A few months ago, IPSP authors Nancy Ammerman and Grace Davie issued a wide-ranging call for comments on the first draft of the IPSP report. As the Coordinating Lead Authors of Chapter 16, entitled « Religions and Social Progress, » they invited the community of sociologists of religion to read and comment on the chapter. They posted on The Immanent Frame, a prominent blog and discussion forum run through the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)’s program on Religion in the Public Sphere.

Now Drs. Ammerman and Davie, along with David Smilde, have collected and published some of the comments that they have received. In the latest post on The Immanent Frame, five sociologists and scholars of religion respond to Chapter 16 the IPSP report.

Several respondents praised the chapter’s novel approach to religion and social progress, as well as its thoroughness and attention to balance:

This impressive initiative is a significant step toward a fresh agenda that reframes the whole subject…It offers a very useful framework for other researchers to complement, challenge, and deepen the authors’ analysis. (Alexander Wilde, American University)

The chapter on “Religions and social progress” points to an urgent need: for religious and secular progressives to come together to discuss social progress and movement toward societies in which all can flourish…It is precisely such an approach that is too often missing in contemporary discussions of religion. (Rachel Rinaldo, University of Colorado–Boulder)

Ammerman, Davie, and their crew of highly qualified and respected coauthors have produced a significant document. It achieves significant things in terms of both scope and depth, and points to streams of research of which I was unaware…It is testimony to their good work that we see how much there is still to do. (Rhys H. Williams, Loyola University–Chicago)

Other respondents noted parts of the chapter that need further or clearer analysis:

One aspect not directly discussed in the chapter, though it comes up a few times, is the role of state policies in creating sociopolitical locations for religious groups. In my own work, I have begun to see the importance of religion not just as belief, culture, and social affiliation, but as group location. (Prema Kurien, Syracuse University)

The chapter is important, and I hope it gets a wide reading…Here’s the « but »: What does it mean to progress?…There seemed to be an implicit assumption throughout the text—despite careful acknowledgements otherwise—that social progress means a gradual acceptance of particular Western liberal norms. (Jeff Guhin, UCLA)

Click here to read the responses in full.

The IPSP report remains open for public comment. Click here to read the first draft of Chapter 16, and here to access the rest of the report.