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SO 328 Sociology of Religion
Reitz, Roland


Mission Statement: The mission of Park University, an entrepreneurial institution of learning, is to provide access to academic excellence, which will prepare learners to think critically, communicate effectively and engage in lifelong learning while serving a global community.

Vision Statement: Park University will be a renowned international leader in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global society.

Course

SO 328 Sociology of Religion

Semester

U1T 2009 DL

Faculty

Reitz, Roland

Title

Adjunct Faculty

Degrees/Certificates

B.A. Psychology
Master of Divinity
Doctor of Ministry

Office Location

Online

Office Hours

By Appointment

Daytime Phone

701-775-3261

Other Phone

701-740-5531

E-Mail

roland.reitz@park.edu

drreitz@gra.midco.net

drreitz@gra.midco.net

Semester Dates

June -- July 2009

Class Days

TBA

Class Time

online

Credit Hours

3


Textbook:

Religion in the Contemporary World, 2nd Edition
Alan Aldridge
Polity Press, Malden, Massachusettes, 2007
ISBN: 9780745634043
 
Gods in the Global Village, 2nd Edition
Lester Kurtz
Pine Forge Press, July 2006
ISBN: 9781412927154

Textbooks can be purchased through the MBS bookstore

Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore

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Course Description:
SO 328 Sociology of Religion: Sociological analysis of religious organizations, movements, and experiences with an emphasis on historical and cross-cultural comparisons. The course surveys both large-scale religious trends, and demographic patterns and the social and cultural dimensions of individual religious feelings organizations, religious socialization, religious conflict, relations with other institutions, the world wide rise of fundamentalism; and the future of religion. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:

I believe learning is an interactive process that includes lecture, reading, application, and dialogue. I see my role in this learning process primarily as a facilitator. My goal is to facilitate your learning. To accomplish this goal I will provide required readings, relevant lectures to highlight core learning objectives, and discussion questions to guide the discussion.

Learning will be determined by your involvement. 24% of your grade will be based on participation in weekly discussions. I will read and respond to the discussion threads regularly.

The on-line environment provides opportunities for non-linear discussions. Discussions can grow throughout the week rather than being restricted to a one hour class. On-line classes allow for greater diversity of students, with students literally around the world. This increases our opportunity to learn from a diverse group impossible in a traditional classroom. I encourage you to be regularly involved in the discussions.

36% of your grade is from weekly assessment papers to be placed in the drop box. These require you to demonstrate application of the Core Learning Objectives -- effects of religion, role religions play in society, how religion contributes to social stability, religion’s impact on social policy. The intent of the weekly assignments is for you to apply the key concepts from the week to contemporary issues. Understanding the key concepts is valuable for your continued study, important for the weekly assignment, and essential for the final exam. 

The Core Learning Assessment is 20% of your grade requiring you to conduct original independent research applying the sociological principles you have learned. The final is 20% of your grade demonstrating your cognitive grasp of the objectives.

Practice exercises are provided to offer an enjoyable, and optional, opportunity to apply the readings and discussions. These exercises should not cause you any stress.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the major social functions and dysfunctions of religion
  2. Evaluate the effects of religious groups on social policies and the larger society
  3. Predict current trends in religion into the near future and explain their possible consequences
  4. Critique specific religious organizations and movements according to the church-cult continuum.
  5. Analyze the role of religions in social conflicts and their contributions to social stability
  6. Explain the group dynamics and social psychological effects of religious forms
Class Assessment:
Participation

Respond to weekly discussion threads. Every week you are expected to enter an initial post to each question thread (FAQ? not required) by Wednesday at midnight. The initial discussion posts need to be a balance of research and opinion. I expect you to back up your beliefs and opinions with solid research and information from your textbooks, other books/journals, and the internet. By Sunday at midnight you need to have responded to other students posts for a total of five substantitive comments to the discussion threads for full points for the week. (This is a total of five posts; not five per question. However, there must be at least an initial post to each discussion thread for full points) Each initial post is expected to be a minimum of 200 words.

