something genuinely there to be experienced. Sure enough,

HI

is
largely devoted to a sophisticated treatment of religious experience, perhaps one
of the most sophisticated that has been produced by a contemporary sociologist.
Yet, for Berger, this treatment does not count at all as sociology but only as
theology.
Although the sociology of religion now widely takes Berger’s methodological
atheism for granted as a disciplinary premise, something is seriously awry. Berger
tells sociology that there are no “indicators of a reality—religious or otherwise—
that are truly ‘other;’ all humanity ever confronts are its own projections. Yet he
tells theology something different. Theology evidently may possess indicators of
at least one kind of reality that is truly other—religious reality. Why are theology
and its religious reality privileged? And if theology can access and—presuma-
bly—assess indicators of metahuman reality, should not the sociology of religion
attempt to do the same? Sociologists may be wont to dismiss what Berger says to
theology, but it is actually what Berger says to sociology that should be dismissed.

THE SELF-CONTRADICTORY NATURE OF BERGER’S SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM

It is already evident that, taken as a whole, Berger’s corpus is problematic. For
one thing, the first words of comfort Berger offers theology are actually not very
comforting. On the contrary, they ought to be discomforting to the religious and
nonreligious alike. Berger effectively says that whereas nothing warrants the
beliefs of any religion, the beliefs of one or another religion might still turn out
correct. True enough, but by Berger’s sociological account, such correspondence
can only be the purest accident. Aside from Pascal’s wager, religious belief has no
rational basis. On the other hand, neither has atheism. Theism and atheism both
are equally arbitrary.
In one swoop, Berger thus deprives theists and atheists alike of epistemic ration-
ality on religious matters. This conclusion alone should trouble sociologists more
than it apparently does. Perhaps part of the problem is that sociologists seldom
66

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

consider epistemic rationality. Sociologists generally think in terms only of instru-
mental and normative rationality, the only two mentioned, for example, by Alex-
ander (1982). Instrumental and normative rationality apply specifically to actions.
In contrast, beliefs derive their rationality certainly not from instrumental ends
and only secondarily from norms but fundamentally from warrants. Without
warrant, a belief or claim is without epistemic rationality. It is without epistemic
rationality that Berger leaves theists and atheists alike. Further, unless Berger will
similarly deprive sociologists of their epistemic rationality, he is in serious danger
of what Giddens (1976) calls the “derogation of the lay actor.” Indeed, it is an
untenable derogation of the lay actor, we will see, to which methodological atheism
is ultimately driven.
The second bit of solace Berger offers theology also turns out to be empty of
comfort. Berger expresses amazement that mathematics, also a pure projection,
turns out to mirror the external world. The same correspondence, he says, may
obtain with religion. Yet what external world does mathematics mirror? Berger
seems to have forgotten that by his own sociological account, the mirrored world
cannot be the noumenal world as it is in itself but only the phenomenally external
world we construct. This, by Berger’s sociological account, is also nothing more
than our own projection. As it is hardly amazing that one of our projections
would coincide with another, Berger’s argument from analogy loses all force.
Berger finally does offer theology something truly important when he speaks of
its possibly possessing “indicators of a reality that is truly ‘other’ and that the
religious imagination of man ultimately reflects.” This offering, however, contradicts
the main premise of Berger’s social constructionism for it represents religion as
not simply a human projection but also as an epistemic response to an independent
reality, something to which Berger’s social constructionism otherwise denies access.
One question is why theology has such access to noumenal reality and not also
the social scientific study of religion. One answer sociologists might give is that as
a scientific enterprise, the sociology of religion is constrained by value neutrality
whereas theology is not. To remain consistent with Berger’s offering to religion,
however, the implication of this answer is that with freedom from value neutrality
comes greater access to noumenal reality.
If so, why would the sociology of religion cling to value neutrality? The obvious
answer is that given its positivist origins, value neutral is how the sociology of
religion has long imagined science to be. With the collapse of positivism, however,
this view of science should no longer be sustained. It is unnecessary to be a
postmodernist to recognize that as all data and observations are theory-laden,
none are value-neutral. Indeed, all postpositivist philosophy of science now admits
this even if, unlike postmodernism, it still thinks scientific claims can be rationally
adjudicated (e.g., Bhaskar 1989; 1994; Lakatos 1970; Laudan 1977; Manicas
1989).
Nor, as some postivistically minded sociologists would still like to think, should
value neutrality remain an impossible ideal for which we must still individually
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

