JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Sociology of Religion"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Jenn Lindsay
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 4:30-5:45PM

This course concerns the role of religion in society: as a source of common values (Durkheim); of social change and the origins of modern capitalism (Weber); as social control and social rebellion (Marx); its relation to other narratives and ways of seeing the world such as mythologies, modernity, rationalism and secularism; and its role in the construction of nationality, class, race, ethnicity, and gender. We will study the classic definitions and theoretical perspectives in sociology of religion. We will look at mainstream religions, the relative importance of churches, sects and cults, the challenge of fundamentalisms of all types, the importance of evangelicalism in the United States and the recent challenge to it of the "new atheists", the thesis of secular society and modernization, and complex issues related to the growing importance of Islam around the world.

The course covers the major scientific approaches to understanding how religion interacts with society, culture and institutions. As literacy in major world religions is not assumed, the class will also cover the major teachings and structures of demographically significant religions. We examine how religion interacts with such social phenomena as education, culture, violence, class, race and ethnicity, gender, the family, migration, media and social change. By the end of the course students will have some initial experience in putting social scientific methods into practice as well. Classes will provide a mixture of lectures, media screenings and group discussion based on contemporary topics and materials. Students are expected to do the required readings in the textbook and additional handouts in preparation for discussion in the following class, and to participate actively in those discussions.


Having taken this course, students will:

1.     develop fluency in the central terms and questions of major world religions, social diversity, interreligious conflict and interfaith dialogue;

2.     become well-versed in the diverse, changing socio-religious landscape of Rome;

3.     become familiar with prominent themes for the discussing the complexity and particularities of interreligious diversity, conflict and dialogue in Rome and in Italy; and

4.     be able to apply social scientific and religious studies concepts to religious behavior, diversity and dialogue in Rome and beyond.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
God Is Not OneStephen ProtheroHarperOne978-0061571282  
Religion Matters: What Sociology Teaches Us About Religion In Our WorldWilliam Mirola, Susanne C MonahanRoutledge978-0205628001  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Sociology of Religion: A ReaderWilliam Mirola (Editor), Susanne C Monahan (Editor), Michael Emerson (Editor)Routledge978-0205710829  

