2:30-3:45 PM T-TH

Description of the Course

An investigation of the contribution of religious symbolism and practice to social organization, socialization, stratification, and change. The course examines the application of social theory, especially organization studies, to understanding religion as a social institution, particularly in the U.S. On demand. (Either SOC or REL 308)

Purpose of the Course

  1. To introduce key scholars and ideas of the sociological dimension of the human phenomenon of religion.
  2. To engage students in both quantitative and qualitative research methods, while describing other methodologies (such as cross-cultural analysis, experimentation and Participant-Observation).
  3. To understand how religion provides a worldview for its participants through the creation of myths, rituals, symbols, beliefs and practices.
  4. To explore the phenomenon of civil religion as defined by Robert Bellah (pdf file).

Required Texts

Berger, Peter L. (1967) The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Anchor Books

Douglas, Mary (2002). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo. New York: Routledge.

Durkheim, Émile (2008). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Carol Cosman, trans. New York: Oxford University Press

Kurtz, Lester. R. (2007). Gods in the Global Village: The World's Religions in Sociological Perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Smith, Christian (2009). Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. New York: Oxford University Press.

Weber, Max (2010). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.



  1. We will conduct quanatative research, based on Souls in Transition. Based on a close reading of the text, I have developed a five-point Likert scale questionnaire, with responses ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree" with the mid-point response as "neither agree nor disagree" (the other two points will be either "disagree" or "agree"). We want to know how Centenary students compare to the results indicated in the study. Once the instrument has been designed, you will be asked to conduct interviews. Given our population is approximately 420 students, we will need a sample size of 40 (this estimates a 95% accuracy rate with a 14.82% margin of error; you can generate this number either by knowing statistical analysis or using an online calculator). This figure means that each student will issue the questionnaire to approximately 14 Centenary students. Once the interviews have been conducted (no student can be interviewed twice and students enrolled in this class can certainly be interviewed) we can extract our raw data sets by inputting data into an Excel spreadsheet and look at issues of mean scores, T-tests (whether the difference among mean scores are actually statistically significant or just chance), weighted percentages, chi square testing (comparing our results to the expected results found in Souls in Transition) and a correlation coefficient (calculating the possible relationship between two variables such as paternal religious service attendance and the subject having some doubts about religious beliefs). By using simple statistical functions within Excel, we will be looking for an r value between -1 (strong negative relationship) to 1 (strong positive relationship), with a score of zero indicating no relationship at all. Finally, you will be asked to design charts and graphs that present the statistical results (again, Excel should help us, or you can export the data to another program or make a PowerPoint presentation). I will provide you the instrument by the fifth week of class, with interviews taking place over the following two weeks and results computated for a series of in-class presentations. You will only select a very small part of study to replicate; let me know what aspect of the study you wish to replicate and I will place that information on our Announcements page to avoid duplications. I will create the basic Excel sheet with the raw data; this document will then be distributed to class members via an attachment to an email. This assignment will represent 35% of your final grade.

  2. Conduct qualitative research by constructing an interview protocol designed to see in which of the six categories (see Chapter Six of Souls in Transition) a subject might be placed. This type of research involves a close reading of a verbatim to ascertain evidence for placing a subject in one or more categories (yes, subjects may be in more than one category). Each class member will conduct one interview, type the verbatim (based on a digital recording of the interview), and analyze the verbatim, putting forth evidence for your conclusion. This assignment will be due Monday, April 20. Worth 25% of final grade.

  3. You will have both a midterm and final examination in this course, consisting of Fill in the Blank, Identification of Term/Concept and short answer essay, based on course readings and lectures. Each exam worth 20% of your final grade.

  4. Since Exercises 1 and 2 involve human subjects, you need to receive permission to conduct these interviews from the Research with Human Subjects Review Board ( You will need to take (and pass) the on-line ethics course and fill out the first form located on the IRB website.

Evaluation Points (keep in mind the weighting of each exercise)

Questions for Questionnaire 100 points
26 completed Questionnaires 100 points
Competed Excel Spreadsheet 200 points
Presentation of Findings 200 points
Submission of Questions for Interview 100 points
Submission of Verbatim 200 points
Submission of Verbatim Analysis 200 points
Oral Presentation of Analysis 100 points
Midterm Examination 100 points
Final Examination 100 points

Class Policies

First, I am not your parent, your brother or your best friend; I am a colleague in both teaching and learning. We need each other for this classroom tribe to function.

Second, when you are not here, you will be missed [especially given the size of our class]. Our community will be diminished. Sure, most of us will miss a class [but remember to submit or work before the missed class session]. But what happens when somebody misses more than three class periods this semester?

As Convener of this Tribe, I will assume that you have found a new community that requires your presence. So, due to my desire to live a life of total compassion, I will deduct one letter grade from your final course grade for each additional class period missed, thus encouraging you to be wherever it is you need to be other than our class. Do not assume I will drop you from this course; such a decision rests with you and your academic adviser.

I do not issue "make-up" exams. If you miss an exam, you will receive a "Zero". Only exceptions to this policy:

1. Death of an immediate (e.g.; parent or sibling) family member. I will require a copy of the obituary.
2. Personal illness requiring hospitalization. I will require proof of hospitalization and a note from your physician.

Within this course you are encouraged strongly to utilize "inclusive language". What does this term mean? When we speak of humanity, avoid using the gender specific term "man" as a synonym. When you speak of a particular god or goddess, use their proper name. Find ways in which to demonstrate respect and dignity for all persons, both believers and seekers.

