Original Web Document: http://www.uwf.edu/~socanth/syo4200.htm

SYO 4200 - Sociology of Religion
Faculty: Dr. Dallas Blanchard
Department: Sociology/Anthropology
Semester Hours: 3
Term: Fall 1997



This course seeks to introduce undergraduate students to the nature and functions of religious beliefs and institutions in modern societies, with a primary emphasis on conditions in the contemporary United States. Throughout the course, a distinctively sociological perspective is employed to evaluate claims about the viability of religion in what has come to be called a "post-traditional," "post-Christian" or "post-modern" world.

As today it appears that there is a religious resurgence, how does one account for the notable absence of religious values as animating forces outside the private lives of individuals? If this is indeed this is a secular society, what explains recent rapid growth in the memberships of conservative religious bodies or the high levels of interest in non-Western spiritual practices such as Yoga, Zen, and Islam (the fastest growing religion in the U.S.)--not to mention a global resurgence of religious fundamentalisms? Has America shed religion just in time (for, some would contend, belief today is a major handicap in the development of a real understanding of the world's predicaments), or is this nation only now beginning to realize the dangers of a society bereft of the collective purpose symbolized in religious communality? If this is a secular society, how do we explain the role of the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition?

These and other questions from the sociology of religion will be addressed in a survey of the field and a consideration of some of its latest findings. Lectures and class discussions will cover--among other subjects--individual religious experience, social mechanisms of conversion and commitment, the church-sect-cult distinction, civil religions, religious inspirations or impediments to social change, and the varied process of secularization.

This course does not assume that you have had previous sociology courses. It will begin with a brief introduction to sociology and its core understandings and approaches. If you have difficulty with these, the professor will be glad to suggest additional readings.

Everyone tends to have strong feelings about religion--their own or their lack of one, and others' religions. Students will be expected to temporarily "suspend subjectivity"; that is, use critical thinking in examining their own religion as well as the religions of others. "Critical thinking" does not mean "criticizing," but a degree of objectivity.


Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. develop a degree of objectivity about the subjective reality of religion
  2. distinguish among the major classical and contemporary theoretical approaches employed by sociologists of religion in studying religion
  3. appreciate the multidimensional nature of religiosity or ways of being religious
  4. distinguish among major organizational "ideal types" of church-denomination-sect-cult
  5. assess the impact of religion on the daily life of individuals and groups and the impact of society on religion
  6. understand and appreciate the diversity of religious life in America as experienced by major denominational, ethnic and demographic groups
  7. enhance oral presentation skills through class discussions
  8. understand the developments of religious trends in the United States since its founding
  9. understand and appreciate the roles of religion in American regional and national life
  10. understand and appreciate the development of "secularization" and its effects on the development of American religions.

PLEASE NOTE: Since it is expected that we will all be learning together, it is important thatevery individual feel comfortable in class. Therefore, comments that could make any person feel uncomfortable will not be tolerated. This includes (1) remarks showing a lack of respect for the feelings, beliefs, and remarks of others, and (2) remarks that disparage any person or group on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, social class, or sexual orientation (or the lack of any of the above). The social locations of persons, whether present in the class or not, are to be respected.


  1. Keith A. Roberts, Religion in Sociological Perspective (Third Edition), Wadsworth, 1995.
  2. Patrick H. McNamara, Religion:North American Style. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1984. [On overnight Reserve in the Library.]

SUGGESTED READINGS: The Suggested Readings are just that, suggested. All are on 3 day reserve in the library. While they are not required, selective reading among them will dramatically strengthen your command of the field and strengthen your ability to complete course requirements in an above average fashion.


I. Basic Sociological Definitions:

For a more formal presentation of these basic concepts, the student may examine discussion of them in any basic Introduction to Sociology text in the library. It is very important that you understand these concepts and are comfortable in using them to analyze religion in this course. Papers, presentations, examinations, and other course assignments will require that you use such sociological concepts.

