Module VPR-3318:
Sociology of Religion

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Farhaan Wali

Overall aims and purpose

Not all religions share the same set of beliefs, but in one form or another, religion is found in all known human societies. Even the earliest societies on record show clear traces of religious symbols and ceremonies. Throughout history, religion has continued to be a central part of human experience, shaping how individuals react to the environments in which they live. Yet, in the wake of the enlightenment, many theorists predicted ‘the death of religion’. However, some sociologists believe, the recent public and political interest in religion has sparked a religious revival across the world. In order to make sense of the changing function of religion, this module will examine the different sociological perspectives and approaches to the study of religion. The module will seek to address a range of modern debates (such as the increasing politicisation of religion and the secularisation debate), and to investigate these within an assortment of religious settings. These contemporary debates will be grounded within a fixed sociological framework, which will be constructed around the contributions of both classical sociologists, such as Durkheim, Marx, Troeltsch and Weber, and recent sociologists.

Course content

This module provides a comprehensive discussion of the classical and modern theoretical underpinnings of the sociological study of religion. The module will cover several theoretical topics and issues: Firstly, the origins of religious belief and practice will be explored by reviewing the major theories related to the debates on the social origin of religion. Secondly, the module will provide different theoretical foundations for understanding religion in modern social life, its culture and institutions. Thirdly, the module will identify common themes across religious traditions, providing broader insight into different understandings of religion, of those who practice religion, and how religious motivations and justifications affect the social world. Fourthly, these common themes will be examined within a sociological framework, which will be built on the contributions of both classical sociologists, such as Durkheim, Marx, Troeltsch and Weber, and recent sociologists.

Assessment Criteria

good

Very Good B- - B+. Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:  Very good structure and logically developed arguments.  Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.  Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.  Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

threshold

Threshold: D- - D +. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

 Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.  Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.  Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.  Draws on a relatively narrow range of material

C- to C+

Good C- - C +. Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:  Good structure and logically developed arguments.  At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.  Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning.  Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. To demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of key theories and arguments in the sociology of religion.

  2. To show awareness of, and the ability to organize, different sociological approaches and interpretations.

  3. To be able to distinguish among the major classical and contemporary theoretical approaches employed by sociologists in the study of religion

  4. To identify and focus on key issues and select and arrange material from a variety of secondary sociological sources

  5. To conduct a critical analysis of sociological theories and arguments

  6. To construct a sustained argument and demonstrate intellectual flexibility in assessing concrete situations and issues

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Group/Individual presentation 20
ESSAY written essay 40
CASE STUDY case study 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Lecture 24
Private study 166
Seminar 10

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
  • Precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial problems.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • The ability to use and criticise specialised religious and philosophical terminology.
  • The ability to abstract and analyse arguments, and to identify flaws in them, such as false premises and invalid reasoning.
  • The ability to move between generalisation and appropriately detailed discussion, inventing or discovering examples to support or challenge a position, and distinguishing relevant and irrelevant considerations.
  • The ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods within the disciplines of philosophy and religion.

Courses including this module