I do not accept late work for credit. If you anticipate being absent for any reason, submit work prior to our class session.

Other Policies

The syllabus can change at my discretion. Videos, readings and/or guest speakers may also be added. Changes will be made to the online syllabus.

Extra credit does not exist in the course. Make use of the credit available.

"Trying hard" is usually necessary, but not sufficient, to create good work. In short, I do not base a grade on "effort" but on the finished product.

As a student at Centenary College you agree to adhere to the Centenary Honor Code. I will carefully explain the nature of plagiarism the first day of class and, for each assignment, explain what is and is not permissible in terms of collaboration. If you have any questions, please ask rather than risk a problem. Also, I would advise you to retain all note cards, drafts, final papers etc. for each assignment in your writing record in case asked to prove your case. As explained in the Student Handbook, every assignment you submit must have the following statement written in your own handwriting accompanied by your signature: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this paper (or examination), nor have I seen anyone else do so." If you have received unauthorized aid or witnessed an honor code violation, you must follow the statement with: "...except as I shall report immediately to the Honor Court." Please understand that I cannot grade any assignment lacking this honor code statement.

While there is an increasing number of web pages devoted to sociology of religion, the information is often not reliable or better than what is available in the library book and journal collections. Therefore, you are not to use or cite any source from the Internet unless you have consulted with the professor AND RECEIVED PERMISSION IN ADVANCE. IF ANY OF YOUR PROJECTS FOR THIS CLASS MAKE UNAUTHORIZED USE OF THE INTERNET, YOU WILL FAIL THE ASSIGNMENT. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. NO EXCUSES ENTERTAINED.
Notable exceptions: Online databases and any online reading indicated in the syllabus. Also, online statistical calculators may be used.

Each student is expected to proofread and edit their work carefully prior to submission. I will deduct points for grammatical errors and violations of the principles expressed on the Writer's Cheat Sheet. Special attention should be given to eradicating "is", "are", "was", "were", "has", "had" and "been" from your formal writing.

It is the policy of Centenary College to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal law, state law and the College's commitment to equal educational opportunities. Any student with a disability who needs accommodation (for example, in seating placement or in arrangements for examinations, should inform me at the beginning of the course. Students with disabilities should contact Disability Services (a division of Counseling Services), located on the ground floor of Rotary Hall (869-5466/5424).

Please turn off all cell phones/smart phones upon entering class. If your phone rings once in the semester, you will simply be reminded of our policy. If it rings a second time, you will be asked not to bring it back to this space. You may not leave class to answer a call; doing so will count as one of your allotted absences. Absolutely no texting during class. If I see you sending a text, I will 1) ask you to put your cell phone away and 2) count you as absent for the day.

Laptops, IPads and other tablet devices may be used in class for the explicit purpose of taking notes. If you are caught surfing the Internet without permission (or playing games) you will not be allowed to bring the device to class for the remainder of the course. These rules will be enforced strictly. You may audio-record any class session with the permission of the professor.

I am usually in my office by 8:15 AM Monday through Friday and leave at 4:15 each afternoon. You may schedule an appointment with me at any time via email ( or phone (869-5051). I will always be glad to assist any student in fulfilling their obligations to this course. My door is always open.

January 5 Review Syllabus
What is Religion?
What is the Sociology of Religion?
Approaches to Research
January 10 Macro-Perspectives: Functional and Conflict Theories
What is an Open-Systems Model?
Read Kurtz, Chapters One and Seven
January 12 Souls in Transition (I)
Read Chapters 1-5
January 17 Souls in Transition (II)
Read Chapters 6-10
January 19 Designing a Likert Scale Questionnaire and an Interview Protocol based on Souls in Transition Click HERE
Describing the Projects and assignments
Civil Religion
January 24 Alternative Religious Movements
Dilemmas of Institutionalization: moving from ARM to sects,denominations and churches
January 26 Sacred Canopy (I)
Read Chapters 1-4. Yes, I am aware this reading may appear challenging. Look up any terms (especially Latin) that you do not know. Use this pdf to assist you in terminology
January 31 Sacred Canopy (II)
Read Chapters 5-7
February 2 Durkheim and Functionalism (I)
Read Durkheim, Book One
February 7 Durkheim and Functionalism (II)
Read Durkheim, Book Two
I will distribute a copy of the instrument at the beginning of class. You will be responsible to make 14 copies of the instrument.
February 9 Durkheim and Functionalism (III)
Read Durkheim, Book Three
February 16 Social Stratification and Religious Ideology
February 21 Case Study: Religion in the African American Community
February 23 David is out of town
March 7 Max Weber and the Spirit of Capitalism
Read Weber
March 9 Purity and Pollution (I)
Read Douglas, Chapters 1-3All copies of the completed questionnaires should be submitted at the start of class today. Make sure your name appears on each questionnaire.
March 14 Purity and Pollution (III)
Read Douglas, Chapters 4-7
March 16 Purity and Pollution (I)
Read Douglas, Chapters 8-10
March 21 Turning East
Read Kurtz, Chapter 2
March 23 Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Read Kurtz, Chapter 3
I will distribute the interview protocol for your use in Exercise 2. Excel Sheet of raw data for Exercise 1 will be sent to you via email.
March 28 Ethos, Modernity and Multiculturalism
Read Kurtz, Chapters 4-5
March 30 Religious Movements for a New Century
Read Kurtz, Chapters 6
April 4 Religion and Prejudice
April 18 TBA
April 20 TBA