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Fall, 1997

Prof. Nancy T. Ammerman

This course will provide students with an opportunity to think about religious experience and religious organizations as a part of a larger social order. It will introduce basic concepts in the sociology of religion and briefly survey the historical and social landscape of religion in the U.S.

The emphasis will be on reading, discussion, and focused observation. Students should read the materials assigned and come to class ready to discuss them. Items marked "Recommended" are optional. Each week’s assignments and topics are clustered under two headings (a & b), indicating
the focus of the first and second half of the week’s meeting, respectively. Class meetings will include lecture, discussion, and student presentations.


Students will do two kinds of short papers, to be turned in on a schedule negotiated between the student and the instructor.

First will be six (6) "critical reading reports." For each, the student will select one reading (a chapter or article), offering a brief summary (1-2 paragraphs), followed by a critical discussion of its contents. Total length: about 2 pages.

Second will be two (2) "observation reports." For each, the student will select a group or issue about which s/he would like to learn more by observing an event or interviewing a person. The report of this observation or interview will include a summary of what was observed, along with an analysis of it, using the categories and concepts of the course. Total length for each: about 5 pages.

Books recommended for purchase:

McGuire, Meredith B., Religion: The Social Context

Berger, Peter L., The Sacred Canopy

All other books and journals are available in the library. In addition, a copy of each chapter and article has been placed in a file folder so that you may make a personal copy, if you wish.

Class Schedule and Readings
Date / Topic
 Topic A
 Topic B
Sept 9 Course Introduction
Sept 16

The sociological study of religion definitions - McGuire, Meredith B., Religion: The Social Context, ch 1

The role of language and discourse, material objects and practices - Berger, Peter L., The Sacred Canopy. ch. 1

McDannell, Colleen. Material Christianity, ch. 1

Nelson, Timothy J. 1996. "Sacrifice of Praise: Emotion and Collective Participation in an African-American Worship Service." Sociology of Religion 57(4):379-96.

Recommended: O'Leary, Stephen D. 1996. "Cyberspace as Sacred Space: Communicating Religion on Computer Networks." Journal of the American Academy of Religion,64(4):781-808


Sept 23

Forms of religious organization & authority organizations McGuire, ch. 5

Warner, R. Stephen. "The Place of the Congregation in the Contemporary American Religious Configuration." In American Congregations: New Perspectives in the Study of Congregations (vol. 2), edited by James P. Wind and James W. Lewis. Vol II, pp. 54-99.


Wallace, Ruth A. 1993. "The Social Construction of a New Leadership Role: Catholic Women Pastors." Sociology of Religion 54(1):31-42.


Sept 30

Forms of religious belonging

religion as identity and community

McGuire, ch. 2

Orsi, Robert. The Madonna of 115Th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, ch. 7

modes of identity

Hammond, Phillip H. 1988 "Religion and the Persistence of Identity." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 27(1):1-11.


Oct 7

Religious transformations

McGuire, ch. 3

Neitz, Mary Jo. Charisma and Community. ch. 3
Roof, Wade Clark and William McKinney. American Mainline Religion, ch. 5
Oct 14
A brief survey of American religious history
 early beginnings
Hall, David D. "A World of Wonders." In Hackett, David G. Religion and American Culture, ch 2

Joyner, Charles. "Believer I Know." In Hackett, Religion and American Culture, ch 10

 19th century
Holifield, E. Brooks. "Toward a History of American Congregations" in American Congregations: New Perspectives in the Study of Congregations (vol. 2), edited by James P. Wind and James W. Lewis, Chapter 1

Scott, Anne Firor. "Onward Christian Women" in Natural Allies, ch. 4
Oct 21
Are we getting more secularized?
 the basic argument
McGuire, ch. 8

Recommended: Berger, chs. 5-7
 the new paradigm
Warner, R. Stephen, "Work in Progress toward a New Paradigm for the Study of Religion in the United States." American Journal of Sociology, 98(5):1044-1093.
Oct 28
The role of religion in society - cause and effect
 McGuire, ch. 7
Wood, Richard L. 1994. "Faith in Action: Religious Resources for Political Success in Three Congregations." Sociology of Religion 55(4):397-417.

Ammerman Nancy. "The Dynamics of Christian Fundamentalism: An Introduction," In Accounting for Fundamentalisms, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby.

Recommended: Dillon, Michele. 1995. "Religion and Culture in Tension: The Abortion Discourses of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention." Religion and American Culture 5(2):159-80.
Nov 4
Religion in the context of stratification and division
 religion as legitimation
McGuire, ch. 6

Berger, chs. 2, 4
 religion and social class
Kosmin, Barry A. and Seymour P. Lachman. One Nation Under God: Religion in Contemporary American Society, ch. 7

Nov 11
Religion and our sources of difference
Braude, Anne. 1997. "Women’s History Is American Religious History." In Retelling U.S. Religious History, edited by Thomas A. Tweed, ch 3

Davidman, Lynn and Arthur L.Greil. "Gender and the Experience of Conversion: The Case of "Returnees" to Modern Orthodox Judaism." "Sociology of Religion 54(1):83-100.

Lincoln, C. Eric and Lawrence H. Mamiya. The Black Church in the African American Experience, ch. 7
Nov 18
Protestants: Liberal and Conservative
Hoge, Dean R., Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens. Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers, ch. 7

Nash, Laura. 1994. "The Evangelical CEO." Across the Board, February, 26-33.

McDannell, Material Christianity, ch. 8
Dec 2
Catholics and Jews Join the Mainstream
McGreevy, John T. Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North, ch. 1

McNamara, Patrick H. Conscience First, Tradition Second: A Study of Young American Catholics. chs. 1-2

Joselit, Jenna W. New York’s Jewish Jews,
ch. 4

Dec 9
Immigrants and New Religions
Nyang, Sulayman S. 1991. "Convergence and Divergence in an Emergent Community: A Study of Challenges Facing U.S. Muslims." In The Muslims in America, edited by Yvonne Haddad.
 New Religions
Melton, Gordon J. 1987. "How New is New? The Flowering of the "New" Religious Consciousness since 1965." In The Future of New Religions, edited by David Bromley and Phillip Hammond, ch 4

Wright, Stuart A. 1995. "Construction and Escalation of a Cult Threat." In Armageddon in Waco, edited by Stuart A. Wright, ch 4

Recommended: Stark, Rodney. 1987. "How New Religions Succeed: A Theoretical Model." In The Future of New Religions, edited by David Bromley and Phillip Hammond, ch. 2




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