67

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

strive. Such focus on the individual misses the point. What individual sociologists
should strive for is the fair and honest assessment of data and observations that
counter their prejudices. That is not the same as value neutrality, which affects
the research enterprise not just at the individual but also at the collective level.
At the collective level, values intrude in what our paradigms or research pro-
grams open for debate and questioning. Thus, postmodernists are quite right that
continued appeals to value neutrality only mask the exclusion of certain perspec-
tives. So it is in this very case. An appeal to value neutrality to exclude the
supernatural from sociological discourse is not itself value neutral. Rather, it priv-
ileges naturalism via precisely “a quasiscientific legitimation of the avoidance of
transcendence” that Berger opposed.
In any case, an appeal to value neutrality does not resolve the contradiction in
Berger’s corpus. The reason is that Berger extra-sociologically offers theology
what his own sociology denies to everyone. If theology has contact with noumenal
reality, why do not all other practices? But if all other practices likewise have
contact with noumenal reality, then, contrary to Berger’s sociology, the social
construction of reality is not well described as projection. Yet, since projection lies
at the heart of Berger’s social constructionism, without projection, the entire
edifice collapses.
At this point it might be considered whether Berger simply and erroneously
offers theology too much. Perhaps we should just dismiss what Berger tells the
theologians and determine, consistent with Berger’s sociology, that theology, too,
possesses only its own projections.
This strategy would be misguided. The reason is that even apart from what
Berger tells the theologians, his social constructionism is beset by contradiction—
the same contradiction that besets even the newer, less extreme versions of social
constructionism. As we will see, Berger’s concession to theology will have to be
granted generally and social constructionism reformulated.
The question is whether social constructionism applies to social construction-
ism itself. Social constructionism is a sociological approach that takes as its object
of study human beliefs and practices. For social constructionist sociology, human
lay beliefs and practices are noumenal reality, presumably independent of the
sociological observer. The question then is whether social constructionist research-
ers have any access to the noumenal reality they seek to study or whether all they,
too, ever come up with are their own projections. If the latter, why are social
constructionists so intent on empirical research and in any case, why should
anyone listen to them express their own projections? If, alternately, construction-
ists do have access to the noumenal reality they observe and study, from whence
derives their remarkable, epistemic privilege?
As previously noted, Berger and Luckmann (1966: 13) sought to bracket this
kind of epistemological question as the preserve of philosophy, and as long as
positivism reigned, this eternal deferral succeeded. Now, however, as sociology has
become more reflexive, the question requires an answer.
68

