Beau Weston                                                                                       Crounse 447 (x8789)

Centre College Sociology of American Religion                   Hours: see schedule

Centre Term 2008                   (SOC 344/ REL 352)                          Phone: 238-7580 (h)



Our first aim will be to understand what the main denominational traditions found in the United States believe and practice.  One important tool we will use is that we will each research our own denominational tradition, whatever that is, and speak to the class material from that perspective. Our larger and harder task will be to see how these traditions win, lose, and change in their competition with one another.  Seeing the vast diversity of denominations, and the effects of competition among them, will give us a rich understanding of the American experiment with both the separation of church and state, and the rich intertwining of religion and culture.



Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776 - 2005 (2005)

Diana Eck, A New Religious America (2002)


NOTE:  Both are available in the bookstore.  A copy of each is on reserve in the library.


Work and Grading

Fact Test 1                               20%

Fact Test 2                               20%

Field report                              10%

Own tradition paper                30%

Journal & Participation            20%


Fact Tests 1 and 2. At the end of each book we will have a simple one-hour test.  While reading the book, we will generate 100 important facts from each book and related experiences. In the test, I will ask you to take a subset of the 100, get the facts right, and briefly explain them.


Field report.  In a small group, go to a religious service from a denomination quite different from your own.  Interview at least one person connected with the service (not necessarily clergy, but some who knows what is going on.)  It would be courteous and more effective to set up this interview ahead of time.  Then each member of the group should write a separate paper of about 5 pages. The reports should tell something of the history of the congregation, what happened in the service, and what you learned from a leader of the congregation. Write it as a .doc format document and submit it by way of WebCT.  The field reports are due no later than the last Sunday night of the term.


Own tradition paper. You will write a paper of about 10 pages on your denominational experience.  This should include the basic historical, theological, and sociological facts of your particular denomination and its place in its denominational "family."  You should also analyze how the American religious marketplace affects you in relation to your denomination.  If you are not clearly attached to one denomination, pick the one in your family line that has had the biggest effect on you. Write it as a .doc format document and submit it by way of WebCT on the last day of class. 


Journal and Participation:  I would like you to write a journal entry every day of the term from January 3 to 22.  These need not be long – a page or two (300 – 600 words).  You can respond to the class meetings, readings, field trips, films, outside conversations, religious experiences, reflections on past experience – anything that helps you think about American religion.  I will collect the journals three times in the term.  I will respond to each entry.  I will use the most minimal grading scheme – A for really exceptional journals, B/C for the great majority of good ones, and D for lame/sketchy/incomplete journals. You should write the whole journal in one .doc file, named with your name (so I can tell them apart).  You will submit them through WebCT; I will write comments on the journal, and send it back to you the same way.  The last time I will collect them will be the morning of January 23, the day after our trip to the Creation Museum.  Please be sure to include that trip in your journal.


The more you participate, the more you will learn and the more engaging the class will be for everyone.