See also: Mills, C. Wright, The Sociological Imagination

II. Sociological Theoretical Approaches and the Sociological Study of Religion

     Roberts, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4
     McNamara, pp. 3-28, Preface

Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, "Sociology of Religion and Sociology of
    Knowledge," in Norman Birnbaum and Gertrud Lenzer (eds.), Sociology and Religion
     (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969), pp. 410-418; also in Roland Roberts (ed.), Sociology of Religion
    (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1969), pp. 61-73;
Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), Appendix I,
    "Sociological Definitions of Religion"

III. Social Scientific Definitions of Religion and the Origins of Religion

a. Freud

     Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion.
     Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo.

b. Durkheim

     Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.

c. Marx

     Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marx and Engels on Religion.
     L. Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, selections.
     Karl Marx, "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right,
         Introduction," in Robert C. Tucker, Marx-Engels Reader.
     Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "The German Ideology," in Tucker

d. Weber

     Max Weber, "Science as a Vocation," in From Max Weber.
     Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
     R. Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait.

e. Geertz

     Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System," in McNamara.

f. Religion and the Human Condition: Authentic Religion

IV. Religion and Social Class

     Roberts, Chapts. 10, 11

IV. Social Functions and Dysfunctions of Religion

     Roberts, pp. 55-63

     David O. Moberg, The Church as a Social Institution, Chapters 6-9.
     Berger, The Sacred Canopy, esp. Chapter 6;
     Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969);
     Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1967).

V. Types of Religious Organizations

     David O. Moberg, The Church as a Social Institution, Chapters 4 and 5

VI. Forms of Religious Leadership

     David O. Moberg, The Church as a Social Institution, Chapter 18.

VII. Forms of Religiosity

     Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor
     J. K. Hadden and T. E. Long (eds.), Religion and Religiosity in America
     Dean Hoge, Commitment on Campus (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974, Chs. 2 and 6, pp. 34-71 and 156-192.
     The Gallup Report, May, 1985, "Religion in America, 50 Years: 1935-1985," pp. 16-28.
     Rodney Stark and Charles Y. Glock, American Piety: The Nature of Religious Commitment (Berkeley: University of                    California Press, 1968), Chs. 2, 4-6 (skim), pp. 22-56 and 81-140.
     Wade Clark Roof, Community and Commitment: Religious Possibility in a Liberal Protestant Church (New York: Elsevier,          1978), parts of Chs. 2 and 3; Chs. 4, 5, and 10, pp. 39-47, 62-67, 79-125, and 203-217.
     Wade Clark Roof, "America's Voluntary Establishment: Mainline Religion in Transition," pp. 130-149 in Mary Douglas and          Steven M. Tipton (eds.), Religion and America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982).
     Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew.
     Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America," pp. 168-192 in Beyond Belief.
     Andrew Greeley, The Denominational Society.
     Herve Varenne, Americans Together, Ch. 5.

VIII. The Cultural Captivity of American Religion

a. The Feminization of Protestantism

     Roberts, pp. 318-319

b. The Protestantization of Catholicism and Judaism

     McNamara, pp. 21-25; 117-201

     Richard P. McBrien, "Roman Catholicism: E Pluribus Unum," in Mary Douglas and Steven M. Tipton (eds.), Religion and          America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982).
     Peter Hebblethwaite, "The Popes and Politics:Shifting Patterns in Catholic Social Doctrine'" in Mary Douglas and Steven M.          Tipton (eds.), Religion and America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982).

c. Religion and Prejudice

     Roberts, Chapter 12

IX. Conversion and Commitment

     Roberts, Chapters 5 and 6

     Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context, pp. 58-73
     James T. Richardson, "Studies of Conversion: Secularization or Re- Enchantment?", in Hammond, pp. 104-121.
     Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota          Press, 1956);
     John Lofland, Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith (New York: Irvington,          1977).
     Steven M. Tipton, "The Moral Logic of Alternative Religions," pp. 79-107 in Mary Douglas and Steven M. Tipton (eds.),          Religion and America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982).
     Max Heirich, "Change of Heart: A Test of Some Widely Held Theories About Religious Conversion," American Journal of          Sociology 83 (1977), pp. 653, 680.
     Clifford Geertz, "'Internal Conversion' in Contemporary Bali," pp. 179-189 in The Interpretation of Cultures.
     Steven M. Tipton, Getting Saved from the Sixties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).
     Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective (Cambridge,          MA: Harvard University Press, 1972).