Preparation and participation Attendance and active participation are required. Students are expected to do the readings assigned for each class meeting beforehand, and to actively participate in class discussions. Class participation grading is based upon attendance, regular participation in class discussion, generating good questions or interesting insights to fuel class conversation. 10
Discussion Leading Once in the semester each student will deliver a 10-minute presentation at the beginning of the class that not only summarizes the daily reading for fellow students, but also delves more deeply into the theme being addressed. Please use visual aids (PowerPoint, video, other media) to enhance your discussion. Your presentation will come in two parts: a reading / topic overview and summary at the beginning of class, and then you will present 2 discussion questions to stimulate conversation. You can work together or separately to put together your presentation. 10
Personal Formation Self-Analysis To begin our conversations, you will reflect on your own ideals and beliefs formation and write a 4-page personal formation statement that addresses your choice of the questions below. You will not be graded on your claims but rather the clarity with which you have considered and expressed them, how well you structure your self-analysis, and the self-awareness you display in relating your claims to various sociological factors that position your perspective. Grammar and writing quality count! * What are your primary faith claims? You may address beliefs about (including non-belief in) deities and spiritual beings, the purpose of human life, and the nature of reality. * Do you affiliate with a world religion and/or observe any spiritual practices? How important are your beliefs and practices to you? * Do you depart from your family in your practice and/or beliefs? If so, how? * Consider how the following sociological factors have interacted with your personal formation: age, social class, gender, race/ethnicity, religious identity, nationality, place of upbringing, and family dynamics. * Address an aspect of a different religious practice/belief that you are interested in learning more about. * Address an aspect of a different religious practice/belief that disturbs, confuses or offends you. * Why did you sign up for this course and what do you hope to get out of it? Extra credit (2 points on assignment) will be given for updating your spiritual autobiography at the end of the course. 10
Weekly Journal Responses Due to your instructor via Moodle at 10 pm on the night of the last weekly class session (due Wednesday night for this course). Personal reflections should be at least 250 words in length and focus on AT LEAST two of the week's assigned readings, and at least one of the films or discussion themes presented in class. The goal here is NOT to summarize the readings/films but to interact with and respond to them. I am looking for genuine personal engagement: show me you are listening and thinking critically. The journals will not be graded individually, but they will each be read carefully and will be graded as a whole. Grammar and writing quality count! Think of this as a weekly written check-in with me, your course instructor. Tell me what you're thinking about in class, tell me how the reading struck you. Did anything make you angry, or comfort you? What topic this week are you still curious about? 15
Fieldwork Observation Assignment Attend an interfaith event or a religious service NOT of your own religion in Rome. Describe, analyze, and reflect upon the service. Students will be given a worksheet detailing how they are to report their observations using descriptive, analytic, and reflective approaches.15
Midterm ExamAn exam will be administered to test knowledge on course content covered up to that point. Word definitions, short and long essay questions will allow students to demonstrate their ability to identify, understand and critically discuss the concepts learned in the course.18
Final Paper or Project Students will write and present in the form of an original individual research paper or a creative project as an alternative to a traditional research paper. Projects can be in the form of documentary or narrative video, a newspaper or news broadcast, a fieldwork investigation, a research poster with an annotated bibliography, a literature review, a theatrical piece, fiction, some songs, a website, or a model for interfaith programming on a secular college campus with ideas for events and experiences-the possibilities are wide-ranging. Proposals will be minimum 250-word statements summarizing basic topic, argument, and sources to be used. Students may request appointments to discuss and develop their ideas. If you choose to write a paper, it must refer to at least three required readings and primary sources covered in the course, and it must also draw upon at least three other scholarly sources (journal articles, book chapters, research reports, etc.) as well as other pertinent sources such as films, photographs, newspapers, blog entries, or social media contributions. Wikipedia does not count as a scholarly source. If you choose to do an alternative project, you MUST earn my approval by making a persuasive argument in your project proposal that demonstrates to me that you will be undertaking an appropriate amount of effort and learning. Papers will be at least six pages long (1,500 words) and will include an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Essays must be typed, double-spaced in Times New Roman (12pt), and 2.5cm/1-inch margins on all four sides. In-text page citations and bibliographies are required. The goal of this paper or project is to demonstrate your grasp of concepts covered in the course, and it represents your chance to delve more deeply into a topic that has interested you personally. Papers that merely recapitulate information covered in the course without extending the discussion in a new direction will receive a lower grade. On the final day of class, students will present their work to the class for 10 minutes using visual aids and must engage their classmates in discussion. 22

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




Session Focus

Reading Assignment

Recommended Additional Reading and Additional Assignments

WK 1A Sept 3

Intro: What is the sociology of religion? Why study religion?

Modernity, Rationality, and Secularism

Mirola / Monahan, Chapters 1 and 2

Introduction of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

WK 1B Sept 5

Religion and the State

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 8

Olson, Carl. Religious Studies: The Key Concepts. (Read Preface on pages 3-19 of provided PDF, skim definitions in the following pages)

Ferrari, Alessandro, and Silvio Ferrari. Religion and the Secular State: The Italian Case.

WK 2A Sept 10

Christianity: Overview

Chapter 2 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Garelli, Franco. “Flexible Catholicism, Religion and the Church: The Italian Case.”

Lamott, Anne. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith


Nag Hammadi Scriptures. “The Thunder, Perfect Mind.”

Baum, Gregory. “Interreligious Dialogue: A Roman Catholic Perspective”

WK 2B Sept 12

Christianity in Italy

Watch Il Presepe di Calcata

Uelmen, Amelia J. “Chiara Lubich: A Life for Unity.”

Marzano, Marco, and Enzo Pace. “Introduction: The Many Faces of Italian Catholicism in the 21st Century.” 

Personal Formation Self-Analysis due.

WK 3A Sept 17

 Sociology of Christianity

Focus on Immigration

Watch Religion News Service video

 Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 11

WK 3B Sept 19

Emile Durkheim: Social Solidarity and Sacred Values

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 14

WK 4A Sept 24

Judaism: Overview

Chapter 7 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Soloveitchik, Joseph B. “Confrontation.”

WK 4B Sept 26

Judaism in Italy

Traverso, Vittoria. “Has Rome Declared an Artichoke War?”

Sacerdoti, Annie, and Alberto Jona Falco. The Guide to Jewish Italy.

Stille, Alexander. Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism.

Venzo, Manola Ida., and Bice Migliau. The Racial Laws and the Jewish Community of Rome, 1938-1945.

Di Castro, Daniela. Treasures of the Jewish Museum of Rome: Guide to  the Museum and Its Collection.

