The deconstruction of contrast in the sociological analysis of religion
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This analysis deconstructs and destabilizes the use of polarization in the sociological analysis of religion. The sociology of religion operates on the assumption that fundamental differences exist between religion and non-religion. Beginning with Feuerbach, this approach is elaborated by Durkheim, Berger, Barnes, and Caplan. These authors differentiate religion and non-religion along multiple axes. The religious is characterized by irrationality, mystification, and masochism, while the non-religious is depicted as rational, empirical, and empowering. The deconstruction of this polarization may proceed along two different lines. First, the characterizations of religious thought and activity may be discredited. Second, these characterizations of religious thought may be shown to apply equally to the non-religious through a reflexive or symmetrical examination. If these contrasts are destabilized, the religious and non-religious become qualitative equivalents, engaged in a similar project, using similar tactics, and driven by similar objectives.