BOTH initial posts need to have two supporting citations within the post and the reference cited listed at the end of the post. One reference must be from a source other than your textbooks or lectures.
  30 points x 8 weeks = 240 points

Assessment Papers

 
         Demonstrate application of sociological concepts each week for the first six weeks. Each paper is 1-2 pages. While these papers are an opportunity to express one's opinions and conclusions, these opinions and conclusions will be supported (or contrasted) by the readings and lectures. These papers provide the opportunity to synthesize course learnings with life experience. Synthesis of key concepts from the week with current events and/or life experience is essential to earn full points. Papers will be APA format (though a title page is not required). Scholarly writing, with correct spelling and grammar are expected for full points. 60 points x 6 weeks = 360 points

Core Learning Assessment

 Core Learning Assessment - Approximately 3000 word (10 page) paper analyzing a religious community apart from your own. This project will require attendance at a religious service distinct from your own faith practice, interviewing members and clerics from that faith community, studying their own faith literature, and responding sociologically to that material. Use of resources, and documenting your references according to APA format is important. Establish how the community interacts with society and what sociological functions the community serves for its members and for the larger community. Consideration of key concepts from the course should be included. Concepts you may want to address in your paper include how the faith is world-affirming, world-rejecting, or world accommodating; how it is responding to secularism, multiculturalism, and modernity; the rise of fundamentalism etc. Remember the sociological approaches to studying religion discussed week one. Also, pay attention to the Core Learning Assessment rubric. The Core Learning Assessment = 200 points.

 Final exam: 50 question multiple choice test = 200 points.

Grading:

Participation/Weekly discussions -- 30 points per week x 8 weeks = 240 points
 
Weekly Assessment Papers -- 60 points x 6 assignments = 360 points

Core Learning Assessment -- 200 points

Final Exam -- 200 points

 

A = 900-1000    90%-100%

B = 800-899      80%-89%

C = 700-799      70%-79%

D = 600-699      60%-69%

F = <600           <60%    

Late Submission of Course Materials:
 

In accordance with University policy. Late work is not accepted without prior arrangements being made with the instructor.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
Please see University policy and follow appropriate netiquette practice. Additionally, as this is a course about the sociology of religion it is essential that respect be shown for different religious perspectives. Derogatory or defamatory remarks about other's faiths cannot and will not be tolerated. To facilitate learning about the sociology of religion it is important to be able to share and discuss various faith systems in an environment that allows for the free expression of religious beliefs and opinions. This is not a forum to proselytize or attempt to evangelize. This is a forum to learn from other's experiences, traditions, faiths, and backgrounds. This is also a forum to recognize the roles provided by various faiths.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:
 

Week 1 – The Challenge of Diversity

                 Defining Religion

Reading:
 
               1.       Kurtz, chapter 1 – Religious Life in the Global Village
    1. Aldridge, chapter 1 & 2 – Religions and the Challenge of Diversity

Assignment:

After reading chapter 2 in Aldridge, choose a definition of religion from a dictionary, internet, or other source and respond to the definition in a 1-2 page paper. The definition may be serious or humorous. Support your opinion of the definition of religion from your own experiences and from the readings and lecture. Be familiar with the concepts of inclusive vs. exclusive definitions of religion. Be familiar with how Marx, Weber, and Durkheim defined religion. Consider whether the definition is inclusive or exclusive. 60 points

Discussion:

1)      Recognize and identify the role your faith group has historically had in society. Understand and explain how your faith has interacted with society. Consider concepts from the reading including sacred canopy, religious marketplace, and elective affinity. How have these concepts effected your faith; or how has your faith reacted to them. What role has your faith played in social conflicts or social calm? Aldridge discusses how religions have traditionally answered some of life's fundamental questions including theodicy. What roles and what questions has your faith provided historically and in your life?

2)       Kurtz discusses religious life in the global village. Provide examples of how your faith has responded to the diversity in the religious marketplace. Share examples from your own life of how you have been impacted by the religious marketplace. Identify specific social changes (e.g. immigration, homosexual issues etc.) your faith group has dealt with and how that has changed your faith group.

