Agostino. Confessioni by Margaret R. Miles

By Margaret R. Miles

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Sample text

The focus of study, insist social scientists, must be on the investigation of the origin and development of religion and particularly on religion's effects upon the individual and society. For example, social science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, but it can determine whether a belief in God has some effect on the lives of people. The danger, as already noted, is one of reducing spiritual phenomena totally to empirical observations. In the process of study, the religious view that motivates religious actors often fades from analysis.

Having acknowledged some of the weaknesses and limitations of social science, I wish to emphasize that it is an invaluable tool for a better understanding of religion. It is important to remember, however, that the social sciences represent a perspective that makes certain assumptions, namely, that religion can be studied empirically and that this empirical evidence can be scrutinized according to scientific canons. The reader must keep in mind that this is not the only way of approaching religion nor should it be claimed as the "best" way to describe religious phenomena.

The social Page 31 scientist is interested in human action, the particular qualities of human actors, and the meaning they ascribe to their actions. Social Action Weber (1978:4) speaks of social action insofar as individuals attach subjective meanings to their behaviour. I have already demonstrated how specific acts may be framed with either a secular or religious world view. Such world views are not developed in isolation; they are social in that they are developed and maintained in concert with others.

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