Religion and Society

SOC 136
Willamette University
Spring 2003
David H. Kessel

Class Time: MWF 3:00-4:00
Classroom: Smullin 129
Office: 213 Smullin Hall
Office Telephone: 370-6915
Home Phone: 541-736-0204
Office Hours: 10:30-11:30 & 1:30-2:30 MWF, 4:00-4:30 MF
EMail Address:

Willamette University Homepage
TSS Directory

Although we don't have an ASSIGNMENT involving this...I've created a Discussion Board for our use...we can talk to each other about anything, anytime. The link is below:

Religion and Society Discussion Board


Course Objectives

Course Description/MOI STATEMENT

General Issues and Policies

Grading Scale

Grading Standards

Required Readings

Online Reader

Schedule of Topics/Readings/Dates

Analysis Paper Topics


Assignment Instructions

Due Dates

Total Points in Course


This course addresses the intersection between religious beliefs, behavior, and organizations and the broader soceity. Sociological concepts, theories and methods inform the analysis of the religious institution and its relationship to politics, economics, society, and identity. Specific topics include religious movements, secularization, religious revival, fundamentalism, civil and political religion, social class, brainwashing, consumerism and the state, identity and meaning.

Method of Inquiry Courses
(The following is from the College of Liberal Arts website)

Understanding Society (US)

Courses satisfying this requirement develop students’ understanding of social phenomena by analyzing and explaining human behavior and social institutions and practices.

Students in these courses should:
-----recognize the dynamic interplay between human agency and social structure;
-----analyze the social processes that underlie or result in specific social institutions, events or outcomes;
-----develop models or theories to explain social phenomena and evaluate those through observation and the collection of data;
-----evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the methods and theories employed.


This means that while this course is about "religion," it's primarily an introduction to sociological thinking and understanding the world (a particular "mode of inquiry"). Thus, we will be spending the initial weeks learning about Sociology, its nature...theories...methods (all the while keeping our "eyes" on "religion"). Then, for the rest of the semester, we will focus on specific "religion" subjects...from a sociological perspective.


Disability Services

If you have a disability of some sort, I encourage you to contact the Disability & Learning Services in Baxter Hall. The phone numbers are (503) 370-6471 / (503) 375-5383 (TT).

Their mission statement is as follows:
"The mission of the Disability & Learning Services office is to facilitate reasonable accommodations for those students with a qualifying disability or temporary medical condition and to provide academic assistance on an individual basis to any undergraduate or graduate student who requests it."

E-Mail Account

You are required to have an active E-Mail account for this class. There will be times I will want to contact you individually or as a class. I know that each of you has a account. However, if you prefer to use another one, that's fine with me...but please include your NAME because not all usernames identify the individual.

*****Then, before the end of this week, please email me at*****

The email can simply be a blank message or you can say whatever you want. I want to compile a class mailing list and it's much easier to do that via a received email message...Thanks.

Computer/Internet Use

You will be asked to use the Internet fairly extensively in this course...for general purposes, particular assignments, and to become familiar with my website, The Sociology Shop (TSS). If you need assistance using a computer or surfing the Internet, there is plenty of help available at Willamette University, online tutorials, and me. Don't hesitate to ask for help.

Assignment Format

You will be required to TYPE your assignments...extremely dire emergencies will be considered, however.

Required Reading

You will have articles from the Online Reader, and other materials online, or handed out...coordinated with the chapters in the Johnstonetextbook.

What does this mean? What do I expect in terms of "required readings?" Part of reading required materials is to come to class prepared to comment on or question what you have read.

Although not required as an official assignment, I expect that for each required reading you will come to class with questions/comments/insights/critiques about the what you have read...and be ready to share these with the class. There will be times that I may randomly call on someone to share their ideas...and although you won't be downgraded for not being prepared, being unprepared before others is no fun, right? Right, David.



A..........94-100 (Excellent)
A-.........90-93 (Good/Excellent)

B+........87-89 (Very Good)
B..........83-86 (Good)
B-.........80-82 (Fair/Good)

C+........77-79 (Fair)
C..........73-76 (Fair/Basic)
C-.........70-72 (Basic)

D+........66-69 (Poor/Basic)
D..........60-65 (Poor)

F..........??-59 (Needs More)


We will be following the sequence of subjects...with other particular issues and topics integrated into this sequence. The following schedule and coverage dates is a "best guess" at this point, but at least it gives us a general idea of where we're going. We may spend a longer time on some subjects and a shorter time on others...this will emerge as we progress.

OR=Online Reader


I. Introduction
-----Introduction/The Sociology Shop/Religion and Society Room/Syllabus (Print and Online)


II. The Sociological Perspective and Imagination
-----Go HERE for Outline and Online Readings
----------ITS (All Chapters EXCEPT #3 and #7)


III. Introduction to the Sociology of Religion

A. The Sources of Religion (J2)
B. Religion as a Group Phenomenon (J3)
C. Becoming Religious (J4)


IV. Religion as Social Organization

A. The Church-Sect Continuum of Religious Organization (J5) (2/28-3/5)
B. Religious Conflict (J6 )(3/5-3/12)


V. Religion in Society

A. Religious Politics (J7 )(3/14-3/19)
B. Religious Fundamentalism(J8 ) (3/21-4/2)
C. Religion and the Economy(J9 ) (4/7-4/14)
D. Religion and the Class System(J10 ) (4/7-4/14)
E. Women and Religion(J11 ) (4/18-4/21)


VI. Religion in America

A. Major Historical Developments (J12) (4/23-4/25)
B. Black and Native American Religion in America (J13 ) (4/23-4/25)
C. Denominational Society(J14 ) (4/28-4/30)


VII. The Future of Religion and Conclusion

(J14 )


