Tales from a Life in the Sociology of Religion


  • Gary Bouma Monash University




Religion and society, sociology of religion, religious diversity, history of sociology, religion and public policy


From structural functionalism and social realism to a vastly different sociology and social context, keeping up with changes within the profession and in the object of study, society, has been a challenge. A burning desire to use what is known to build a better society and enhance the lives of all, but especially those less fortunate and trapped in structures of poverty, discrimination or abuse, has provided an ongoing motivation to discover what is and to work to make real what might be. In pursuing social justice, which is always a pursuit, I have found both sociology and theology, critically and tentatively received, to be very helpful. An allergy to the doctrinaire developed very early persists to the present as diversity continues to delight and enliven.

Author Biography

Gary Bouma, Monash University

Gary D. Bouma AM is the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations—Asia Pacific, and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Monash University. He is an Associate Priest in the Anglican parish of St John’s East Malvern. His research in the sociology of religion examines the management of religious diversity in plural multicultural societies, education about religions and worldviews, postmodernity as a context for doing theology, religion and terror, religion and public policy. Author or co-author of over 25 books and 380 articles, he has been invested as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to Sociology, to Interreligious Relations and to the Anglican Church of Australia.


Appleby, R. Scott 2000 The Ambiguity of Religion: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation. Rowman and Littlefield, New York.

Bouma, Gary 1968 Development and Change in Occupations: A Model and an Analysis. The Cornell Journal of Social Relations 3(2): 72–84.

1970 Is There a Religious Factor? A thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Cornell University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

1971 Assessing the Impact of Religion: A Critical Review. Sociological Analysis 31: 172–79. https://doi.org/10.2307/3710086

1979 The ‘Real’ Reason One Conservative Church Grew. Review of Religious Research 20: 127–37. https://doi.org/10.2307/3509971

1980 Keeping the Faithful: Patterns of Membership Retention in the Christian Reformed Church. Sociological Analysis 41: 259–64. https://doi.org/10.2307/3710402

1992 Religion: Meaning, Transcendence and Community in Australia. Longman Cheshire, Melbourne.

1993 Religious Identification in Australia: 1981–1991. People and Place 1(2): 13–17.

1994 Mosques and Muslim Settlement in Australia. Bureau of Immigration and Population Research, Canberra.

1995 The Emergence of Religious Plurality in Australia, a Multicultural Society. Sociology of Religion 56: 285–302. https://doi.org/10.2307/3711824

1997 Many Religions: All Australian: Religious Settlement, Identity and Cultural Diversity. CRA, Melbourne.

2006 Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

2011 Being Faithful in Diversity: Religions and Social Policy in Multifaith Societies. Australasian Theological Forum, Adelaide.

2012 Church’s Fight to Control Marriage. The Age, June 19. Online: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/churchs-fight-to-control-marriage-20120618-20k81.html (accessed July 9, 2019).

2013 Marriage Equality is Next in the Long Struggle for Inclusion. ABC Religion & Ethics. Online: https://www.abc.net.au/religion/marriage-equality-is-next-in-the-long-struggle-for-inclusion/10099890 (accessed July 9, 2019).

2014 Twenty Years of Change? Women’s Ministry in the Anglican Church of Australia. St Mark’s Review 228(2): 58–64.

2017a The Reality and Goodness of Same-Sex Love Demands the Extension of Marriage Rites. ABC Religion and Ethics, August 16. Online: https://www.abc.net.au/religion/the-reality-and-goodness-of-same-sex-love-demands-the-extension-/10095504 (accessed July 9, 2019).

2017b Religions—Lived and Packaged—Viewed through an Intercultural Prism. In Interculturalism at the Crossroads: Comparative Perspectives on Concepts, Policies and Practices, edited by Fethi Mansouri, 127–42. UNESCO Publishing, Paris.

Bouma, Gary, and Robert Battey 1966 Social Stratification and Religious Behaviour. Dimension 4: 23–38.

Bouma, Gary, and Wilma Bouma 1975 Fertility Control: Canada’s Lively Social Problem. Longmans, Toronto.

Bouma, Gary, and Beverly Dixon 1986 The Religious Factor in Australian Life. MARC, Melbourne.

Bouma, Gary, and Anna Halafoff 2017 Australia’s Changing Religious Profile—Rising Nones and Pentecostals, Declining British Protestants in Superdiversity: Views from the 2016 Census. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 30: 129–43. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.34826

Dunlap, Bridgette 2016 How Clergy Set the Standard for Abortion Care. The Atlantic, May 29. Online: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/how-the-clergy-innovated-abortion-services/484517/ (accessed July 9, 2019).

Hayes, Donald, Leo Meltzer and Gary Bouma 1968 Activity as a Determinant of Interpersonal Perception. Proceedings, 76th Annual Convention. American Psychological Association, 417–18.

Howland, Margaret E. 2017 My Story with the Clergy Consultation Service. A Curious Faith: Explorations and Meditations by Hudson River Presbyterians and Friends. Online: https://hudrivprescuriousfaith.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/my-story-with-the-clergy-consultation-service/ (accessed July 9, 2018).

Lynd, Robert, and Helen Lynd 1929 Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture. Harcourt and Brace, New York.

1937 Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts. Harcourt and Brace, New York.

Meltzer, Leo, Donald Hayes and Gary Bouma 1975 Patterns of Vocalization and Impression Formation. Semiotica 13(2): 113–29.

Myrdall, Gunner 1944 An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. Harpers, New York.

Niebuhr, Reinhold 1929 Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. Willett, Clark & Colby, Chicago.

Richman-Abdou, Kelly 2017 Jacob Riis: The Photographer Who Showed “How the Other Half Lives” in 1890s NYC. Martino, Eastford, CT. Online: https://mymodernmet.com/jacob-riis-how-the-other-half-lives/ (accessed July 1, 2019).

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Swanson, Guy 1966 The Birth of the Gods. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Thomas, Scot 2005 The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century. Palgrave, New York.

Tumin, Melvin 1967 Social Stratification: The Forms and Functions of Inequality. Prentice-Hall, New York.



How to Cite

Bouma, G. (2020). Tales from a Life in the Sociology of Religion. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 32(2-3), 117–130. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.39634