It can easily be argued that there has never been a more interesting time to study religion from a social science perspective. The founding intellects of sociological perspectives on religion -- such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber -- were very interested in religion as Western European society was transformed by industrial capitalism. We stand at a similar point as globalizing processes in the world economic, world culture, and international travel and migration transform the world. Where, when, and how religion is relevant to these changes produces many fascinating and important questions.
The McNamara Center for the Social Study of Religion was established to take advantage of a fine university with a proud history in social scientific approaches to religion, Loyola University Chicago, set in one of the world's great cities with a history of immigration, religious innovation, and social change. Where better to ask these questions, and to see processes of change occur, than in the congregations, temples, and streets of Chicago?
While established in the Department of Sociology, the McNamara Center is receptive to all social scientific perspectives, including anthropologists, political scientists, and religious studies scholars among it associates and affiliates. The Center provides both a setting for sharing work and discussing ideas (such as in our McNamara Lectures, the student-run Sociology of Religion Working Group, or the quarterly meetings of the Chicago Area Group for the Study of Religious Communities) and a potential resource for helping to sponsor research efforts.
We think of the Center as having a scholarly mission, and while pursuing that purpose, contributing to the knowledge and understanding that can help produce a more humane and democratic society. We urge you to check us out.
Rhys H. Williams
Professor and Chair
Director, McNamara Center for the Social Study of Religion
Department of Sociology
Loyola University Chicago