By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:

1)      understand the challenge of defining religion

2)      provide a personal definition of religion

3)      explain the follow concepts: diversity, religious marketplace, sacred canopy, elective affinity

4)      apply dramaturgical, structural, institutional, and subjective approaches to studying faith
5)   identify inclusive versus exclusive definitions of religion
6)   know how Marx, Weber, and Durkheim defined religion

Week 2 -- Sociological Tour of Religions: Eastern Faiths

     Categories of Religions, Church-Cult Continuum

Reading:

    1. Kurtz, chapter 2 – A Sociological Tour: Turning East
    2. Aldridge, chapter 3 – Varieties of Religious Movements

Assignment:

Visit a worship service or activity sponsored by a faith group other than your own. Based on your observations write a one-two page sociological assessment. In the assessment reflect on the religious system including beliefs, structure, and organization. “Step outside” the religious organization and assess religious culture, hierarchy, socio-economic standing of the members, possible roles of the faith group in the community, and other relevant issues. Consider whether the faith group might be considered world-affirming, world-accommodating, or world-rejecting and why you would categorize them as such. Be sure to include personal reflection on your experience. You may wish to think in terms of structural, dramaturgical, institutional, or subjective mehtods of studying a faith group.

(You will examine two religious organizations during this course; this is your first opportunity to examine a religious organization during the course. One of the two religious organizations may be the basis for the Core Assessment due week 7.)

Discussion:

1)    Eastern Faiths include Hinudism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism and others. In today's religious marketplace experience with Eastern Faiths is common, whether that experience is personal, or via the internet or news. Discuss your experiences with Eastern Faiths, and questions and feedback concerning Eastern faiths. Where might these faiths, as you encountered them, be located along the world-affirming, world-accommodating, world-rejecting continuum?

 

2)      Analyze encounters you have had with various religious movements including groups society may consider cults. Be willing to share objectively those experiences and discuss the roles that religious movement may have in society consistent with the core learning outcomes. Consider where those religions would be located along the world-affirming, world-accommodating, world-rejecting continuum.
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Know what Hindu scriptures and basic beliefs
2)  Know how suffering is explained in various eastern faiths
3)  Identify the founder of Buddhism, and his key teachings
4)  Idenitfy distinctives between eastern faiths

Week 3 -- Sociological Tour of Religion: Western Faiths

     Rise of Fundamentalism

Reading:

    1. Kurtz, chapter 3 – The Tour: Judaism, Christianity, Islam
    2. Aldridge, chapter 6 – Fundamentalism

Assignment:

Analyze a current news report about a faith issue.  Critique the religious issues raised. Are there examples of fundamentalism? What does the article suggest about the role of faith in the context of the article? Does this suggest the faith/faith issue involved is an example of a world-affirming, world-accommodating, or world-rejecting faith? Is this an illustration of a sacred canopy, or of the religious marketplace? Is there an example of elective affinity? Why or why not? Connect the news story to the concepts we have learned in the first three weeks of the course. One to two pages required. 60 points.

Discussion:

1)      One of the responses to secularism has been the rise of fundamentalism. Discuss how fundamentalism has manifest itself in your area? How has your faith group/world view experienced the rise of fundamentalism? One may see fundamentalism in various denominations and religions. Reflect on this in the larger context of multiple beliefs not simply from your own faith background.
 
2)      Respond to chapter 3 in Kurtz. Discuss your agreement or disagreement with his comparison and contrast of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What similarities between the three faiths have you seen? What differences between the three faiths have you seen? 
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Know which of these three fiaths actively seek converts
2)  Identify the founder and key teachings of each faith 
3)  Be familiear with the five pillars of Islam
4)  Idenitfy fundamentalism
5)  Identify socail factors contributing to the spread of these faiths

Week 4 -- Civil Religion, Religion and politics, Religious ethos 

Reading:

    1. Kurtz, chapter 4 – The Religious Ethos
    2. Aldridge, chapter 7 – Civil Religion and Political Ritual

Assignment:

