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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

S1T 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

January - March 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. At least five posts are required for full points. Five posts includes at least 1 original post and at least one response to another student’s post. The first post should be entered by Wednesday midnight. For more details see “Participation” under Course Home.  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. 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 world affirming, world rejecting, and world accommodating? Identify where your faith group would be categorized now and at various times in history. What role has your faith played in social conflicts?

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:

Observe a worship service of a religious organization other than your own and write a one to two page sociological assessment. Consider the socio-economics and demographics of the religious organization. Reflect on the beliefs, structure, hierarchy and organization of the religious organization. Discuss how the religious organization is world affirming, world rejecting or world accommodating. How might one categorize the religious organization? Where might one place the religious organization along the church-cult continuum and why? Apply key concepts from this week's lecture and reading to your analysis. 1-2 pages. 60 points.

                                                         

This is the first of two observations of a religious organization. One of the two may be the basis for the Core Assessment due week 7.

Discussion:

1)      Discuss your experiences with Eastern Faiths. Do NOT include Islam because we will be looking at Islam next week. Consider faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and Taoism, etc. Understand how your experiences with these faiths have been influenced by Western culture.

2)      Understand the categories of “church”, “cult”, “sect”, and “denomination.” Apply these categories to your faith group. Accept that others may apply these categories differently.
 
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 news report about a faith issue and critique the religious issues raised. Consider why that particular faith issue is in the news. How does that issue relate to the challenges of diversity? How does the issue relate to concepts of the sacred canopy, religious marketplace, or elective affinity? What groups does that particular faith issue resonate with? Does it relate to the rise of fundamentalism? Apply key concepts from this week's lecture and reading to your analysis. Present your conclusions and sociological assessment in a 1-2 page paper. 60 points.

Discussion:

1)      Define fundamentalism and identify examples of the rise of fundamentalism in your community, and in your faith group. If you seen fundamentalism increase within your faith group, then explain how your faith group has encountered and responded to fundamentalist movements in society.

2)      Discuss your experiences with Western Faiths including Islam. Consider Christianity including New Religious Movements that have their roots within Christianity. Discuss Kurtz’ comparison of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and assess how this compares or contrasts with your experiences of these faiths.  
 
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 of a religious organization other than your own and write a one to two page sociological assessment. Consider the socio-economics and demographics of the religious organization. Reflect on the beliefs, structure, hierarchy and organization of the religious organization. Discuss how the religious organization is world affirming, world rejecting or world accommodating. How might one categorize the religious organization? Where might one place the religious organization along the church-cult continuum and why? Apply key concepts from this week's lecture and reading to your analysis. 1-2 pages. 60 points.

                                                         

This is the second of two observations of a religious organization. One of the two may be the basis for the Core Assessment due week 7. Having completed this assignment, now would be a good time to begin work on the Core Assessment. If you have questions about the Core Learning Assessment please begin asking those questions. 

Discussion:

1)      Demonstrate comprehension of the concept of “civil religion” by providing contemporary examples, and explaining how those examples support or disagree with Aldridge’s discussion of civil religion and the religious ethos.

2)      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)      Identify examples of how modernism and multiculturalism have impacted your faith group. Provide specific examples of a modern challenge and the way your faith group has responded. Consider structural, dramaturgical, institutional, and subjective responses to modernism and multiculturalism.

2)      Identify examples of secularization and its impact on your faith group. Apply Auguste Comte’s law of three stages to your religious faith group. Do you agree with Comte? Why or why not, and what is the application for your faith?  
 
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. What have been the social functions and/or dysfunctions relating to these emerging issues?

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? 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:1/2/2009 10:10:18 AM