Sociology of Religion’s Hall Monitor

There may conceivably be a reason to believe that American sociology is ignorant and dogmatic about religion. Christian Smith of the University of Notre Dame exchanges reason for the plaintive sound of a tin whistle. If tired readers of the ASA footnotes laugh at his Eagletonisms, it should only be out of embarrassment.

Smith manages to squirm his way out of the accusation that he’s an apologist, setting his complaint above personal views about religion. His target is an unnamed “Ivy League” reviewer, who asserted that religion was guilty of horrific crimes. Rather than disagreeing in the particular, Smith tries to convince us that such a conclusion cannot possibly be supported by serious scholarship, by implication attempting to seduce us with the banal “Religion is complicated” meme that is so popular among soft-bellied interpretivists.

Contrary to Smith’s belabored musings about professional aptitude, nothing is at stake here for sociology. More serious writers could massage Smith’s dyspepsia into an argument about the uses of religion, but I prefer his windy diatribe. Tedious, yes, but I have a masochistic appreciation for bathroom stall criticism.