SOC 313K • Introduction to the Study of Religion
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
SOC 313K AND ANS 301M MAY NOT BE BE COUNTED
This course is, among other things, about how social forces shape our personal experience. Religion and religious practice, among other social phenomena, are always shaped by and shape the social context in which they exist. More than that, religion is always a socially-constituted reality - meaning that its content and structure are always formed, to a greater or lesser degree, from the "stuff" of the social world (language, norms, hierarchies, organizations, conflict, etc.). This "social-ness" is a fact, one that stands independent of the truth-value of a religion. So whether or not Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam is a religion that contains the Truth, each of these religions are experienced in a distinctly social way, influencing people and being influenced by them in return. We will begin by talking about what sociology is, and what a distinctively sociological approach to studying religion looks like. We will examine religious beliefs, practices, organizations, and cultures from a sociological perspective, looking as well at the developmental aspects of religion and its practice.
This course is not a general introduction to world religions; however, I find that many students know comparatively little about the historic biblical tradition, so I will spend some time up front highlighting key themes within Christian and Jewish thought, which will help place the course's sociological perspective on American religion in clearer context. The course will focus more intensively on Christianity in both the Western and non-Western world (and will feature only a brief introduction to Islam). The course concludes with a component that returns to address the most basic of human questions that pre-date research: is there a God? How is life lived differently in light of the existence or non-existence of God?