John A. Bernau

PhD Candidate, Sociology

github twitter linkedin email
SOC 333 Sociology of Religion

Syllabus PDF

This course offers an introduction to the sociological study of religion. As a discipline, sociology blends theory, history, and carefully collected data to better understand social phenomenon. This perspective offers the best chance at understanding the complex phenomenon we know as religion.

We will look at classical theorists like Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber to see if their 150-year-old ideas can help us understand religion today: Would Karl Marx and MLK get along? Would Durkheim stream church services from home? How would Max Weber understand modern televangelists? We will look at historical records to better understand religion in a global perspective, from The Protestant Reformation in Western Europe, to the Rastafari movement in Jamaica, and the state-sponsored atheism of the Soviet Union and China. We will look at the most recently available data to examine changes in American religion, including shrinking congregation sizes, declining confidence in religious leaders, the rise of the “spiritual but not religious”, and the increasing polarization that marks today’s religion and politics.

Required Texts

  • Pals, Daniel. 2014. Nine Theories of Religion. 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Edmonds, Ennis Barrington. 2008. Rastafari: From Outcasts to Cultural Bearers. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Berger, Peter L. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Open Road Media.
  • Chaves, Mark. 2017. American Religion: Contemporary Trends. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Second edition.

Taught: Spring 2017, Spring 2018