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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Spring 2008

R S 337 • Religion and Society

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44500 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
bur 208
Ellison, c

Course Description

Since the classical treatises of Weber, Durkheim and Marx, social scientists have widely assumed that the vitality and social power of religion are being steadily eroded by the forces of modernity. However, these time-honored notions of secularization are now under attack, and they are rapidly giving way to a more dynamic, market-oriented perspective on individual and collective religious life, especially in the contemporary United States. After a quick review and critique of various pro-secularization arguments, we will explore this "new paradigm" in relation to the following topics: 1. The apparent growth of socially and theologically conservative denominations, and the apparent decline of more liberal groups; 2. The varied factors influencing the religious decision-making of individuals; 3. The emergence of various new religious movements (including so-called "cults") as well as the growth of non-Judeo-Christian faiths, and the societal response to this growing diversity; 4. The perennial role of religious institutions as "free social spaces" through which various cultural minorities (e.g., racial/ethnic groups) can sustain personal and group identities and seek empowerment; 5. The impact of religious institutions and values on the personal and family well-being of individual Americans; and 6. The place of religious institutions and values in contemporary debates concerning "the family" and other public and political issues.

Grading Policy

Two in-class exams - 25% each
Comprehensive final exam 40%
Attendance will be taken without notice, and occasional brief quizzes may also be given in class. These items will constitute the remainder of the course grade -10%


Readings will be included in a course packet, available for purchase from Paradigm, on 24th St. near Guadalupe (phone: 472-7986).


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