Exploring Religion Course Syllabus
Exploring Religion is a college-level online course divided into 15 sessions that allows students to explore religion throughout America and across the globe. Most sessions include two to four readings, video interviews with social scientists (30-60 minutes), guided exercises using data and information from theARDA.com, and online discussions. The course is designed to be asynchronous and entirely virtual.
Exploring Religion Instructor Guide
While staff at the ARDA have worked hard to make the “Exploring Religion” online course as ready-to-use as possible, translating the course to your specific context and setting up the logistics for your students will require a bit of set-up work. This guide is intended to make this process as easy as possible by outlining how to set up the course in your learning management system, how to adjust the schedule for different course lengths, and assorted resources for teaching online.
Session 1: Tools for Exploring Religion; Discussion Topics #1
- ARDA Learning Module: Methods for Exploring Religion
- ARDA Learning Modules: Denominations in the United States and Religions Across the Globe
- Interview: Dr. Gina Zurlo, Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- ARDA Learning Modules: Congregations in America and Exploring Congregational Neighborhoods
- ARDA Visiting Congregations Research Project
- Interview: Rich Houseal, U.S. Religion Census
- ARDA Learning Module: Religious Experience in Everyday Life
- Interview: Greg Smith, Pew Research Center
- ARDA Interview Assignment Guide
- Interview: Dr. Lisa Pearce, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Session 6: Religion and Gender; Discussion Topics #6
- ARDA Learning Modules: Women and Religion in the United States, Women in the Seminary and Young Men, Young Women, and Religion: How Young Adult Religiosity Differs by Gender
- Interview: Dr. Orit Avishai, Fordham University
Session 7: Religion and Sexuality; Discussion Topics #7
- ARDA Learning Module: Sexuality and Religion in the United States
- Interview: Dr. Amy Adamczyk, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
Session 8: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Discussion Topics #8
- ARDA Learning Module: Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
- Interview: Dr. Fenggang Yang, Purdue University
Session 9: Religious Movements; Discussion Topics #9
Session 10: Religion and Social Movements; Discussion Topics #10
- ARDA Learning Module: Religious Experience in Everyday Life
- Interviews: Dr. Rachel Rinaldo, University of Colorado and Dr. Chris Scheitle, West Virginia University
Session 11: Research Week 2 - Visiting Congregations
Session 12: Religion and Politics; Discussion Topics #12
- ARDA Learning Module: Religion and Politics
- Interview: Dr. Eric McDaniel, University of Texas at Austin
Session 13: Religion and the State; Discussion Topics #13
- ARDA Learning Module: Exploring International Religion
- Interview: Dr. Jonathan Fox, Bar Ilan University in Israel
Session 14: Religion, Competition and Conflict; Discussion Topics #14
- ARDA Learning Module: International Religious Regulation and Freedom
- Interview: Dr. Tymofii Brik, Kyiv School of Economics
Session 15: Secularization; Discussion Topics #15
- ARDA Learning Module: Secularism Across the Globe
- Interview: Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice University
Your final grade will be based on short quizzes, exercises using the ARDA’s data and tools, participation in class discussions and research projects.
The weekly quizzes address the content covered in the assigned readings and the videos. Each quiz will ask 2-5 questions.
Exercises using the ARDA’s resources will both ask you to answer questions using the ARDA’s tools and to explore new areas of your choice.
You will also be asked to complete two small research projects: one is based on your visits to two local congregations and the second on interviews you conduct. Each project will require that you submit your research notes and a short research paper.
Finally, you are expected to participate in class discussion by contributing discussion posts. Of course, you can post and reply all on Friday or even before this, which I recommend. The points earned for each of these assignments is listed below.
Suggested Readings and Videos
Session 1: Tools for Exploring Religion
- Finke, Roger and Christopher D. Bader, (eds.). 2017. Faithful Measures: The Art and Science of Measuring Religion. New York, NY: New York University Press. – Introduction, pp. 1-17.
- Stark, Rodney and Lynne Roberts. 2002. Contemporary Social Research Methods. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning – “Research Designs” pp. 109-125.
- Please follow each of the links below to get an overview of five major world religions and a brief introduction to the beliefs and worship of Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.
- The five major world religions
- You will review many surveys during this semester. The brief Pew Research Center clips below, help explain how surveys are conducted and how they should be assessed.
Session 2: Global, Regional, and Organizational Differences in Religion
- The Pew Research Center. 2015. “7 key changes in the global religious landscape”
- Eck, Diana L. 2002. “E Pluribus Unum: A New Religious America.” Humanities 23(5): 24-26.
- Please follow each of the links below to get an introduction to the beliefs and worship of Judaism and an introduction to a few different Christian groups.
Session 3: Local Congregations and Communities
- Roso, Joseph, Anna Holleman, and Mark Chaves. 2020. “Changing Worship Practices in American Congregations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(4): 675-684.
- Ramos, Aida, Gerardo Marti and Mark Mulder. 2020. “The Strategic Practice of ‘Fiesta’ in a Latino Protestant Church: Religious Racialization and the Performance of Ethnic Identity.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(1): 161-179.
- Please follow each of the links below to get an introduction to a few Protestant Christian groups
Session 4: The Religious Beliefs and Behaviors of Individuals
- Williams, Roman R. “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play.” Sociology of Religion71, no. 3 (2010): 257–79.
- Chaves, Mark. 2010. “Rain Dances in the Dry Season: Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49: 1-14.
- Pew Research Center. 2021. “About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.”
Session 5: Research Skills – Interviews
- Healey-Etten, Victoria and Shane Sharp. "Teaching Beginning Undergraduates How to Do an In-depth Interview: A Teaching Note with 12 Handy Tips." Teaching Sociology 38(2): 157-165.
