Welcome (old)

This website supports SOAN 232 — the University of Redlands’ lower-division course on the sociology of religion.  It is part of the general education program:

  • For the Liberal Arts Foundation program, it fulfills both the HB (social science) requirement and the WA (first-year writing) requirement.
  • For the new Liberal Arts Inquiry program, it fulfills the SS (social scientific practice) and the APW (analyzing perspectives and worldviews) requirements.

It also counts as an elective for the Sociology and Anthropology major and for the Religion major.  It welcomes everyone, at whatever level they wish to learn.

The course has no prerequisites, other than a willingness to learn about religion’s role in contemporary society.   Please explore our website.  Read the students’ blog posts.  See what they uncover as the semester unfolds.

Why Religion?

Religion is a key part of every society on earth.  From the Stone Age to the Space Age, religion has given people a sense of themselves and of their cosmos.  It has held societies together and has torn them apart.  It is both a source of meaning and a source of confusion, both to individuals and to groups.

Through lectures, readings, discussions, films, group research projects and field trips, we will attempt to understand the structure of modern religious life, its recent changes, and the significance of those changes for society at large.  In the process, you will be invited to:

  • appreciate religious perspectives other than your own;
  • see the effects of social organization on religious life;
  • understand the role that religions and religious notions play in society at large, particularly in the United States;
  • understand the different ways in which sociologists approach religion (and religions)

What Lies Ahead?

Here’s our agenda:

  • We will spend the first part of the semester getting an overview of how sociologists approach religion.  Then we will look in depth at some contemporary American religious groups.
  • In the process, we will discover some useful tools for understanding religions as social organizations and for understanding religious dynamics.
  • Each student will visit a religious congregation, observing and reporting on its practices.
  • We will then explore some key questions about what is happening to religion in contemporary society.  Is it disappearing? Becoming more conservative?  More individualized?  How does religion affect personal life?  How does it shape society?
  • After a second field visit and an interview with a religious specialist, we will then, in groups, explore religion’s role in a contemporary social issue.  There are several possibilities listed at the bottom of the Presentations page of this website, including religion and politics, religion and science, religion and the environment.

In these inquiries, we will use the sociological tools that we have learned to understand local religious life.

By the end of the course, students will know a good deal religion as it is practiced in the real world.  They will also know a good deal more about sociology!