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A Cost/Benefit Analysis of Religion's Effects in Society
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social construction
critical thinking
guided discussion
religious benefit to societies
religious harm to societies

How to Cite

Peretz, Tal. (2015) 2023. “A Cost/Benefit Analysis of Religion’s Effects in Society”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, November. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


This classroom activity is a multi-stage guided discussion about religion. It introduces sociological ways of considering religion, using students’ existing collective knowledge about different religions and their effects on society. By allowing them to express their own views on the social influence of religion and intentionally beginning with an overly...

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Subject Area(s):
Resource Type(s):
Class Activity
Class Level(s):
Any Level
Class Size(s):

Usage Notes

I conduct this activity early in a particular course's consideration of religion, and refer back to it as a reminder of how to critically consider religion's structural effects, or how to take a sociological perspective on religion. It requires a chalk/whiteboard, takes between 45-75 minutes, and works well in small or larger classes. It can be expanded...

Download this resource to see full details. Download this resource to see full details.

Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. To introduce students to thinking about religion from a sociological perspective instead of a faith-based one, viewing religion as a social construction, a set of institutions, a resource mobilized by social actors, and an instantiation of power.
  2. to assist students in considering the structural effects of religion and provide practice in thinking about religion structurally instead of individualistically.
  3. to walk students through a discussion of religion that moves beyond a simplistic binary of good or bad, instead considering religion in more critical, sociological ways.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. As this is an in-class activity, student learning is assessed primarily through visible student understanding and vocal response during the activity.
  2. The activity can be expanded to include a written follow-up assignment that ask students to reflect on the activity, give examples of how religion gets constructed and used, and/or give examples of how power dynamics are implicit in religion's functions.
  3. Assessment could also be included in later quizzes, exams, etc.

When using resources from TRAILS, please include a clear and legible citation.

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