Sociology 421

SOCY 421

Catalog Entry

SOCY 421. Religious Patterns in Culture.
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisites: SOCY 110, or SOCY 121, or permission of instructor.

Study of social science theories of magic, witchcraft, and religion. Discusses the impact religious ideology has on other aspects of culture. Includes primitive and modern religions as examples.



Detailed Description of Content of the Course

The course content may include:

I. Theories of religion

A. Evolutionary theories
B. Religion as functional for individuals

C. Religion as functional for societies

D. Religion as ecologically adaptive for populations

E. Religion as revitalization within societies

II. Methods in the social science study of religion

A. Participant observation methods and the study of religion

B. Ecological analysis

C. Symbolic analysis

III. The structure of religion

A. Expressive elements

B. Status elements

C. Communal elements

D. Ritual

E. Beliefs

F. Institutional aspects

G. Societal Aspects

IV. The Goals of Religion

A. Technological rituals: Divination and protective rituals

B. Treatment: Witchcraft and sorcery

C. Communal rituals: Rites of passage

D. Salvation rituals: Identity-transforming rituals

E. Revitalization rituals

V. The Variety of Religious Expressions

A. In other cultures

B. In the United States

            1. Historical

            2. Contemporary

VI. The fit between religious expression and surrounding culture


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

A lecture, discussion, and in-class writing format is used to further understanding of appropriate readings.


Goals and Objectives of Course

Students will be offered the opportunity to apply social science perspectives, methods, and theoretical concepts to the topic of religion. Having successfully completed this course, students will:
·        have knowledge of the origins, functions, and diversity of religion
·        exercise critical thinking to analyze the role of religion in cultural systems


Assessment Measures

Graded and checked assignments may include in-class or take-home examinations and quizzes, homework assignments, in-class writing, and in-class discussions. Journals may be required and checked periodically. Formal oral presentations may be required.


Other Course Information

A class project may be used to focus the gathering of research materials for a particular purpose (such as for presentation at a professional meeting, or for publication). For graduate credit, students would write a research paper; an oral report of this paper may also be required.


Review and Approval

February 2009, Dr. Paula Brush, Chair, Department of Sociology