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Making the Sacred Real

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that prayer has been under-researched, under-theorized, and frequently misunderstood in the sociology of religion. It weaves around prayer a web of sociological theory with strands spun by Max Weber, Marcel Mauss, Hjalmar Sundén, Robert Bellah, and Alfred Schutz. The way forward for sociology is to reconceive religion as a rich source of knowledge, but only secondarily theoretical. Religion makes use of other well-recognised non-conceptual ways of knowing: e.g., art, performance skills which become embedded and disappear from consciousness (as in ritual), practical knowledge (in ethics), narrative (in religious myths), worldview, and, at the most abstract level, entire symbol systems based on analogical reasoning. By praying, the believer transfers the accent of reality from the everyday lifeworld to the sacred world. The chapter concludes by suggesting implications for the future development of theory and research on prayer.

Keywords: Alfred Schutz; God; Max Weber; prayer; religion; ritual; sociological theory



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