Austrian-born distinguished sociologist and founding director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs (CURA) at Boston University, Professor Peter Berger, has died at the age of 88.
According to an announcement from Boston University, “Prof. Peter Berger was an eminent sociologist whose prolific writings on sociological theory, the sociology of religion and Third World development have been translated in many languages.”
Berger founded CURA in 1985 and directed it until 2009. Today, the institute continues to conduct research projects throughout the world to study the effects of religion and values on political, economic and public ethical developments around the world.
He was the author of several books, including Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience (1997); The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty Propositions About Prosperity, Equality and Liberty (1988); Modernity, Pluralism and the Crisis of Meaning (1995); and, most notably, The Social Construction of Reality (1966).
Upon hearing the news of Berger’s death, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted recognition for the man whom he most often cited, calling him “perhaps the most influential social thinker of our times.”
A self-professed “liberal Lutheran,” Berger’s contributions to the study of sociology and religion were groundbreaking. He questioned popular assumptions about the decline of religious belief, stating that modernity does not produce the decline of religion; in reality, modernity produces too many gods—different worldviews and value systems.
Dean of the Boston University School of Theology, Mary Elizabeth Moore, said of Berger, “Peter’s legacy runs deep and wide in multiple fields, especially the sociology of religion, sociology of knowledge and theology. His work has been groundbreaking for a vast range of people wrestling with thorny questions of human culture, religion, secularity and meaning.”
According to BU, Berger was born in Vienna, Austria, and immigrated to the United States after World War II. He was married to Brigitte Kellner until her death in 2015. She was also a well-known sociologist who served on the faculty at Boston University.