Dr. Paul Froese, associate professor of sociology at Baylor University, was awarded the 2009 Distinguished Book prize on Friday from the Society for Scientific Study of Religion for his book about religious repression in the Soviet Union.
Froese received his award at the society's annual meeting in Denver. The book is The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization (University of California Press). In it, Froese examined religious faith during the most massive atheism campaign in history, which occurred after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Soviet plans for a Marxist society would have eradicated all religion. While the Soviet Union was effective in wiping out ritual and institutional expressions of religion, faith persisted, Froese said.
"I am very honored by this award," Froese said. "I worked on this project for many years, and this recognition from my peers makes me feel that it was not a wasted effort.
"I have also tried hard to make my book interesting and enjoyable to non-academics because I feel that we all can learn a lot from the history of religious repression in the Soviet Union," he said. "Too often Americans decry secular threats to their religion, when in reality we live in a country where religion enjoys unparalleled freedoms. "
Dr. Charles Tolbert, chair and professor of sociology at Baylor University, said he was delighted to learn of the honor.
"The department has been building for several years in the area of the sociology of religion," Tolbert said. "The faculty members we have brought here include distinguished religion scholars and rising stars like Paul, who was just promoted and tenured last year. He began his career at Baylor as an assistant professor and wrote the book while teaching and mentoring our students.
"It has been a pleasure to watch Paul develop as a teacher, colleague, and scholar who now richly merits a distinguished book award," Tolbert said.
Dr. Rodney Stark, co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, described Froese's book as "a wonderful book that will break the hearts of Richard Dawkins and all the other angry atheists. After more than 70 years of intensive educational efforts and brutal persecution of religion, there were no fewer believers in Russia than in the United States."
Catholic priest/author/sociologist Andrew Greeley wrote in the book's flap that many social scientists had assumed that religion in the Soviet Union was "simply given a temporary reprieve and would shortly succumb to 'secularization.' Professor Froese demolishes this assumption."
The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion was founded in 1949 to promote scientific research about religious experiences and institutions. It fosters the collaboration of scholars in the fields of sociology, political science, psychology, religious studies and economics.