Horowitz, Elliott. “As Others See Jews.” Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide.

WK 5A Oct 1

Sociology of Judaism

Focus on race and ethnicity

Watch From Alef to Zayin: A Secular Jewish Education

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 10

Malkin, Yaakov. “Humanistic and Secular Judaism.” Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide.

WK 5B Oct 3

Karl Marx and religious vitality

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 5

WK 6A Oct 8

Fundamentalism and violence in religion

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 4

Brahm, Eric. “Religion and Conflict.”

Reuters. “Religious Conflict in Global Rise - Report.

Explore https://www.beyondintractability.org/

Firestone, Reuven. “Jewish-Muslim Relations.”

Tolstoy, Margie. “Jewish-Christian Relations.”

WK 6B Oct 10

Religious and Social Conflict in Rome (Immigration, Roma, Mafia)

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 6

Thoroughly explore “Inside Italian Gypsy camps,”


Devlin, Luke. “The Roma People and the Italians: A Strained Relationship.” Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University, 14 May 2012, berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/the-roma-people-and-the-italians-a-strained-relationship.

Explore “Roma Sinti in Italy and around the World.” USC Shoah Foundation, http://sfi.usc.edu/education/roma-sinti/  

Deutsche Welle. “Catholic Church Was 'Inconsistent' with Mafia.”

WK 7A Oct 15

Max Weber and authority

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 3

WK 7B Oct 17

Mid-Term Review

WK 8A Oct 22


WK 8B Oct 24

Islam: Overview

Chapter 1 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Rūmī Jalāl al-Dīn, and Coleman Barks. The Essential Rumi.

Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time. Introduction and Chapter 2: “Jahiliyyah.”

WK 9A Oct 29

Islam in Italy

Toronto, James A. “Islam Italiano: Prospects for Integration of Muslims in Italy's Religious Landscape.”

Vidino, Lorenzo. “Islam, Islamism and Jihadism in Italy.”

Esposito, John L. What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam. Preface and chapter in PDF.

Final paper/project proposals due.

Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.

Wilson, G. Willow. The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam.

WK 9B Oct 31

Sociology of Islam

Focus on Gender and LGBT issues

Watch Jilbab

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 11

Ali-Karamali, Sumbul. The Muslim next Door: the Quran, the Media, and That Veil Thing.

WK 10A Nov 5

Hinduism: Overview

Watch All About the Robes

Chapter 4 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Fieldwork Observation Assignment due.

Gandhi, Mohandas, and Robert Ellsberg. Gandhi on Christianity.


Kasimow, Harold. “Swami Vivekananda and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.”

WK 10B Nov 7

Hinduism in Italy

“Hindu Communities in Italy.” Unione Induista Italiana, www.hinduism.it/en/comunita-indu-italia/.

WK 11A Nov 12

Buddhism: Overview

Chapter 5 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Trungpa, Chogyam, et al. Cutting through Spiritual Materialism.

Kotler, Arnold. Engaged Buddhist Reader: Ten Years of Engaged Buddhist Publishing.

WK 11B Nov 14

Buddhism in Italy

Watch Minding Shadows and Tibetan Mandala

Minding Shadows by Olivier Biraro, the Venerable Sangharakkita

WK 12A Nov 19

Atheism: Overview and in Italy

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 12

Chapter 9 of Prothero, Stephen R. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

Stedman, Chris. Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.

Solomon, Robert C. Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life.

WK 12B Nov 21

Interreligious dialogue and social change

Watch Pluralismo Vivo and KAICIID

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 7

Mays, Rebecca Kratz. Interfaith Dialogue at the Grass Roots.

Suomala, Karla. “Complex Religious Identity in the Context of Interfaith Dialogue.” 

Considine, Craig. “The 8 Most Important Interfaith Monuments in the World.”

Explore http://www.pcinterreligious.org/.

Knitter, Paul F. “My God Is Bigger than Your God!”

WK 13A Nov 26

Religion and politics case study: American Evangelical Christians

Mirola / Monahan, Chapter 8

Watch Religion and the 2016 Election: Historical Context and Unusual Alliances - Prof. Randall Balmer


Personal Formation Self-Analysis optional extra credit update due.

WK 13B Nov 28

Conclusions and Review

WK 14A Dec 3

Final paper/projects presentations


WK 14B Dec 5

Final paper/projects presentations

Study Period and Final Exams week

December 10—Final papers/projects due.