This course is designed to provide an opportunity for the student to develop a general sociological understanding and perspective with which to evaluate, interpret, and understand religion and religious institutions. This IS NOT a course in religious theology, nor will we be concerned with identifying the “truth” or “falsity” of religion in general or specific religions in particular. In short, we will confine ourselves to the scientific study of religion and not attempt to pass judgments about which religions are better or worse, true or false.We will begin by looking at how religion has been traditionally defined and how it differs from magic. We will also discuss some of the world‟s major religious traditions, the role of belief, values, and symbols, how and why people decide to join a religion and what happens when they decide to leave, how religious organizations form and are maintained, the link between religion and social inequality (in regards to race and gender), whether religion is diminishing in light of the advancement of science, and various contemporary expressions of religion (cults, civil religion, and fundamentalism). We will end by discussing the implications of the commodification of religion.
Private College or University Institution Type
Syllabus Resource Type
Undergraduate Course Class Type
2010 Date Published
Religious Studies, History, Sociology Discipline
General Comparative Traditions Religous Tradition
Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity Topics