Invitation to Sociology by Peter L. Berger

Religion in Society by Ronald L. Johnstone

Online Reader



Analysis Papers
Five (5) Analysis Papers worth 20 pts. each = 100 Points Total

First Exam
In-class Multiple Choice/T-F exam worth 100 points (Intro. Soc. material)

Discretionary Assignment
Choose your own kind of assignments and subjects...due in two 50 pt. segments

Second Exam
In-class Multiple Choice/T-F Exam worth 100 points

Final Exam
Take-Home Essay Exam...worth 100 points...Comprehensive Coverage


Analysis Papers Topics HERE
Minimum Length is 2 pages typed (double-spaced) and Maximum is 4 pages

Discretionary Assignment Instructions are HERE

Guidelines for Critical Academic Review of Entertainment Movie


1/31.............AP #1 Due

2/14.............AP #2 Due

2/28.............First Exam

3/10.............DA-I Due

3/14.............AP #3 Due

4/04.............Second Exam

4/14.............AP #4 Due

4/16.............NO CLASS

4/25.............DA-II Due

5/05.............AP #5 Due

5/05.............Pass Out Final Exam

5/14.............Final Due (between 8-11 AM)


Analysis Papers (100 pts)
First Exam (100 pts)
Second Exam (100 pts)
Discretionary Assignment (100 pts)
Final Exam (100 pts)



Analysis Paper #1

Read the short handout...a quotational summary of Berger Chapter 1, "Why Study Sociology?" Is this anything like you envisioned Sociology to be? Just how DID you envision it, if at all? If not, why not, do you think? What about this description stands out...what do you like about it and possibly don't like or are a bit nervous about? In other words, react to this material as a kind of "pre-test" as we begin our class.

Analysis Paper #2

Choose one (1) of the following:

A. The motifs/themes of Sociological Consciousness, as presented by Berger (Chpt 2), and explained by Kessel, are essentially the "tools" of critical sociological thinking. If that's so, if we REVERSE each one we might "find" the tools of ideological thinking...or simply, non-sociological thought. So try it...reverse each motif and explain the kind of approach to knowing each embodies...then, summarize them into a whole and give each "new" motif a name.


B. How do the "assumptions of the sociological perpsective," the Sociological Imagination, and a Levels of Reality approach fit together (how are they connected)? THEN, how are all three illustrated in Mills' three Sociological Imagination Questions? USE these materials to synthesize these ideas...don't merely repeat with them.


C. After briefly and generally explaining the concept of "paradigm"...based on the way presented in this class (but also utilizing other ways to understand them, if desired)...connect the concept to some of the other issues, ideas, and concepts covered thus far in the course (i.e. using paradigms as your "centering" or central idea, synthesize the materials we've covered thus far...selectively, of course).

Analysis Paper #3

I guess the time has come to ask you what you think about religion. Just what and how do you conceive of it? Clearly this is a deceptively simple question...the truth of the matter is it’s quite complex. But what is also clear to me is that many, if not all, of you have definite views (even if those views might be called “undecided” or indefinite) about religion in general...and most likely about it personally. So, tell me about you and religion.

Although we’ve just started our treacherous trek into the world of the sociology of religion, our Intro. Sociology journey has probably given rise to thoughts about some of the material we covered and the ideas we introduced have given you some new or different ways to think of religion, societal and personal. Also, you have at you disposal a text and some online readings, which I trust you have at least taken a peek at thus far. With all this available, utilize what you will of it to explain yourself in this Analysis Paper...but the focus should be on YOU...and RELIGION.

Lastly, you can do this any way you desire...including personal histories and experiences...that’s up to you. I’m very interested to see where you’re “at” about religion...I’ve certainly not shied away from telling you how I feel and think, right? Well, in short, now it’s your turn...and, for credit, too !!

DUE: Friday, March 14

Analysis Paper #4

I’d like you to try to make some sense out of this whole “epistemology” and “logic systems” material. What do you make of it? What does it mean? Are you a more or less formal logical thinker or more or less a dialectical thinker? Try to explain it to me (yourself)...go anywhere you need to go in order to analyze it. THEN, how does it “fit” into a sociological study of “religion”? What’s it have to do with “religion”? How would religion, religiosity, spirituality, belief, non-belief, etc. be different if conceptualized formally or dialectically.

There’s a little exercise which you could review...but don’t have to if you don’t want to...called Effects of Logic System in Everyday Life.

So, this is both general and specific...tell me about it...then apply it. I’d really like to see some effort here...some speculation and critical thinking, if you please.

Thanks in advance.

DUE: Monday, April 14

Analysis Paper #5

On Monday, the 28th, we will be listening to two songs with ‘God’ as their themes. One is “God (Take One)” by Ian Hunter. The second is a Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) ...called “What God Wants---Part I, II, III”. I will also provide hard copies of the lyrics of each song (You can also find them online HERE.

So, for this Analysis Paper, react to/analyze the lyrics, meanings, perspective, etc. of ONE of the two (the three parts of What God Wants equals ONE pick).

DUE: Monday, May 5...the last day of class...OR...with your Final on the 14th, your choice.


1. To learn about...and learn to utilize...the sociological perspective/consciousness/imagination.

2. To become familiar with the background and development of Sociology as a discipline

3. To learn about sociological paradigms, theories, concepts, and methods.

4. To learn to apply a sociological perspective to societal realities and issues...focusing on Religion.

5. To understand the scope and details of a sociology of’s issues and topics.

6. To learn that “religion” is a “social construction” involving social forces (social structure) and human agency (choice)...and their relationship with and to each other.

7. To understand the difference between “common sense”/”belief” and what “is” and “isn’t.”

8. To realize, overall, that what “is” isn’t necessarily what “ought to be”...that change is both possible and probable, under given conditions.