ASR was originally founded on March 26, 1938, on the campus of Loyola University Chicago as the American Catholic Sociological Society (ACSS). On that date, a group of approximately 35 sociologists was convened by Ralph A. Gallagher, S.J., a Jesuit priest and professor of sociology at Loyola, to discuss, in Gallagher’s words, “the need for concerted action on the part of our Catholic institutions of higher learning in the field of social thought and action.” Members of the original group seemed primarily concerned about how sociology could be more emphasized and better integrated in the curricula of their religiously affiliated colleges and universities. Within its first year, the Society quickly grew to include approximately 100 members and decided to hold annual meetings and publish a journal titled The American Catholic Sociological Review (ACSR).
During the early years, some members were drawn to the Society out of a desire to practice a sociology that was informed by their religious beliefs and values, particularly the Church’s expanding social teachings. Others wanted to devote their skills as sociologists to the service of the Church by conducting applied research. Still others were interested primarily in studying the role of religion in society more broadly. A reading of the early journal articles reveals that some of the original members perceived mainstream American sociology as hostile toward religion, and so they sought to establish a distinctly “Catholic sociology.” But by the late 1950s, this separatist instinct was waning, and increasing numbers of ACSS members recognized that although their religious faith might influence the substantive topics they chose to investigate, religious faith was not the basis for a different type of sociology (good empirical sociology was good empirical sociology).
As a sign of their desire to better integrate themselves with mainstream sociology, ACSS members voted overwhelmingly in 1958 to change the time and place of the annual meeting to coincide with that of the American Sociological Association, and within a few years, they voted to change the name of the journal from ACSR to Sociological Analysis: A Journal in the Sociology of Religion to reflect the increasing breadth of articles in the sociology of religion. Although the Society retained its original name for several years after the journal was renamed, by the beginning of the 1970s, it was clear that Catholic sociologists were increasingly assimilated into the main body of sociologists and that the Society’s membership and their scholarly pursuits were less sectarian. In 1970, the members voted to change the name of the society to the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR), and in 1993 the journal was renamed Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review. Over the last few decades, ASR’s membership has become increasingly diverse and international, which has added to the vibrancy of our Association and the quality of our intellectual exchanges at the Annual Meetings and in our journal.
– James Cavendish, Executive Officer (2012-2016)