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The same question presses even on the less extreme forms of social construc-
tionism in the sociology of science. Bloor (1976) and Lynch (1992), for example,
argue that reflexivity demands that the social construction of science also be
applied to the sociological study of science. If so, then what sociology uncovers
about the social construction of science must equally be regarded as a social
construction.
Collins and Yearley (Collins 1994; Collins and Yearley 1992) are alert to the
problem. If social constructionist claims about science are also only social con-
structions, then they are deprived of all warrant. All assertions carry implicit truth
claims that what is asserted is true (Habermas 1984). Applied reflexively to itself,
social constructionism ends up denying the implicit truth of—or at least warrant
for—its own assertions. Not only then do social constructionism’s assertions cease
being anything that should claim anyone’s attention, they cease being even intel-
ligible. Applied to itself, social constructionism becomes what Apel (1998) calls a
“performative contradiction,” an utterance that contradicts the very performance
of uttering it.
Applied to itself, Berger’s own, more extreme version of social constructionism
similarly deprives itself of all force. If all is just projection, then so is sociological
observation. If Berger’s social constructionism holds, it is not just religious expe-
rience that must be treated as unreal. All experience must be considered such. In
the end, the very category of experience disappears completely from sociology—
even in the form of sociological observation.
To avoid the fatal problem of self-contradiction, Collins and Yearley argue that
social constructionism should never be applied to itself. Instead, adopting a posi-
tivist posture themselves, Collins and Yearley believe we can simply ignore the
philosophical issue. Social constructionism, they maintain, was always meant to
be only one more sociological paradigm for the generation of empirical research
questions. As such, its claims should be judged only by the conventional criteria
sociology normatively adopts to assess empirical work.
Collins and Yearley’s response merely turns a deaf ear to the problem. At best,
it opts for the derogation of the lay actor over self-contradiction: The natural
sciences are social constructions but not sociology. Unfortunately, self-contradiction
does not disappear with disregard. If sociology’s pronouncements are to carry any
weight—not only beyond itself but even among its own practitioners, then its
claims must be warranted by more than what we might consider just the local
customs of our tribe.
To secure such warrant, sociology must affirm that its accounts capture some-
thing of the noumenal reality to which they are addressed and that its criteria of
evaluation permit some comparative assessment of those accounts. The latter
refers to an element of judgmental rationality. It is true that there are no objective
or value-neutral standpoints from which to make comparative assessments. Never-
theless, adjudication is still possible even across paradigms from situated, value-
laden positions (Bhaskar 1989; Lakatos 1970; Laudan 1977; Manicas 1989).
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

69

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Without access to both noumenal reality and judgmental rationality, empirical
research in sociology is vitiated.
Of course, if sociology claims such epistemic capacities for itself, then on pain
of derogating the lay actor, it must also grant them to others. Other practices too
must be able both to access noumenal reality and to assess rival accounts of it.
The first concession alone is sufficient to doom Berger’s stated version of social
constructionism. Social knowledge cannot be just projection; it must also be
somewhat informed by the noumenal reality it putatively apprehends. So it is
specifically with religious experience. Thus, sociology cannot a priori treat reli-
gious experience as unreal. Religious experiences may all in part be projections,
and it could turn out empirically that that is all they are. Yet the possibility must
also be entertained that religious experiences are more than projections, that they
are genuine if interpreted apprehensions of experiential realities. In the end, it is
not what Berger has told the sociologists but what he has told the theologians
which is the more sustainable position.

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION: EMPIRICAL FINDING OR DISCIPLINARY PREMISE?

Suppose now it is conceded that social knowledge is more than just projection,
that it also is at least in part informed by the nature of a reality ontologically
independent of us. Suppose, furthermore, that conceded as well is even the
possibility that as in all experience, in religious experience too, an independent
object of experience might contribute something to the content of the experience.
Cannot sociology still refrain from addressing the putative, supernatural object of
religious experience and confine itself to studying the social component of the
experience? Cannot sociology still practice methodological atheism?
Confining itself to the social component of religion and religious experience is
what sociology generally tries to do. By doing so, however, sociology forfeits the
empirical status of any claim that religion and religious experience just are social
constructions. Instead, religion’s social constructedness becomes an unfalsifiable
premise that merely demarcates sociology’s putative, disciplinary boundary. At
most, sociology can demonstrate how the socially constructed part of religion is
socially constructed. By confining itself to the social part of religion, sociology sets
itself a less ambitious mission. It specifically declares itself in retreat from at least
one central question: Is religion entirely a social construction or is religion rather
also something else?
Unfortunately, without confronting this central question, not even the more
modest mission can be pursued in good faith. The assumption behind the modest
mission is that the social and extra-social parts of religion are easily partitioned,
permitting an a priori focus on the one and a bracketing of the other. Yet if there
are no uninterpreted experiences, if all reality comes to us already saturated with
70

