Religion and Society:

Understanding the World's Wisdom Traditions Through the Sociological Imagination

Thomas J. Burns (University of Oklahoma)

Tom W. Boyd (University of Oklahoma)

Subject: Sociology, Religion


Format: Paperback 6x9
Printed ISBN: 978-1-62667-019-8

Price: TBD


eBook ISBN: 978-1-62667-020-4

Price: $9.95


Price: TBD
Publication Date: Spring 2016 

Religion and Society: Understanding the World’s Wisdom Traditions Through the Sociological Imagination, is a general introduction to the world’s religions. Aimed at the undergraduate college student, it draws heavily on many of the powerful ideas from the discipline of sociology.

The book opens with an introductory chapter discussing the major concepts and overall plan for the text. The following eight chapters are devoted to the major religious traditions. Each chapter addresses the history, major beliefs, values and practices of the faith. The role of ethics in the everyday lives of the adherents of each religion and the place of each in contemporary society rounds out each chapter. The effects of social change, cultural lag and patterns of globalization on each of the traditions are explored.

The book’s readers are introduced to the sociological perspective and its use in examining religion. The world’s religious traditions are used to demonstrate a more general set of sociological concepts.

Religion and Society: Understanding the World’s Wisdom Traditions Through the Sociological Imagination, can serve as the primary text for a course in world religions, either as a stand-alone, or in conjunction with a book of readings (e.g. from the Bible, the Qur’an, the Analects of Confucius) of the Canonical Texts of the respective religious traditions. 

Thomas J. Burns (PhD University of Maryland) is Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, and is active in the Religious Studies and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment programs. He serves as Book Review Editor of Human Ecology Review, as a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of World-Systems Research, and he has served on the Board of the Society for Human Ecology. Professor Burns was formerly at the University of Utah, where he was a member of the Sociology Faculty and also taught in, and served as Chair of, the interdisciplinary Master of Statistics (MStat) Program. He is a winner of the University of Utah’s College of Behavioral and Social Science Superior Teaching Award, has been nominated for numerous other teaching honors, and is recipient of the Society for Human Ecology’s Distinguished Leadership Award.

Dr. Burns’s research focuses on the outcomes, evolution and emergence of social institutions from a comparative and historical perspective, particularly as they pertain to issues of well-being and sustainability. He has published widely on topics that include cross-national studies of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution and health and well-being outcomes, environmental social movements, social theory, and religion and the environment.

Tom W. Boyd (Ph.D. in Religion, Vanderbilt University) is currently the David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He taught philosophy at the university for 28 years, concentrating in philosophy of religion, ethics, and value theory. During the last seven of those years he served as Kingfisher Chair in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. In 1997 he retired to join his wife in Denver, where she took a position. In 2002 he and his wife returned to the university to assist in founding the newly established Religious Studies Program. He taught in that program for eleven years, specializing in upper division theoretical courses and introductory courses in religion. He has won nine teaching awards at the university as well as the Oklahoma Award for Teaching Excellence in 1995. He retired, along with his wife, in May of 2013. At the final commencement the university awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Tom’s current concentration is on the interplay of religions in a global context, the problem of religious pluralism, and the relation between culture and religion. He also studies the impact of religion on ethics. He seeks through his studies and teaching to understand and appreciate religion in its contemporary setting and in light of an emerging planetary culture. His writings, made up of articles and book chapters, have focused on the interface between religion and culture. They include such pieces as “Is Spirituality Possible without Religion?” “Is Humanism an Ideology?” “On Saving the Sacred Text...with a Nod to Derrida,” “Positive Thinking: Magic, Science, or Religion,” “Is Rabbit Running with Jesus?” and “Christ of the Rising Sun: Japanese Christianity in the Fiction of Shusaku Endo.”