Observe a worship service or other event hosted by a religious organization apart from your own and write a one-two page sociological assessment. In the assessment reflect on the religious system including beliefs, structure, and organization. “Step outside” the religious organization and assess religious culture, hierarchy, socio-economic standing of the members, possible roles of the faith group in the community, and other relevant issues. You may want to discuss whether the group would be considered world-accommodating, world-rejecting, or world-affirming and why. Consider addressing the religious organization from dramaturgical, structural, institutional, and/or subjective method. Possible topics to discuss in the reflection paper include how fundamentalism or secularism have effected the religious organization; or how modernity and multiculturalism have impacted the organization. What is the religious organizations involvement in the community, and how are they percieved by the community? 1-2 pages. 60 points
 
Discussion:

1)      This week our authors discussed "civil religion." Discuss from your experiences whether “Civil Religion” is an oxymoron? Discuss civil religion based on the reading and your experiences. How has "civil religion" impacted your religion?

2)      Discuss the impact religion has on politics, and the impact politics has on religion. How has your religion interacted with society? What are current examples of religion and politics interacting and influencing each other?Provide illustrations of political ritual, and the influence religion and politics have had on each other. Identify the interactions of religious ethos and politics that you have seen. What has been the impact of these interactions? How might one understand the sociology of these interactions between social ethos and the religious ethos.
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Define fundamentalism
2)  Describe the ethos of various faiths
3)  Identify and provide examples of civil religion
4)  Clearly know the Constitutional relationship between church and state

Week 5 -- Modernism, Multiculturalism, Secularism

Reading:

    1. Kurtz, chapter 5 – Modernism and Multiculturalism
    2. Aldridge, chapter 4 & 5 – Secularization

Assignment:

Having looked at other faith systems and news stories and critiqued them sociologically, it is time to apply those same tools to assessing your faith. Write a one to two page analysis of how your religious faith system or background, and how your personal belief system, is responding to the challenges of modernism, multiculturalism, and secularization. Project those current responses into the near future and explain possible outcomes in society, and in your faith group and/or for your personal faith. Support your answer with specific examples from your own life, and/or official standings from your faith group. Discuss how the rise of fundamentalism has impacted your faith group. Discuss how other contemporary events; e.g. homosexual issues, politics, abortion, immigration etc, are impacting or being responded to by your religious faith system. Where might your faith group be categorized along the world affirming, world accommodating, world rejecting continuum and why? Apply key concepts from the reading and lecture to your analysis. One to two pages. 60 points

Discussion:

1)      How have modernism and multiculturalism impacted your area and the various faith groups in your area? Remember modernism refers to various modern technologies, and to philosophical assumptions. Consider how modernism has impacted religions at national and international levels, and also at the local mosque/synagogue/church level..

2)      How has secularization impacted your area and the various faith groups in your area? Consider both practical and philosophical aspects of secularization and how those are incorporated and/or responded to by local faith groups as well as how those faith groups interact with the larger society and are seen by the larger society. Use specific examples; what might our authors say about these examples based on the readings?
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Apply hte concepts of multi-culturalism, modernity, and secularism
2)  Know Compte's three stages
3)  Know how Pope Pious X responded to modernity
4)  Given an example identify syncretism
5)  Be famiar with Kurtz' description of modernity
6)  Be familiar with the secularization hypothesis 

Week 6 -- New Religious Movements, Religious identity and meaning


Reading: 

    1. Kurtz, chapter 6 – Religious Movements for a New Century
    2. Aldridge, chapter 9 – Religious Identity and Meaning in a Consumer Society

Assignment:

This week we continue using the skills we have learned to study religion. Having critiqued your own faith system last week we get to consider the religious identity, meaning, and impact your faith system has on community. Bring together the points you made last week as you consider the history of and current identity of your faith system. Possible points to consider include – at different points in history where has your faith been considered along the cult-church continuum? How has your religious organization contributed to social conflict or social stability? What are the dynamics of your religious organization or faith movement? What are the effects of your faith group on social policies and the larger society? Analyze your faith group from institutional, structural, dramaturgical, and subjective approaches. When and where has your faith group been considered a New Religious Movement? When and how did it move beyond that category? Apply key concepts from this week's reading and leactures in your analysis. 1-2 pages, 60 points

Discussion:

1)      Discuss emerging issues concerning gender, sexual orientation, and consumerism as they impact religious identity in contemporary culture. How are these issues effecting your religious group, or your beliefs? How are these issues impacting and being responded to by your faith group?