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

interpretation, then the extra-socially real and the socially interpreted cannot so
easily be prized apart. They confront us rather as what in the sociology of science
Pickering (1995) calls “a mangle.”
If the extra-socially real and the socially interpreted comprise a mangle, then
we cannot know in advance which is which. Instead, the two can only be prized
apart empirically case by case. Thus, unless the extra-social is admitted to empir-
ical examination as well, the result will be to treat all as socially constructed—
including what is not. Then, despite what sociology may think, it will not have
shown even some part of religion to be socially constructed because its investiga-
tion will have failed to rule out what is extra-social.
This way of proceeding is not scientific but, as Berger (1974) put it in relation
to functionalism, only “quasiscientific.” The possible, transcendental origins of
religion and religious experience are eliminated not by weight of scientific evid-
ence but a priori in the name of a reductive naturalism (Berger 1974: 128).
Thus, in even its more modest application, methodological atheism does what
Berger (1974: 128) opposes: illegitimately liquidate transcendental phenomena
from within. As before in the case of functionalism, so now too in the case of
constructionism, the result, whatever the intentions, is the “quasiscientific legiti-
mation of a secularized world view” (Berger 1974: 128).
This conclusion will likely be uncongenial to many sociologists. Accordingly,
their first impulse may be to suppose they have been offered an especially tenden-
tious argument. Consider, therefore, that the conclusion is implicitly affirmed by
Berger himself. It was precisely because Berger himself was disturbed by the a
priori naturalism of sociological constructionism that he felt obliged to go beyond
sociology to write books addressed to theologians. True, Berger considered con-
structionist sociology less atheistic than it seems and disavowed as well any inten-
tions in that direction on his own part. Berger’s disavowals are belied, however,
when he offers theologians more than his own social constructionism allows. The
conclusion reached here comes from dealing with this inconsistency.
The upshot is that to approach religious experience in good faith, sociology
cannot avoid investigating the extra-social contribution. The extra-social cannot
legitimately be banished by a transcendental a priori. It must, rather, be
approached empirically. That means that what Greeley (1974) refers to as “super-
mundane” explanations must at least be explored rather than set aside. That is to
adopt methodological agnosticism over methodological atheism.
Should sociology adopt methodological agnosticism, it gains a theory of relig-
iosity and religious origins that, with few exceptions (Greeley 1974; Neitz 1987;
Nietz and Spickard 1989; O’Dea 1966; Poloma 1995; Schoenherr 1987; Young
1997), it now tends to ignore: People are religious because they have—or at least
think they have—religious experiences. By making taboo any fair consideration
of the objects of religious experience, methodological atheism has probably con-
tributed to sociology’s general neglect of religious origins. Now, to the extent that
this topic is even broached, the epistemic rationality of lay actors is bypassed and
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

71

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

the origin of religion sought less appropriately—as by functionalism before and
rational choice theory today—in instrumental rationality.

IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?

However persuasive the preceding arguments may be, it might still be considered
detrimental in practice for sociologists to consider any possibility of super-
mundane realities in their scientific investigations of religion. How exactly can
such realities be studied scientifically? Thus, even if it is conceded that radical
social constructionism fails, the methodological atheism it prescribes might still be
defended by what Bhaskar (1994: 10, 30) calls a “TINA formation” (There Is No
Alternative).
Now is the moment to return to the questions about religious experience
broached at the outset of this paper that arise once we move beyond radical social
constructionism. Does it follow that because some object of religious experience
is not entirely constructed socially that it necessarily is super-mundane? Is a puta-
tive experience of a super-mundane object truly comparable to more mundane
experiences? Granted reality, can super-mundane objects of experience enter the
causal web through which the rest of mundane reality is joined, and, if so, do not
such objects cease being super-mundane?
Certainly, at this point in this paper, none of these questions can receive the full
attention it deserves. Most merit at least a paper of their own and in some cases
have been the subject of entire literatures. Still, although it was not the purpose
of this paper to address these questions but only to get sociology to a point where
they become pertinent, the whole enterprise might be considered a non-starter if
the answers to these questions are too inauspicious for further inquiry. It therefore
is incumbent on this paper to show, if not that all such questions can be answered
favorably, at least that the answers are not clearly or necessarily negative. To that
task, we now turn.
The first question raised above calls only for clarification. No, it does not
necessarily follow from an object of religious experience’s being more than a
social construction that it must be of supernatural origin. Nor does this paper
claim otherwise. This paper’s call is only for the possibly supernatural origin not
to be precluded a priori. Instead, the possibility ought to be investigated as one
of multiple possibilities.
Such a stance is hardly unprecedented. It already is psychology’s ongoing prac-
tice in its scientific study of what it calls “anomalous experience,” which goes back
to William James (1961). Contra Berger’s prescription for sociology, James did not
argue that psychology must treat religious experiences as if they were not genuine.
Quite the contrary: James’s presumption was that religious experients were genu-
inely experiencing something real; the question was what. In pursuit of an answer,
moreover, James did not limit himself to narrowly psychological possibilities.
72

