David G. Bromley is Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology in the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. After completing an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Colby College, I pursued graduate work in Sociology at Duke University, earning a Ph.D. in 1971. During and after my graduate work at Duke, I served on the faculty at the University of Virginia in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I returned to Virginia when I joined the VCU faculty in 1983 as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. In the intervening years, I served as Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington and as Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at the University of Hartford.
During the early part of my career, I worked in the areas of Urban Sociology, Political Sociology, Social Movements, the Sociology of Deviance, and Criminology. It was my interest in Social Movements and Deviance that led to my initial research on contemporary religious movements and then, more broadly, in the Sociology of Religion. My current work focuses predominantly on religion and religious movements.
I am author or editor on over twenty books, mostly in the areas of religion and religious movements, with a primary interest in contemporary religious movements. In addition, I have authored many journal articles and book chapters in this area. This work includes research on a number of new religious movements, such as Unificationism and Scientology, and theoretical issues, such as conversion/defection processes, constructing typologies of religious groups, structural factors in the emergence of new forms of religion, and the connection between religion and violence. I am currently preparing a second edition of Cults and New Religions: A Brief History (Wiley/Blackwell, 2006), co-authored with Douglas Cowan. The first edition has now been translated into German, Japanese, and Czech editions. My next major project will be a book, Dangerous Religion , that explores the potential and peril of organizing marginal populations in a religious mode.
One way that I have sought to advance the study of new religious movements by bringing together leading scholars who study new religions to address both research and pedagogical issues. For example, Teaching New Religious Movements (Oxford University Press, 2007) is a volume that is part of Oxford’s “Teaching Religious Studies” series. The book seeks to further creativity in teaching about new expressions of religion by providing faculty with state of the art knowledge and classroom techniques to enhance their teaching. In Cults, Religion, and Violence (Cambridge University Press, 2001), I worked with J. Gordon Melton to bring together an international set of scholars who addressed the complex issue of violence through case studies of some of the most high profile cases of violence involving new religious movements in the late twentieth century. In The Satanism Scare (Aldine de Gruyter, 1991), I collaborated with James Richardson and Joel Best in bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to analyze the rise and fall of a major social panic episode over putative subversive satanic cults that swept through the United States and a number of other nations during the 1980s.
Another major project that I am currently developing to advance the study of religious movements is the World Religions and Spirituality Project. WRSP is an online reference work that is assembling a range of resources that are useful to scholars, media representatives, religious leaders, and government agencies with an interest in religious organization. The core of WRSP is WRSP Profiles of religious groups authored by leading scholars from around the world. WRSP also offers the WRSP Forum, which sponsors interviews with key figures in the study of religion; an Articles/Papers section, which supplements the WRSP Profiles; an Archive section, which contains a listing of archival sources available to scholars as well as on-site primary sources; and an WRSP Videos section, which supplements texts with online video materials.
In scholarly associations, I have served as President of the Association for the Association of Religion and as Editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion , published by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 1991, I founded the annual series, Religion and the Social Order , which is sponsored by the Association for the Sociology of Religion. The series was established to address both theoretical and substantive emerging issues in the sociological study of religion. I edited the series, and several individual volumes, through its first ten volumes. Twenty-three volumes have now been published, currently through Brill Publishers.
My teaching has involved both more traditional lecture/discussion and more innovative experiential learning modalities. In all of my courses I emphasize sociological analysis that emphasizes a structural, critical orientation. I have been particularly interested in integrating teaching and scholarly activities in a way that foster student participation within this context. White Racism and Black Americans (Schenkman/General Learning Press, 1972) developed out of a teaching project with Charles Longino at the University of Virginia. Students read and evaluated over 1,000 articles and books to produce a book that they designed to be most informative on structural racism in America. More recently, I developed the World Religions in Richmond Project. WRR is an online resource that identifies and profiles the diverse array of religious traditions present in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area. Students in Religious Studies and Sociology conduct fieldwork and draft profiles of Richmond-area religious groups. WRR has compiled an extensive set of group profiles and has been accepted as an affiliate of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University.