VIII - “If the Religion of Rome Becomes Ours”: Religious Diversity, Subcultural Conflict, and Denominational Realignment  pp. 134-149

“If the Religion of Rome Becomes Ours”: Religious Diversity, Subcultural Conflict, and Denominational Realignment

By Kevin J. Christiano

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Analyses of historical Census data reported in the previous chapter revealed that a highly differentiated urban moral order, as indicated by religious diversity, acted under certain circumstances to reduce levels of church membership over time in turn-of-the-century American cities. The rise of the city, and the role it acquired as a magnet for and haven to diverse groups, presumably weakened (in the religious realm at least) what is thought by some to constitute the source of social integration for any smaller population: namely, a consensus of its members on basic values and ultimate commitments.

Recent writing on urbanism has challenged the view that cities are integrated in the same manner as are social collectivities of smaller scale–by value consensus–and that, in the absence of such consensus, order is maintained solely by the unstinting application of legitimate coercion. Claude S. Fischer (1975b: 1337), for example, disputes the notion that city dwellers are unified either by “sharing a common ‘social world’” or “by the formal instruments of an anomic ‘mass society.’” Rather, his research on public opinion data (e.g., Fischer, 1975a) shows that there is, in fact, relatively little normative restraint enforced in urban environments. He suspects, instead, that “the integration which does exist is … based on exchange, negotiation, and conflict among the various subcultures of the city.”

This chapter transfers Fischer's supposition from the area of sociological theory to that of historical research on religion, and there supplies it with its first real substantiation.