 2)      Respond to arguments for and against a distinction between spirituality and religion. Is there a difference? Quantitatively and qualitatively what is that difference from a sociological perspective?

 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Recognize the role consumerism has played in religion
2)  Identify New Religious Movemements
3)  Discuss concepts of spirituality and religiosity
4)  Discuss emerging social functions of religion

Week 7 -- Religion and Conflict

Reading: Kurtz, chapter 7 – Religion and Social Conflict

Assignment:

Core Learning Assessment - Approximately 3000 word (10 pages) paper analyzing a religious community apart from your own. This project will require attendance at a religious service distinct from your own faith practice, interviewing members and clerics from that faith community, studying their own faith literature, and responding sociologically to that material. Establish how the community interacts with society and what sociological functions the community serves for its members and for the larger community. Consider socio-economic, cultural, demographic issues. Analyze the religious community from institutional, dramaturgical, structural and subjective perspectives. How does this analysis agree with or dispute the claims of their literature or the claims of outsiders about the religious community? Is the religious community world affirming, world accommodating, or world rejecting? In what ways? How is the religious community addressing the challenges of modernity, multiculturalism, and secularism? How has the rise of fundamentalism effected the religious community? What is the interplay between the religious community and the larger community? How does the community deal with the religious marketplace? What does their sacred canopy look like or how does it meet the needs of members? Establish how the community interacts with society and what sociological functions the community serves for its members and for the larger community. Consideration of key concepts from the course should be included. Concepts you may want to address in your paper include how the faith is world-affirming, world-rejecting, or world accommodating; how it is responding to secularism, multiculturalism, and modernity; the rise of fundamentalism etc. Remember the sociological approaches to studying religion discussed week one.Approximately 10 pages. 200 points. For more information see the grading rubric.

Discussion:

1)      Demonstrate your grasp on sociological terms and methods of studying religions by analyzing the role religion has played in social conflict. Cite examples of religion furthering conflicts as well as examples of religion being on the side of solving conflict. How has religion been used to promote peace and used to promote conflict. Since it is probably easier to see the role of religion in promoting conflict find specific examples of religion assuaging conflict and building community.

2)      Demonstrate your successful study of your religion through sharing what you learned about the sociology of the religious group you studied.
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
1)  Define Jihad
2)  Identify examples of religious social conflict
3)  Distinguish between internal and external religious conflicts, and understand which are often the most bitter and why.
4)  Identify the religious arguments against the use of violence


Week 8 -- State and Religion

Reading: Aldridge, chapter 8 – Brainwashing, Consumer Protection and the State

Discussion:

1)      Describe the role the state has played in providing consumer protection in the area of religion. Support your description with specific examples.

2)      Apply your learning of sociology of religion in the discussion of brainwashing, consumer protection and the role and responsibility of the state.

3)      Seek additional information from classmates in preparation for the celebration of knowledge (final exam) this week.
 
By the end of this section you should be able to demonstrate the following:
 
1)  Comprehension of all Core Learning Outcomes
2)  Project current trends in religion into the near future
3)  Understnd the roles religion plays in society
4)   Clear understanding of the issues invovled in the roles of church-state relationships, issues of brainwashing and complexities of consumer protection when it comes to issues of religion

Final Exam: 200 points

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2008-2009 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Plagiarism:
Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2008-2009 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.
ONLINE NOTE: An attendance report of "P" (present) will be recorded for students who have logged in to the Online classroom at least once during each week of the term. Recording of attendance is not equivalent to participation. Participation grades will be assigned by each instructor according to the criteria in the Grading Policy section of the syllabus.

Park University 2008-2009 Undergraduate Catalog Page 89-90

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: http://www.park.edu/disability .

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Last Updated:5/15/2009 8:45:22 PM