Empiricism, Symbolic Realism, and the Mystique of the Extreme

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1981


The purpose of this paper is to point out the false dichotomy that exists in sociological thinking in general, and in the sociology of religion in particular, between objective and subjective methods and data. A kind of mystique surrounds the perceived dichotomy between quantitative and qualitative approaches, epitomized in the sociology of religion by the work of Charles Glock in contrast to that of Robert Bellah. This extremist mystique clouds perception and prevents recognition of the complementary, not merely cooperative, relationship that must exist between empiricism and symbolic realism.