SOC250Y Sociology of Religion Syllabus

University of Toronto, 2016-2017


About This Course

This course will examine religious beliefs, practices, and experiences from a historicalsociological and comparative perspective. We will begin with an overview of the major social science approaches to the study of religious phenomena, highlighting the contributions of various classical as well as contemporary theories. Substantive topics to be explored will include the following: the natureand-spirit based polytheisms of primal/aboriginal religions; the historic emergence of the major “world religions” (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam); religious institutionalization, and the heretical/schismatic movements that commonly arise to challenge emerging orthodoxies (with primary focus on early Christianity); the social “embeddedness” of religion, as it finds linkage and integration with other institutional spheres and practices, such as gender and sexuality, economic life, politics, war and revolution, the arts and sciences; religious regulation of the human body and person, by means of mystical, ascetic & penitential disciplines, miraculous and sacramental means of spiritual empowerment or blessing, and through the “social control” promises of afterlife rewards and punishments. We will conclude with an investigation of the opposing modern trends of secularization and fundamentalism, while also examining various new religious movements and cults