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Indeed, in his ultimate, albeit tentative answer, James, unlike sociology, was un-
afraid to border on the theological.
Subsequent work in psychology continues the Jamesian tradition. Most notable
is the recent compendium of work on anomalous experience recently published
by the American Psychological Association (Cardena et al. 2000). Called

Varieties
of Anomalous Experience

, the Jamesian connection is clear. The book encompasses
research on such phenomena as near-death, psi-related, hallucinatory, past-life,
and out-of-body experiences. The work canvassed is remarkable in a number of
respects. First, remarkable for a publication of the American Psychological Asso-
ciation is how interdisciplinary the work is. Represented along with psychology is
psychiatry, medicine, physiology, parapsychology, history, anthropology, and even
a sociologist or two. In refreshing contrast with sociology, the intent seems to be
not to affirm a discipline but to answer questions.
Toward that end, perhaps the most remarkable feature of the book is the range
of answers—and data—considered. The literature on near-death experiences
is exemplary (Greyson 2000). Considered explanations include physiological,
psychological, and cultural. Notably included too, however, is the “mind-body
separation and afterlife hypothesis.” Even putative paranormal phenomena are
evaluated rather than ruled out a priori.
Most instructive for sociology in this literature is the way in which social and
non-social components are prized apart. Clearly, considerable social shaping goes
into near-death experiences. Life reviews and tunnels seem largely associated with
Buddhist and Christian cultures. In contrast, other elements are common across
cultures and thus less plausibly explained entirely as social constructions (Kelle-
hear 1993). Does an irreducibly non-social component necessarily indicate some
supernatural element after all? Again, no, not necessarily, but such possibility
should be investigated—as psychology is doing—rather than ruled out of court.
Still, it may be asked, are putative experiences of such super-mundane realities
truly comparable to our more mundane experiences of tables, chairs, and the like?
In some ways, definitely yes. As James himself pointed out, religious experiences
share with more mundane experiences both passive and noetic qualities. A nega-
tive answer was nevertheless returned by such early empiricist philosophers as
C.B. Martin (1959), who argued that in contrast with our mundane experiences
of tables and chairs, there is no public way to verify the putative existence of
objects of religious experience. Further, some argued, there are no raw, uninter-
preted experiences that just are irreducibly religious. All such assessments depend
on interpretations that are ultimately shared and cultural in nature.
As Burhenn (1995) notes, there is now a growing literature in philosophy,
including such figures as Alston (1991), Collier (2003), Proudfoot (1985), and
Swineburne (1979), that contests either the empiricist contentions or their force.
Again, space does not permit adequate engagement here with this debate. Here,
only two cursory points can be noted. First, contra philosophers like Martin, not
even all objects of mundane experience—such as certain qualities of music or
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience

73

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

art—are as easily verified publicly as tables and chairs; to recognize some, for
example, we need to be properly trained, sensitized or attentive. Other experi-
ences—such as awe at the immensity of the universe—we might publicly agree
are universally shared, but whereas some interpret them religiously, others do not.
It must of course be conceded that all religious or anomalous experience comes
to us mediated through shared, cultural categories. Yet, as the same is true for all
experience, there seems no more warrant to prejudge the reality or nature of
objects of religious experience than any other object of experience. Whether some or
any socio-religious interpretation is the best way to understand some object of experi-
ence is of course contestable. This paper urges only that that contest be held.
The last question to be considered is whether, if the reality of super-mundane
objects of religious experience were granted, those objects could explain anything
other than their own perception and, if so, would they, by their very entanglement
in the mundane causal chain thereby cease being super-mundane. This question
is very intriguing. Its concerns are as important as they are, again, beyond the
scope of this paper to answer adequately. All that can be presented here are
possible lines of theoretical argument.
First, it might turn out that it long remains unknown how, beyond causing their
own perception, putative objects of religious experience are otherwise causally
connected to us. In such case, would not their ontological status be comparable
to the multiple, other universes currently posited by physics? In both cases, it is
unclear whether, by itself, weak or even absent causal connection necessarily
precludes an attribution of reality.
Also unclear is exactly what else putative objects of religious experience should
be able to explain. The literature strongly suggests that religious and anomalous
experiences often have a profound effect on an experient’s subsequent life. Is such
effect on a life not something important that is explained? It might be argued that
what does the explaining is the experience rather than the object. Perhaps, but
the experience has effect only to the extent that to the experients themselves, the
object experienced is real. It thus is not entirely clear that the experience and its
content can so easily be prized apart.
Finally, if we do successfully integrate putatively super-mundane objects of
experience with the rest of the causal order, would they not thereby cease being
super-mundane? Again perhaps. The objects certainly would not cease being
what they are, but we might cease regarding them as super-mundane. Instead,
our conception of the mundane might just expand. We might, for example, come
to regard a certain depth or sacred dimension as one of the natural features of
our universe. Physicists at the moment are suggesting plenty of strange things:
multiple other dimensions and universes; unidentified dark matter and repulsive
forces; quantum action-at-a-distance. Why should sociology too not be open to
what now only seems strange to distinctly modernist sensibilities?
However we answer them, none of the questions considered in this section
affects the main point of this paper: Berger’s radical social constructionist argument
74

Douglas V. Porpora

© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

for methodological atheism fails. This paper calls for sociology’s methodological
atheism to be replaced by the methodological agnosticism already being practiced
by psychology. If methodological atheism and its attendant naturalism are still to
be favored by sociology, that favor must rest on grounds other than radical social
constructionism, perhaps on some of the grounds broached in this section. One
way or another, a different debate or a different approach to religious experience
is in the offing.
REFERENCES

A

rrx\xnrn

, J

rrrnrv

1982

The Antinomies of Classical Thought: Marx and Durkheim

. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
A

rs+ox

, W

irri\x

1991

Perceiving God

. Ithica: Cornell University Press.
A

rrr

, K

\nr

-O

++o

1998

Toward A Transformation of Philosophy

. Pittsburgh: Marquette Uni-
versity Press.
B

rnorn

, P

r+rn

1967

The Sacred Canopy

: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion.
Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
B

rnorn

, P

r+rn

1970

A Rumor of Angels

. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
B

rnorn

, P

r+rn

1974 “Some Second Thoughts on Substantive Versus Functional Defini-
tions of Religion”

