Approaching Religious Diversity: Barriers, Byways, and Beginnings

Warner, R. Stephen. “Approaching Religious Diversity: Barriers, Byways, and Beginnings.” Sociology of Religion 59(3):193-215, Fall 1998.

“Approaching Religious Diversity: Barriers, Byways, and Beginnings” examines the barriers that inhibit the study of, and the byways that misconstrue, religious diversity in the US—particularly among new immigrant and ethnic groups—before looking at Warner’s “new paradigm” analysis of religion and concluding with a view of the change and continuity in the American religious past and future. A primary barrier includes lack of available data on new immigrant and ethnic religiosity. Also, sociologists in general often share an ideological bias against religion while sociologists of religion characteristically believe religion to be in serious decline. Gatherings in Diaspora (Warner and Judith Wittner, 1998) narrates findings from the New Ethnic and Immigrant Congregations Project to support “new paradigm analyses” of religion, which describes the US experience as one of “an open religious market, constitutive pluralism, structural adaptability, and empowering opportunities.” Warner’s research attests to the “de-Europeanization of American Christianity.” At the same time, American religion—Christian and non-Christian—will continue to take on the familiar American form of the “congregation.”