X. Growth and Decline of Contemporary Denominations

XI. Church, Sect, and Cult

     Roberts, Chapters 7, 8, 9
     McNamara, pp. 25-33, 95-142, 283-316, 322-342

     John Wilson, Religion in American Society: The Effective Presence.
     Ernest Troeltsch, The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches.
     H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism
     Reinhold Niebuhr, Christ and Culture
     James A. Beckford, "Religious Organizations," in Hammond, pp. 125-138;
     Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context, Chapter 5;
     Rodney Stark, "Church and Sect," in Hammond, pp. 139-149.
     William Sims Bainbridge, "Utopian Communities: Theoretical Issues," in Hammond, pp. 21-35;
     Anson Shupe and David G. Bromley, "Social Responses to Cults," in Hammond, pp. 58-72.
     John A. Hostetler, Hutterite Society (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).

XII. Church and State: Political Issues and Involvement

a. Fundamentalisms

  1. Definitions of Fundamentalism
  2. The Moral Majority & the Christian Coalition
  3. The Electronic Church

     Roberts, Chapter 15
     McNamara, pp. 277-316

     [An excellent Internet site is: http://www.mother.com/~dlh/]
     Lloyd J. Averill, Religious Right, Religious Wrong: A Critique of the Fundamentalist Phenomenon.
     Greven, Philip, Spare the child.
     Sam S. Hill and D. E. Ownen, The New Religious-Political Right in America.
     James D. Hunter, American Evangelicalism.
     James D. Hunter, Culture Wars.
     George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture.
     Jeffrey K. Hadden and C. E. Swann, Prime Time Preachers.
     Dallas A. Blanchard and Terry J. Prewitt, Religious Violence and Abortion: The Gideon Project.
     Dallas A. Blanchard, The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Rise of the Religious Right: From Polite to Fiery Protest.
     Dallas A. Blanchard, The Anti-Abortion Movement: References and Resources.

b. Mainline Religion

     Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy.
     W. C. Roof and W. McKinney, American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future.

c. Civil Religion

     Roberts, Chapter 16
     McNamara, pp. 39-52, 225-235

     C. Glock and R. Stark, Religion and Society in Tension.
     W. Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew.
     T. Luckmann, The Invisible Religion.
     W.G. McLoughlin and R.N. Bellah (eds.), Religion in America.
     R. Bellah, Beyond Belief.
     M. Novack, Choosing Our King.
     H.R. Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America.
     James Davison Hunter, "Conservative Protestantism," in Hammond, pp. 150-166.
     Benton Johnson, "Religion and Politics in America: The Last Twenty Years," in Hammond, pp. 301-316.
     Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context, Chapter 6.
     Roland Robertson, "The Sacred and the World System," in Hammond, pp.347- 358.

XIII. Religion and Social Change

a. The Black Church and Civil Rights

     Roberts, Chapter 12

     Achebe, C. Things Fall Apart.
     Baer, HY., and M. Singer. African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century.
     Egerton, John. Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South.
     Griffin, John H. Black Like Me.
     Sernett, M. Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness.
     Wilmore, Gayraud. Black Religion and Black Radicalism.

b. The White Church and Civil Rights

c. Religion and Capitalism

d. Religion and Socialism

e. Religion and Abortion

    McNAMARA, PP. 240-272

f. Religion and Sexism

     Roberts, Chapter 13

     Joseph Washington, Black Sects and Cults, Chapters 2 and 4.
     Eric Lincoln, The Black Muslims in America.
     M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
     R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.
     R. Bellah, Tokugawa Religion.
     G. Lenski, The Religious Factor.
     S.N. Eisenstadt (ed.), The Protestant Ethic and Modernization.
     R. Bendix, M. Weber, An Intellectual Portrait.
     R.K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure.
     G. Poggi, Calvinism and the Capitalist Spirit.
     G. Marshall, In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism.
     Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context, Chapter 7.
     Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Scribners, 1958.
     Michael W. Cuneo, Catholics Against the Church: Anti-Abortion Protest in Toronto, 1969-1985.
     Kristin Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood.
     Dallas A. Blanchard and Terry J. Prewitt, Religious Violence and Abortion: The Gideon Project.
     Dallas A. Blanchard, The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Rise of the Religious Right: From Polite to Fiery Protest.

