Diffusion of Religions: A Sociological Perspective

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Of the major world religions, only three, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have diffused widely. They were introduced across numerous socio-cultural boundaries and were received as new religions to their converts. However, these diffusing religions have had varying degrees of success from wholesale reception to wholesale rejection. This book presents the perspective that a major factor in the variations in the diffusions of these religions, and in the religions themselves, is found in the nature of the inter-group relationships between receiving groups and both sending groups and surrounding groups. A crucial perception of the receivers is the perceived contribution the new religion will make to the enhancement of important aspects of group identities and of the strength of the group. This book takes into account diffusion, an old and persistent concept in the social sciences which has been rarely applied in sociology to religions or even ideologies.

Author Biography: Robert L. Montgomery attended the Columbia Theological Seminary and the Princeton Theological Seminary. He received a Ph.D. from Emory University.

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Editorial Reviews

G. Thompson Brown
Dr. Robert L. Montgomery is ably qualified to write on the religions of Asia having spent his early years in China, eighteen years as a missionary to the Aborigines people of Taiwan, and more recently as a port chaplain in New York ministering to the seamen from around the world...he writes with a warmly sympathetic view of the people with whom he has had an intimately first hand acquaintance and out of his own deep positive Christian commitment and faith.
Peggy A.L. Shriver
This is a courageous work. It challenges missionaries to examine with dispassionate social scientific rigor why people receive, reject, or adapt their religious message. Islam and Buddhism, as well as the more familiar Christianity, are explored for patterns of diffusion. A comprehensive world-wide macro-view of historical political shifts is analyzed as the author propounds a theory of intergroup relations as crucial to the receptivity of a new religion. Acquaintance with vast amounts of historical material, social science literature and methodology, and three world religions is required, with all the necessary selectivity that entails. (I missed more wrestling with economics!) Not least courageous is the 'unhidden agenda' and the appendix in which Montgomery expresses eloquently his own faith in Christ—and a theology that critiques the bearers of it. A 'humbly ambitious' effort!
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761803454
  • Publisher: University Press of America
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert L. Montgomery attended the Columbia Theological Seminary and the Princeton Theological Seminary. He received a Ph.D. from Emory University.

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Table of Contents

1 The Concept of Diffusion in Relation to Religion 1
2 A Theoretical Perspective and Methodology 19
3 Buddhism 37
4 Christianity Before 1500 57
5 Islam 79
6 Christianity After 1500, Part I The Societies in Asia 99
7 Christianity After 1500, Part II The Societies in Oceana, Africa, and the Americas 121
8 Conclusions and Some Directions for Study 149
Appendix - A Theological Perspective With Missiological Implications 173
References 195
Name Index 209
Subject Index 215
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