Religious diversity is a constant feature of human societies. When the very existence and the understanding of this diversity become the subject of contestation, as has been the case in contemporary societies, we can speak of the challenges of religious pluralism. The 2009 conference of the ISSR seeks to contribute to the sociological analysis of religious pluralism and its common understandings. The conference will include a wide range of possible approaches and will pay particular attention to both the ways in which religion adapts to the context of religious pluralism and to the ways in which contemporary societies respond.

Plenary 1 - Religious Pluralism as a Challenge for Religion

In contemporary society, religious pluralism presents a range of complex challenges to religious groups and communities. In a plural situation, they are faced with the need to compete for social and communal capital, such as members, financial contributions, legitimacy, and political influence. Religious groups have to decide on the ways in which they want to approach and relate to members of other groups—whether they opt for dialogue, mission, confrontation or indifference. They have to find ways of addressing internal pluralism, democratic pressures, and individualism. They are also challenged by the presence of other religious ‘truths’. Speakers in this plenary session will deal with these issues by exploring both theoretical and empirical facets.


Corinne VALASIK, EHESS, Centre d’Études Interdisciplinaires de Faits Religieux, Paris, France
Nancy T. AMMERMAN, Department of Sociology, Boston University, Boston.
Discussant: François MABILLE, Institut Catholique de Paris, France

Plenary 2 - Religious Pluralism as a Challenge for Contemporary Society

Religious pluralism affects many sectors of society. Ranging from the challenge to individuals and families of religious intermarriage to the presumed threats that religious pluralism poses to national identities, religious diversity increasingly demands social responses. Areas of recent concern include: the growing need for governments to manage conflicting demands from religious and non-religious groups and communities; the necessity that the mass media understand diverse religious viewpoints; issues in state education regarding religious themes; equal, but sensitive treatment of religious organisations by the law; the growing relevance of religious beliefs in professional training and the implications in the wider social sphere; the shifting roles which religious communities and outlooks play in the political realm. This plenary session will consider aspects of these challenges and explore the responses of the various parties involved.


Barbara THÉRIAULT, Département de Sociologie, Université de Montréal, Canada
Fenggang YANG, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University, USA.
Discussant: Jim BECKFORD, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK

Please see the ISSR's website for more details