XIV. Secularization

a. Origins of Secularization

b. Secularization and the Future of Religion

     Roberts, Chapter 14
     McNamara, pp. 104-111, 345-352
     Meredith McGuire, Religion: The Social Context, Chapter 8 and Epilogue;
     Bryan Wilson, "Secularization: The Inherited Model," in Hammond, pp. 9-20.
     Schluchter, Wolfgang, "The Future of Religion," in Religion in America, Mary Douglas and Steven Tipton, eds.

XV. Globalization of Religion

     Roberts, Chapter 17


TESTS: There will be two tests, a mid-term and a final. Each will count 30% of the final grade (with the understanding that the professor may discount a low Mid-Term grade and increase the value of the Final). Both exams will be take-home and will be handed out one week before their due date. LATE EXAMS AND PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

LEARNING REPORT: Each student will keep a learning log for the semester (see below). The combination of Learning Goals, Learning Log, and Learning Report will count 30% of the final grade.

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION: Regularity of attendance and meaningful contributions to class discussions will count 10% of the final grade.


Mid-Term Exam 30%
Final Exam 30%
Learning Report 30%
Attendance/participation 10%

OFFICE HOURS: My office is Building 13, Room 107. My hours are 9:30-11:00 a.m. Monday and Wednesday. I am available at other times by appointment. Phone: 474-2795.


The Structure of a Learning Report

There are three distinct parts to your Learning Report: (1) Learning Goals, (2) Daily Learning Log, and (3) the final Learning Report.

  1. Learning Goals - Set your learning goals in writing. Understand that they are flexible and may be altered as the term progresses. Establish a minimum of ten (10) things you would like to learn during the semester in this course. By the end of the term, your goals list should at least double in number. These may, for example, include new insights about your own religious experiences, insights about experiences of others that you have heard of, new skills in research or research tools, or relationship of previous learnings to the sociology of religion. The professor will likely want to review them occasionally throughout the course.

    After preparing your initial goals, write after each of them 2-3 things you will have to do to achieve it. For example, if one of your goals is to gain a better understanding of a specific denomination which has always appeared strange to you, you might feel you need to visit its worship services, interview a pastor, and interview 2-3 active members of it to see where they are coming from. A copy of your Learning Goals will be turned in one week after the first day of class.

  2. Daily Learning Log - Keep a "daily" diary of your learnings and observations relative to the course. Of course, there will be "blank" days, and other days rich in learnings. Note items in the readings, class lectures or discussions, field trips, audio-visuals, and other experiences that strike you. However, a mere compilation of class notes or "interesting" ideas in the readings in not sufficent. In particular, note the implications of various theoretical approaches in the Sociology of Religion to those experiences or your own life experiences. You may use a "stream of consciousness" approach, or order your diary in any way that makes sense to you. The instructor will review your Learning Log periodically. However, it's contents will be kept confidential.

  3. Learning Report - Based on your Learning Goals and your Daily Log, prepare a concluding Learning Report on your significant learnings, including learnings relevant to your own life, if appropriate. Your final Report should be at least 8-10 pages in length, typed and double-spaced. It should include references, at a minimum, to the readings and experiences in the course. It should also include footnotes and a bibliography in the proper academic paper form. Include your final Learning Goals and Daily Log with your Learning Report.

Your Learning Report should clearly communicate:

  1. your awareness and understanding of sociological terms and theories, and
  2. your ability to use sociological terms and theories to analyze and interpret social situations, conditions and realities.
  3. that you have read and understand the required readings.

The Learning Report (including the Learning Goals and Learning Log) is due one week before the Final Exam.


For the Learning Report, the Mid-Term and the Final Examinations.



Clear statement of objectives & purpose of the paper
(opening & introduction orient reader) 10 ________
Reference support
(use of proper reference to ideas and concepts
used in the analysis, including bibliography) 10 ________
Conceptual clarity
(effective use of theoretical constructs) 10 ________
(original thinking built from existing
knowledge and going beyond the obvious) 10 ________
Evidence of learning, including an effort at
challenging self (going the extra mile, special effort) 10 ________
Organization/flow of paper
(transitions, subheadings) 10 ________
Analysis/Depth of understanding of subject
(effort to go beyond the superficial & trite) 10 ________
Conclusion/Synthesis of main ideas
(relevant, sufficient, impactful) 10 ________
(punctuation, spelling, sentence structure,
proofread) 10 ________
(references, bibliography, proper citations) 10 ________
Special Bonus Points ________ ________