- Read appendix only ("12 Handy In-depth Interviewing Tips", pp. 162-164)
- How to do a research interview.
- Sample Interview Guide, National Study of Youth and Religion.
- Interview Assignment Guide
Session 6: Gender and Religion
- Darwin, Helana. “Redoing Gender, Redoing Religion.” Gender and Society 32(3): 348-370.
- Schnabel, Landon. 2018. “More Religious, Less Dogmatic: Toward a General Framework for Gender Differences in Religion.” Social Science Research 75(2018): 58-72.
- Walter, Tony and Grace Davie. 1998. “The Religiosity of Women in the Modern West.” The British Journal of Sociology 49(4): 640-660.
- Bradshaw, Matt and Christopher G. Ellison. 2009. “The Nature-nurture Debate is Over, and Both Sides Lost! Implications for Understanding Gender Differences in Religiosity.” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 48(2): 241-251.
Session 7: Religion and Sexuality
- Wedow, Robbee, Landon Schnabel, Lindsey K. D. Wedow and Mary Ellen Konieczny. “‘I’m Gay and I’m Catholic’: Negotiating Two Complex Identities at a Catholic University.” Sociology of Religion 78(3): 289-317.
- Woodell, Brandi and Philip Schwadel. 2020. “Changes in Religiosity among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Emerging Adults.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(2): 379-396.
- Adamczyk, Amy and Brittany E. Hayes. 2012. “Religion and Sexual Behaviors: Understanding the Influence of Islamic Cultures and Religious Affiliation for Explaining Sex Outside of Marriage.” American Sociological Review 77(5): 723-746.
- “Dividing the United Methodist Church”
Session 8: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
- Dougherty, Kevin D., Mark Chaves and Michael O. Emerson. 2020. “Racial Diversity in U.S. Congregations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59: 651-662.
- Manglos-Weber, Nicolette D. 2021. “The Contexts of Spiritual Seeking: How Ghanaians in the United States Navigate Changing Normative Conditions of Religious Belief and Practice.” Sociology of Religion 82(2): 133-155.
- Faith Among Black Americans (Pew)
Session 9: Religious Movements
- Stark, Rodney. 1996. The Rise of Christianity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. – Chapter 1
- Finke, Roger. 2004. “Innovative Returns to Tradition: Using Core Teachings as the Foundation for Innovative Accommodation.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43(1):19-34.
- Kucinskas, Jaime. 2018. The Mindful Elite. Oxford: Oxford University Press. – Chapters 1 and 5
Session 10: Religion and Social Movements
- Yukich, Grace. 2018 “Muslim American Activism in the Age of Trump.” Sociology of Religion 79(2): 220-247.
- Stamatov, Peter. 2010 “Activist Religion, Empire, and the Emergence of Modern Long-Distance Advocacy Networks.” American Sociological Review 75(4): 607–628.
- Kucinksas, Jamie. 2014. “The Unobtrusive Tactics of Religious Movements.” Sociology of Religion 75(4): 537-550.
Session 11: Research Skills – Ethnography of Religious Congregations
- Marti, Gerardo. 2016. “‘I Was a Muslim, But Now I Am a Christian’: Preaching, Legitimation, and Identity Management in a Southern Evangelical Church.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 55(2):250–270.
- “Visiting Congregations Research Project”
Session 12: Religion and Politics
- Wilde, Melissa and Lindsay Glassman. 2016. “How Complex Religion Can Improve Our Understanding of American Politics.” Annual Review of Sociology 42:407-425
- Beyerlein, Kraig and Mark Chaves. 2020. “The Political Mobilization of America’s Congregations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59(4):663–674.
- Baker, Joseph O., and Gerardo Marti. 2020. “Is the Religious Left Resurgent?” Sociology of Religion 81(2): 131–141
- Whitehead, Andrew. 2020. “The Gospel of the Flag.”
Session 13: Religion and the State
- Majumdar, Samirah and Virginia Villa. 2021. “Globally, Social Hostilities Related to Religion Decline in 2019, While Government Restrictions Remain at Highest Levels.” Pew Research Center.
- Finke, Roger and Kerby Goff. 2022. “Regulating Religion in the Public Arena: Lessons Learned from Global Data Collections.” In K. Flake and N.B. Oman (eds), Democracy, Religion, and Commerce, New York, NY: Routledge.
- Yang, Fenggang. 2017. “From Cooperation to Resistance: An Interview with Fenggang Yang.” Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society.
Session 14: Religion, Competition, and Conflict
- Grim, Brian J. and Roger Finke. 2007. “Religious Persecution in Cross-National Context: Clashing Civilizations or Regulated Religious Economies?” American Sociological Review 72(4): 363-658.
- Braun, Robert. 2016. “Religious Minorities and Resistance to Genocide: The Collective Rescue of Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.” American Political Science Review 110(1): 127-147.
- Brik, Tymofii. 2019. “When Church Competition Matters? Intra-doctrinal Competition in Ukraine, 1992–2012.” Sociology of Religion 80(1): 45-82.
Session 15: Secularization, Secularities, and Science
- Stark, Rodney. 1990. “Secularization, R.I.P.” Sociology of Religion 60(3): 249-273.
- Voas, David and Mark Chaves. 2016. “Is the United States a Counterexample to the Secularization Thesis?” American Journal of Sociology 121(5): 1517–1556.
- Frost, Jacqui. 2019. “Certainty, Uncertainty, or Indifference? Examining Variation in the Identity Narratives of Nonreligious Americans.” American Sociological Review 84(5): 828-850.
- Ecklund, Elaine Howard. 2021. “Science and Religion in (Global) Public Life: A Sociological Perspective.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 889(2): 672-700.