Sociology 476 : Religion and Societies

University of Alberta
Department of Sociology
Instructor: Dr. Stephen A. Kent
476 : Religion and Societies

Required Books:

Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God. Berkeley: University of California Press.

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style. (any edition). New York: Macmillian, 1979 (or more recent).

Academic Skills Centre, Notes on the Preparation of Essays in the Arts and Sciences. 4th ed. Peterborough: Trent University, 1993 (including the 2000 insert by Karen Taylor, Documenting Electronic Sources)

Required Articles: Please see the attached list, all of which will be available as a course pack.

Course Purpose and Objectives: The lectures and readings are designed to provide examples of sociological perspectives on the world’s major religious traditions.

Course Outline: 1st exam on Tuesday, October 19th.
2nd exam on Tuesday, December 7th.
Papers:–due on the last class (December 7). This date is firm.

Each exam will take no more than one hour and ten minutes, and will require essay answers. The second exam will not cover material that was tested on the first exam. Students must write both exams.

PLEASE NOTE: If a situation arises that will affect your performance in the course, then I expect to be informed immediately. Either speak with me directly or leave a note or phone message with instructions as to how I can contact you. Only approved absences from exams, according to a strict interpretation of university rules, will be allowed. FOR MISSED EXAMS, I require a WRITTEN note of explanation, clearly signed (with an accompanying phone number) from an `official’ of some sort (i.e., a doctor’s slip, a tow truck or mechanic’s bill, a police report, etc.).

Grading: The two exams will be based on a combination of readings and class lectures. Each one will count 33 1/3%, as will the term paper. The paper will involve extensive library research on a religious group or topic of your choice, subject to my approval. It will be at least 15 pages of text in length, and my standards for research and writing are high but reasonable. You are to type me a note that contains your proposed research topic, along with a tentative line of argument that you plan to pursue. If I approve of your topic and idea, then I will return the note to you, signed and with comments. You must assume responsibility, however, for ensuring that sufficient library material exists for you to complete your paper successfully. On Tuesday, November 2nd, each person will bring at least 5 typed pages of his or her term paper to class and exchange it with at least two other students, who will offer helpful comments about writing, style, coherence of argument, etc. Feedback about style, grammar, etc., will depend heavily on advice found in The Elements of Style, as will my own assessment of the final product. Students who do not show up at this class with at least 5 typed pages for peer review will be penalized fifteen marks on the final exam. I will provide examples of typical writing problems that will help facilitate the peer feedback process.

Each exam and term paper will count 33 1/3%, which means that I do not give supplemental tests. I will tabulate and record the grades for each exam, add all three together, and then translate them into the University’s 4-point grading according to the following scheme (please turn over):

Descriptor Letter Grade Point Value
A+ 4.0
A- 3.7

B+ 3.3
GOOD B 3.0
B- 2.7

C+ 2.3
C- 1.7

Poor D+ 1.3
Minimal Pass D 1.0
Failure F 0

Required article readings for Sociology 476: Religion and Societies (2003)

Readings for the first exam:

I. Overview

1. Allen, Charlotte. 1996. “Is Nothing Sacred? Casting Out the Gods From Religious Studies.” Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life. (November): 30-40.

2. Juergensmeyer, “Introduction.”

A. Hinduism

3. Weber, Max. 1917. “The Religions of Asia.” Pp. 192-205 in Weber: Selections in Translation. Edited by W.G. Runciman, Translated by E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1978.

4. Juergensmeyer, Chapter 5: “The Sword of Sikhism.”

B. Buddhism


5. Masefield, Peter. “The Muni and the Moonies.” Religion 15 (1985): 143-160.


6. Kent, Stephen A. “A Sectarian Interpretation of the Rise of Mahayana.” Religion 12 (1982): 311-332.

C. Confucianism

7. Wong, Siu-lun. 1989. “Modernization and Chinese Cultural Traditions in Hong Kong.” Pp. 166-194 in Confucianism and Economic Development: An Oriental Alternative?, ed. by Hung-chao Tai. Washington, D.C.: Washington Press.

D. Judaism

8. Baumgarten, Albert I. 1998. “Ancient Jewish Sectarianism.” Judaism Issue 188, Volume 47 No.4 (Fall): 387-403.

9. Lang, Graeme. 1989 “Oppression and Revolt in Ancient Palestine: The Evidence in Jewish Literature from the Prophets to Josephus.” Sociological Analysis 49 no. 4 (Winter): 325-342.

10. Juergensmeyer, “Zion Betrayed.”

E. Christianity


11. Gager, John. Kingdom and Community: the Social World of Early Christianity. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1975, pp. 19-65.

12. Juergensmeyer, “Soldiers for Christ.”

[Note: the material above will be covered on the first exam, while the material below will be on the second exam]


13. Pagels, Elaine. 1979. “The Suppressed Gnostic Feminism.” The New York Review of Books (November 22): 42-49.


14. Weber, Max. 1920. Excerpt from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1904-1905, 2nd Edition. [“Introduction” and] “Protestant Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism,” Pp. 135-173 of Weber: Selections in Translation, Edited by W. G. Runciman; Translated by E. Matthews, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978, reprinted 1980.

15. Kent, Stephen A. “Weber, Goethe, and the Nietzschean Allusion: Capturing the Source of the ‘Iron Cage’ Metaphor,” Sociological Analysis 44 no. 4 (Winter, 1983): 297-319.

F. Islam

16. Siegel, Paul N. The Meek and the Militant: Religion and Power Across the World. London: Zed Books, 1986, Chapter 9, “Islam,” pp. 171-191.

17. Juergensmeyer, :Islam’s Neglected Duty.”

G. Religion and Modern Terrorism

18. Juergensmeyer, Chapters 7-11.