Module Narrative

Module Title: Sociology of Religion
Module Code: MED500
Level: 5
Credit Points: 20 Credits
Compulsory or Optional: Optional (Media pathway)
Pre-requisites/co-requisites: MED400
Excluded combinations or modules: None
Mode of attendance: Mixed


This course provides an introduction to the sociology of religion, an important field in the discipline of sociology. Religion exists in all societies and is shaped by its context. There are general sociological arguments that religion is socially constructed and reflects the nature of that society. The course will consider these arguments and the evolving argument that religion has a physiological basis. This module will evaluate the beliefs, practices, organisations and experiences typically labelled as religious. Of particular interest would be the experiential nature of religious experiences. Mini projects will involve students conducting interviews with religious people and visits to religious organisations to understand why people believe as they do. Students will study religious organizational structures and the influence of secularization on belief systems. Students will also consider factors affecting religious beliefs such as family, ethnicity, social status, etc.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, the successful student will be able to:

1. evaluate the various factors influencing religious beliefs in people and societies.
2. analyse the major theoretical orientations pertaining to the study of sociology of religions
3. evaluate the major issues, problems, and findings in the sociology of religion as a field of study.

This module will call for the successful student to demonstrate:

1. basic skills of field research by engaging in mini research projects involving interviews and visits to a religious organisation, producing a report of their findings

The course will develop students understanding as they interact with the kinds of questions sociologists ask when they discuss religion. It will cover major theoretical orientations in the study of sociology of religions such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Carl Max, Darwinian and more modern sociological perspectives. Students will encounter different perspectives in social science: cultural sociology, rational choice theory, social constructionism, symbolic interactionism, etc. Students will engage in discussion of the nature and the use of scientific instruments as a basis for studying religion. Students will also engage in improvement of their cognitive and communication skills through a mini project and report.

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy
The course is delivered by lectures, workshops, guided field trips. There are many approaches to studying religion—historical, psychological, theological, anthropological, etc. This class takes a distinctively sociological approach, a basic goal is to develop an understanding of and appreciation for the kinds of questions sociologists ask and the kind of explanations they offer when analyzing religion.

In order to study sociology of religion, the student has to actually know something about real religions. Therefore, near the start of the course students learn about some major religious traditions.

This course also aims through its exercises and requirements, to enhance students’ abilities to read, analyze, discuss, and write skilfully.

Students will be introduced to basic skills of field research. Sociology is an empirical discipline that constructs theories and draws conclusions based on evidence that can be observed. Students in this class will go beyond merely reading about religion, to actually doing simple participant-observation through field trips at local religious groups, involving first-hand observation, analysis, and brief written reports.

Students undertake a mini project involving a structured questionnaire and an interview of people of different religious persuasions. Students may not research religious tradition(s) within which they were raised or with which they are quite familiar. Students are required to use this as opportunity to do something interesting and different by also engaging with religious practices of which they are unfamiliar. Projects must have the written approval of the Tutor before commencement using the form designated for this purpose.

Assessment Scheme

• Project plan, questionnaire and interview questions (formative assessment)

• Mini–project and Report 3500 words (summative assessment)

Assessment Weighting

Essay 50%
Project Report 50%

Johnstone R. L. (2015) Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion 8th Edition: New York: Routledge
Ammerman, N., (2006) Everyday Religion: Observing Modern Religious Lives, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press

Monaham, S. C. et al (2010) Sociology of Religion: A Reader (Mysearchlab Series for Religion) 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge
Babbie, E. R. (2010) The Basics of Social Research 5th Edition. United Kingdom: Wadsworth Publishing

Christiano, K. J., Swatos, W. H. and Kivisto P. (2008) Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments Second Edition. Plymouth, England: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Ebaugh, H. R. and Chafetz, J. S. (2000) Religion and the New Immigrants: Continuities and Adaptations in Immigrant Congregations. Walnut Creek, Cal.: Altamira Press.

Emerson, M. et al (2010) Religion Matters: What Sociology Teaches Us About Religion In Our World 1st Edition. New York: Routledge
Molloy, M. (2012) Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change, 6th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education

Putnam, R. D. and Campbell, D. E. (2012) American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon & Schuster

Smith, C., (2009) Souls in Transition: the Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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