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

126–133.
B

rnorn

, P

r+rn

1979

The Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation

.
Garden City, NY: Anchor.
B

rnorn

, P

r+rn

and T

nox\s

L

tckx\xx

1966

The Social Construction of Reality

. Garden City,
NY: Doubleday.
B

rnnrxx, Hrnnrn+ 1995 “Philosophy and Religious Experience.” Pp. 144–159 in Ralph
W. Hood Jr. (Ed.) Handbook of Religious Experience. Birminghan, AL: Religious Education
Press.
Bn\sk\n, Rov 1989 Reclaiming Reality: A Critical Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy. New
York: Verso.
Bn\sk\n, Rov 1994 Plato Etc. New York: Verso.
Broon, D\\in 1976 Knowledge and Social Imagery. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Bntcr, S+r\r 1999 Choice and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice. Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press.
C\nnrx\, E+zrr, S+r\rx J\v Lvxx, and S+\xrrv Knirrxrn (Eds.) Varieties of Anomalous
Experience. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Corrixs, H\nnv 1981 “What is TRASP? The Radical Programme as a Methodological
Imperative” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 11: 215–224.
Corrixs, H\nnv 1985 Changing Order. London: Sage.
Corrixs, H\nnv 1994 “A Strong Confirmation of the Experimenters’ Regress” Studies in
the History and Philosophy of Science 25(3): 493–503.
Corrixs, H\nnv and S+r\rx Yr\nrrv 1992 “Epistemological Chicken.” Pp. 301–326 in
Andrew Pickering (Ed.) Science as Practice and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press.
Ginnrxs, Ax+noxv 1976 New Rules of the Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of Interpretative
Sociologies. New York: Basic.
Gnrrrrv, Axnnrv 1974 Ecstasy: A Way of Knowing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Gnrrrrv, Axnnrv 1996 Religion As Poetry. New Brunswick: Transaction.
Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience 75
© 2006 The author
Journal compilation © 2006 The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Gnrvsox, Bntcr 2002 “Near-Death Experiences.” Pp. 315–352 in Etzel Cardena Steven
Jay Lynn, and Stanley Krippner (Eds.) Varieties of Anomalous Experience. Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
H\nrnx\s, Jtnorx 1984 The Theory of Communicative Action. Boston: Beacon.
H\ckixo, I\x 1999 The Social Construction of What? Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Hrssr, M\nv 1980 Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science. Brighton:
Harvester.
Htssrnr, Enxtxn 1977 Cartesian Meditations. The Hague: M. Nijhoff.
J\xrs, Wirri\x 1961 The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Collier-MacMillan.
Krrrrnr\n, A. 1993 “Culture, Biology, and the Near-Death Experience: A Reappraisal”
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 181: 148–156.
L\k\+os, Ixnr 1970 “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs.”
Pp. 91–196 in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Eds.) 1970. Criticism and the Growth of
Knowledge. Cambridge University Press.
L\+otn, Bntxo 1993 We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
L\tn\x, L\nnv 1977 Progress and Its Problems. Berkeley: University of California.
Lvxcn, Micn\rr 1992 “Extending Wittgenstein: The Pivotal Move from Epistemology
to the Sociology of Science.” Pp. 215–265 in Andrew Pickering (Ed.) Science as Practice
and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
M\xic\s, Pr+rn 1989 A History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Oxford: Blackwell.
M\n+ix, C.B. 1959 Religious Belief. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.
Nri+z, M\nv Jo 1987 Charisma and Community. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Nri+z, M\nv Jo and J\xrs Srick\nn 1989 “Steps Toward a Sociology of Religious
Experience: The Theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and Alfred Schutz” Sociological
Analysis 50(2): 15–34.
Nrvnrno, Axnnrv and Etorxr D’A¸tiri 2001 Why God Won’t Go Away. New York:
Ballantine.
O’Dr\, Tnox\s F. 1966 The Sociology of Religion. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Pickrnixo, Pickrnixo 1995 The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. Chicago: Uni-
versity of Chicago.
Porox\, M\no\nr+ 1995 “The Sociological Context of Religious Experience.” Pp. 161–182
in Ralph Hood Jr. (Ed.) Handbook of Religious Experience. Birmingham: Religious Educa-
tion Press.
Qtixr, Wirr\nn 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge: Harvard.
Scnorxnrnn, Ricn\nn 1987 “Power and Authority in Organized Religion: Disaggregat-
ing the Phenomenological Core” Sociological Analysis 47: 52–71.
S+\nk, Ronxrv 1965 “A Taxonomy of Religious Experience” Journal for the Scientific Study
of Religion 5: 97–113.
S+\nk, Ronxrv 1999 “Micro Foundations of Religion: A Revised Theory” Sociological
Theory 17(3): 264–289.
S+\nk, Ronxrv and Roorn Fixkr 2000 Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Svixrntnxr, Ricn\nn 1979 The Existence of God. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Woonnr\n, Lixn\, P\tr Hrrr\s, and D\\in M\n+ix 2001 Peter Berger and the Study of
Religion. New York: Routledge.
Y\x\xr, D\\in 1998 “Religious Experience.” Pp. 179–182 in William Swatos Jr. (Ed.)
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, Calif: Altamira Press.
Y\x\xr, D\\in 2000 “Narrative and Religious Experience” Sociology of Religion 61: 171–189.
Yotxo, L\vnrxcr 1997 “Phenomenological Images of Religion and Rational Choice
Theory.” Pp. 133–146 in Lawrence Young (Ed.) Rational Choice Theory and Religion.
Albany: SUNY Press.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful