This course is open to all students with an academic interest in the subject matter.
This course gives an overview of the most important themes in the sociology of religion. The course falls in two parts:
The first part of the course is concerned with theorising religion sociologically. We raise sociological questions at the level of the individual (e.g., why are people religious in the first place?; why are women more religious than men?), at the level of the nation-state (e.g., why are some countries more religious than others?; why do state-religion relations differ cross-culturally?), and at the level of religious traditions (e.g., how are religious traditions and communities constituted and maintained socially?)
The second part of the course is concerned with the profound changes that have taken place in the religious field across the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. We explore the secularisation thesis, i.e. the idea that religion (necessarily) loses power, prestige, and plausibility as a result of modernisation, and evaluate alternatives to this master narrative (e.g., the subjectivisation thesis and the return-of-religion thesis). We compare the religious field in Europe (ongoing secularisation) with the United States (continued high levels of religion) and China (religious revival despite Communist oppression) and try to explain the differences between these cases. We also explore the rise of new forms of late modern religion, such as fundamentalism and new age spirituality, and take a look at religion education and religion in popular culture.
Knowledge, insight, and content-bound skills
After successfully completing the course, students can
• reflect on the aims and perspectives of the sociology of religion as an academic discipline;
• draw on classic and contemporary sociological theory to answer fundamental questions concerning religious individuals, religious traditions, and religious fields;
• adopt a well-argued position in the debate about processes of religious change in the (late) modern world – defending, for instance, the secularisation thesis or the subjectivisation thesis;
• illustrate how the late modern religious field is structured by giving examples of where we can find religion today and of the types of religiosity and religious belonging that characterize late modern religion; and
• critically test various sociological theories against empirical reality.
After successfully completing this course, students have
• developed their skills in interpreting simple quantitative tables containing sociological information;
• developed their skills at evaluating the analytical value of theoretical concepts by confronting them with empirical material (qualitative and quantitative);
• developed their skills at writing a well-argued, academic paper.
Mode of instruction
Students are given a few questions to go with the literature and expected to be ready to discuss the literature in class.
Total work load: 5 ec × 28 hours = 140 hours
Time spent attending lectures: 2 × 13 = 26 hours
Time spent studying compulsory readings: c. 400 pages / 7 p/h = 58 hours
Mid-term exam = 20 hours
Take home exam = 36 hours
This course includes two test units:
• Midterm. Written take-home exam (max 1200 words). Counts 40 %.
• End-term. Written take-home exam (max 1800 words). Counts 60 %.
Please take note of the following: The final mark is determined as the weighted average of the midterm (40 %) and the end-term (60 %). To pass the course, students must obtain at least a sufficient mark (5.5) as the weighted average of these two marks.
Students who receive an overall insufficient grade for the course are given a new take-home exam (max 3000 words). The mark for this take-home exam substitutes the previous marks for both the midterm and the end-term, i.e. it determines the course mark for 100 %.
Students receive written feedback (as a group) on both the midterm and end-term take-home exams. In addition, students are invited to make an appointment to discuss the feedback (individually) on the midterm and end-term take-home exams.
- Reader. “Sociology of Religion (BA-II/MI) 2018”, available from http://www.readeronline.leidenuniv.nl/.
- Text book. Aldridge, Alan (2013), Religion in the Contemporary World: A Sociological Introduction, third edition, Cambridge & Malden, MA: Polity Press.
- Online articles. To be downloaded through the university library and printed out individually by students.
Students are required to register through uSis