Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



American Journal of Sociology Jul 2014, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp. 299 - 301.


Research on the relationship between religion and health is rapidly becoming a core area in the sociology of religion. Much of this research is quantitative, focusing on associations between indicators of religiosity and both physical and mental health. Little research, however, explores the treatment of religion and spirituality in existing medical institutions. With urbanization, longer life spans, the decline of dangerous jobs, and other social changes, we are spending far more time in hospitals than we used to; as Wendy Cadge notes, we are considerably more likely to die in hospitals than we used to be. The growing prevalence and length of hospital stays combined with increasing religious diversity force us to ask how medical professionals address religion in contemporary, secular hospitals. This question is the focus of Cadge’s Paging God.

Drawing on historical records, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic work in 17 large, academic hospitals, Cadge explores the ways that medical professionals deal with religion in their daily work. The narrative includes stories highlighting key points, such as an account of a dying Buddhist monk in the opening pages. Most of her data, however, come from her time shadowing a chaplain in one hospital, interviews with chaplains, administrators, physicians, and nurses in several hospitals, and time spent with the staff of two intensive care units (ICUs). While there is no formal division, the book has two relatively distinct parts.