Former SLCC Students to Review

Sociology of Religion

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Originally taught at the University of Utah

Notes from a textbook

"Religion in Sociological Perspective," by Keith A. Roberts was loaned out and never returned. Therefore use the link above to read the Notes on a  Textbook.
Sociology of Religion (was University of Utah Soc. 336)
Dwight Adams, Instructor

Other Texts Quoted: 
The World's Religion by Ninian Smart
American Religions & Religion, by Catherine L. Albanese
Religion in America by Julia Mitchell Corbett
The Sociology of Religion: Classical and Contempory Approaches by Barbara Hargrove
Religion in Soceity: A sociology of religion by Ronald  L. Johnstone

Introduction: Religion is "a system of shard beliefs and rituals that are oriented toward some scared, supernatural realm" --Keith A. Roberts

For our purposes, the consequences of religion on behavior will be our study, as we are not qualified to judge doctrines or comment on angles, God, and the like. The scientific methodology can not accommodate areas that are not readily observed with the 5 senses and replicated upon demand. Therefore, we can only measure the behavior of people with relation to their belief systems.

Some theorists have commented on religion as a whole: Karl Marx called religion the "opium of the masses." He saw it as a way for the rich and powerful to control the masses by telling them to wait for a future reward.

Durkhiem saw religion as communal cohesion, social engine for change, personal support, and defining of the group's energies.

Mead, in Symbolic Interactionalism, noted the great many and important symbols or icons found in all religions as they define the sacredness of ideas and motivated men to action.

But there are many types of religion, including civic religion (the governing body of public affairs), the institutional religion (including the clergy) and a unique blending of religious pluralism found in Americans today.

Main types of religious organizations of belief:

1- Simple Supernaturalism (may the force be with you)

2- Animisn (knock on wood, etc.)

3- Theisms, including polytheism, atheism, and monotheism. The latter has three great brances: Judism, Christianity, and Islam.

4- Transcendentalism (improve, transcend your current state) which includes self-help books as well as movements such as Buddhism.

5- Agnosticism (how can I know if there is a God? There are too many competing ideas)

We will do readings in areas that you find interest in.     

Available Projects:
a) Attend a religious service of a religion that is NOT one that you are familiar with.
b) Religion and Death. Visit a Cemetary or Tour a Mortuary or Attend a Funeral.
c) Religion and the Family. Review of Literature.

Project A Objective: This project is designed to help you assess the impact of a religion on a those who adhere to it. This project is also designed to help you to understand people who believe differently than you do. It is very important that you visit a religion which is very new to your understanding and as different from your own as possible. For an example: if you are Christian, it would be best to visit a non-Christian religion (that would be preferable over having you visit another Christian denomination).

Project "b" (Death and the Symbols Regarding Death)
Objective: This project is designed to help you assess the impact of religion on a major idea that religion is supposed to help people understand: death and the rituals surrounding it. Depending on the theology of the religion, it may also try to give answers to survivors about death, including understandings or beliefs in what has happened to their loved one, including possibilities of life after death.

Project "c" Family Issues Literature Review
Learning about Religion and the Family through a Review of the Literature (using "existing data" and published matterials). 1) gather 4 or more recent (published during the quarter) articles from newspapers or magazines on issues of Family and Religion.
Gather the type of articles that you have personal interest in. They can have any relevance to "lifestyle" --not only that of "family" -- being influenced by religion.
For purposes of this project, the term "religion" means a "main line" recognized institution, rather than a cult, marginal group, etc. We are looking for influence on a large societal level (whole USA). 2) Read and photocopy for submission 1 or more scientific journal article (published in the last 5 years) on an issue of family and religion that interests you.
The journal needs to be one of the "main line" Sociology, Gerontology, Nursing, Health Science, Social Work, or Psychology journals, please. 3) Submit a 3-5 page paper (typed and double spaced) summarizing in your own words all five of those articles and what they mean to YOU (you may disagree with them).
Limit any one article from a newspaper or magazine to one page, but the journal article summary may be up to 2 pages long. Make sure that you submit the photocopies of all 5 articles with your paper.

Readings: Family and Life styles in Religion

A student's project: Exotic Religions

Ethnicity and Life Chances