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Online Course

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, 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.



Course Introduction

Session 1: Tools for Exploring ReligionDiscussion Topics #1

Session 2: Global, Regional, and Organizational Differences in Religion; Discussion Topics #2

Session 3: Local Congregations and Communities; Discussion Topics #3

Session 4: The Religious Beliefs and Behaviors of Individuals; Discussion Topics #4

Session 5: Research Week 1 – Interview Someone on Religion; Discussion Topics #5

Session 6: Religion and Gender; Discussion Topics #6

Session 7: Religion and Sexuality; Discussion Topics #7

Session 8: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Discussion Topics #8

Session 9: Religious Movements; Discussion Topics #9

Session 10: Religion and Social Movements; Discussion Topics #10

Session 11: Research Week 2 - Visiting Congregations

Session 12: Religion and Politics; Discussion Topics #12

Session 13: Religion and the State; Discussion Topics #13

Session 14: Religion, Competition and Conflict; Discussion Topics #14

Session 15: Secularization; Discussion Topics #15


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

Session 2: Global, Regional, and Organizational Differences in Religion

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

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

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.

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