A third public sociologist of religion died this spring: Otto Maduro. Like Robert Bellah and Andrew Greeley, Otto went beyond just describing religion’s role in social life; he also spoke as a public intellectual, calling us to live up to our higher ideals. Otto was a prominent socologist of religion in Latin America and Europe, as well as in the U.S. He was the first ever Hispanic President of the American Academy of Religion, the author of five books in five languages and over a hundred articles published in a dozen languages on five continents. Despite his fame, he never spoke for the established order. Instead, he spoke for the marginalized and the oppressed. He sought social transformation for the poor, for women, for people of color, and for all those whom mainstream society had left aside. His was a prophetic voice, as well as a scholarly one. He used his skills to bring positive change. In doing so, he inspired and led us.
Otto was born in Venezuela in 1945, the son of two lawyers, each of working-class origins. He often described being raised in an intense intellectual atmosphere, but one with at best an ambivalent attitude toward religion. He studied briefly for the priesthood … [click link to continue]