Religion and Society Syllabus


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In this course we study religion as a social and cultural phenomenon, with a particular emphasis on the contemporary United States. We examine religious beliefs, practices, institutions and movements as they are shaped by their social context and in turn influence it. We also briefly discuss religious expression in other regions, including Europe and Latin America, to provide comparative perspective. As social scientists we try to approach religious traditions objectively, critically and in a value-free manner. We explore topics that include: how might we best define religion? What distinguishes it from other ideologies and worldviews? How can religiosity be measured in valid and reliable ways? Does religion disappear as a society "modernizes;" how might we best test this thesis? What trends are emerging on the U.S. religious landscape? Why do Americans seem to be more religious than citizens of other developed societies? How do the Amish maintain their identity and lifestyle in the United States today? What sociological insights can we gain from the study of new religions, and why do they experience so much hostility from the larger population? What is fundamentalism, and why does it seem to be resurgent on the global landscape?


Resource Type(s):
Kristin Park 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
College 300 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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For a semester-long course. The course is cross-listed as a Religion course. It is taken by Sociology majors and minors and Religion majors/World Religions concentration and Religion majors/Christian Tradition concentration, as well as by Religion minors. The course also fulfills a college distribution requirement in Religious and Philosophical...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
1) Analyze religious experience using sociological concepts, theories, measures and data. 2. Describe and analyze several religious traditions (different from one or more in which you may have been raised) in an objective and value-free manner.
Assessment 1:
1.Exams, reading study questions, Socratic seminar, term paper, Fundamentalism paper, mini-assignment on religiosity measures, mini-assignment on secularization thesis evaluation 2. Religion in the news reports, term project, Socratic seminar, exams.
Goal 2:
3.Summarize and evaluate the substantive and functionalist debates in defining religion and create your own preliminary definition. 4.Classify religious collectivities using the revised church-sect typology.
Assessment 2:
3.Exam, mini-assignment on measuring religiosity 4. Exam, term project paper. 5. Exam, term project paper.
Goal 3:
5.Summarize and critique functionalist theories (Durkheim, Bellah) and Marxist and Weberian theories on how religion contributes to social cohesion, social conflict and control and social change

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