The Context of Religion and Superior Methodology:
Summary of 2011 Workshop on the Chinese Spirituality and Society Program
In the summer of 2011, for an entire month, the Research Training Workshop of the “Chinese Spirituality and Society Program” held by the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, unfolded a series of lectures and discussions revolving around the subjects of the study of Chinese religion and society.
Among these lectures and discussions, Professor Fenggang Yang’s lecture on the theory and methodology of the sociology of religion, Professor Corwin Smidt’s American politics, religion, and civil society, Professor Carsten Vala’s religious politics, civil society, and study of Chinese religion, and the study of religious space by Professors George Hong and Shuming Bao, expanded the scholarly scope of the known fields and inspired discussion on significant problems with the theories and practices as they encompass the research and analytical methods of the fields of sociology of religion and social science.
These courses covered the areas of spiritual capital, religious belief, attitudes on religion, religious psychology, religious behavior, religious politics, religion and American society, religion and American participation in public life, religion and American foreign policy, the study of religious politics, religious space, and methodology of religious study.
In terms of contemporary Chinese religion and social transition, and the problems and challenges of Chinese religious study, the curriculum (of the summer workshop) offered a further understanding of the phenomenon of Chinese religion as well as more advanced methodology in turning theories of related fields into practices. Especially intriguing were the free exchange of the research interests and accumulated knowledge of the participating scholars and the exceedingly active participation in the courses and even vehement debates on various subjects. One may say that it was the inspiration of theory, expansion of scholarly scope, and mutual exchange of research experiences that characterized the curriculum of this workshop, which was a unique interaction of thought in the field of social scientific study of religion. Its significance and value will have a profound and lasting impact on the progress of the topics of individual scholars, as well as the construction of the disciplines of Chinese sociology of religion and Chinese social scientific study of religion.
The pursuit of a scientific methodology and a universal scholarly model as a prevailing concept of the value of the methodology of social scientific study of religion or sociology of religion have been established since Max Weber raised the concept of “value neutrality.” Based on this pursuit, we hope our efforts will cross over the differences of religions, societies, states, and even ideologies to grapple with the problems of religious belief related to all these differences in order to move the studies of sociology of religion and social science to the territory of international academic study.
In spite of the heat of August in the mid summer, we felt the refreshing breeze of wisdom. With the passing of time, the intense and in-depth lectures and discussion took root in the minds of every participating scholar. This is because the curriculum managed to fully present religion in its context and the superiority of methodology. It seemed to ask each scholar to go beyond the bondage of context, to master the deeper significance of each research topic in context, and to eventually produce scholarly results of superior methodology and universal model. This workshop in the summer of 2011 is a great beginning. In the coming year, I anticipate the progress of our research will grow deeper and will further enrich the scientifi c methodology.