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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2021
Aug 07, 2022
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SOCI 136 - Religion & Society
TR 12:30 – 1:45pm
WAL 394

In this course we shall survey the systematic and dynamic ways in which religion and the social order relate to, support, and transform each other.  The course is by design broadly comparative--including many regions and some anthropological studies--but most of our empirical readings will focus on the extraordinary religious diversity and dynamism found in the United States.   The course is divided into three large sections.  (1) First we will encounter both classic and modern versions of perhaps “the” master idea in the sociology of religion, that which asserts a rising tide of secularization in the modern era, while also reading vigorous rebuttals to that viewpoint.  That viewpoint and that debate will allow us to encounter a wide variety of comparative data about religious belief and practice, while also introducing us to some of the most important theoretical viewponts.  Since the idea of “secularization” (or its opposite, “revival”) touches multiple levels of existence, we will consider how it might “play out” at the macro, or society-wide, level, at the meso-level of religion’s linkages to other institutions of life, and at the most micro-level of our individual identities and social positions.  (2) The second part of the course will dwell on the startling patterns of religious diversity (and change) found recently within the United States, with richer reporting than that found elsewhere this term.  The historically increasing "churching" of Americans since 1776 we will treat in great detail, as the main way of exploring both theory and the empirical variants of Christianity.  Here, too, the subject matter allows us to deal with other theoretical approaches to religion not encountered in the previous part of the course, notably ideas about religious “switching” during the life course, and the impact of “religious marketplaces” on religious changes.   (3) The final, long section of the course will focus on the historical and comparative analysis of religious beliefs and practices, a subject that will take us to many different times and places.  We consider views which causally explain religion itself as an outgrowth of social forces, including one feminist version and a Durkeimian variant by Guy Swanson, where he comparatively interprets religious belief-systems across 50 different “traditional” societies.  We then examine the typically rapid spread of both early Christianity and of Islam; and for both we will consider local variants produced by their adaptation to different settings (e.g., the U.S. and Morocco and Indonesia).    Here we will finally spend a little more time on the religious patterns of Europe and other locales, including Canada and Latin America.  
There will be two exams, each covering one half of the course; these will contribute 80% of your final grade.  The remaining 20% of the grade will depend on your level of and commitment to class attendance and participation, including in-class presentations on the readings.

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

Sociology Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

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