Though many scholars and commentators have predicted the death of religion, the world is more religious today than ever before. And yet, despite its persistence, religion remains a woefully understudied phenomenon. With Objective Religion, Baylor University Press and Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion have joined forces to present select articles from the Institute’s Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion that not only highlight the journal’s wide-ranging and diverse scope but also advance the field through a careful arrangement of topics with ongoing relevance, all treated with scientific objectivity and the respect warranted by matters of faith. This multivolume project seeks to advance our understanding both of religion and spirituality in general and also of particular religious beliefs and practices. Objective Religion thereby serves as a catalyst for future studies of religion from diverse disciplines and fields of inquiry, including sociology, psychology, political science, demography, economics, philosophy, ethics, history, medicine, population health, epidemiology, and theology. The articles in this second volume, Problems, Prosociality, and Progress, examine the many ways in which religion is linked to prosocial behavior. Whether through classes, retreats, small groups, mission trips, church-sponsored volunteer work, or any number of related group functions, religious participation connects people to multiple networks of social support that are consequential and meaningful. These faith-infused, supportive social networks allow people to build a strong sense of belonging and serve as powerful independent predictors of beneficial outcomes.
Byron Johnson has assembled an impressive set of contributions. Each chapter is outstanding on its own, but together, they make an even more impressive statement about religion’s long reach into our social lives.~Michael McCullough, Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Diego
This valuable volume presents a compendium of peer-reviewed research, both quantitative and qualitative, on religion’s prosocial impact on individuals and communities. With studies from mostly US sources, the authors whose work is collected here demonstrate clearly—with empirical data—that the social dimensions of religious participation are associated with greater involvement in a wide range of other-minded activities as caregiving, volunteering, charitable giving, social justice, and advocacy for the less advantaged. It will be useful to researchers in a wide variety of social science research on religion and more.~Ellen L. Idler, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology and Director, Religion and Public Health Collaborative, Emory University