Academic Programs 

Contemporary Religious Trends* (RS-668) NEW
January Interession and Winter/Spring 2009

The contemporary religious world is in a rapid state of flux. With increasing urbanization/ suburbanization, emigrating populations and technological advances all adding to continual mission activities, the spiritual contours of the globe are undergoing significant shifts. This course will focus mostly on the pluralistic situation in North America but will also intentionally trace the major socio-spiritual transitions taking place in world religions throughout the globe. The course will reflect on how these changes are making a profound difference in how all faith communities practice their religions.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays, 4:30 p.m. – 6:50 p.m., beginning Feb. 5

Scott Thumma
Professor of Sociology of Religion

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9571



Course Syllabus

Aims of the Course:

  1. To learn the basic facets of and players in contemporary global religious life.
  2. To understand the role religion plays in helping to shape our country.
  3. To explore the relationship between diverse cultures and the shape of religious life as well as to identify the changes that are taking place in modern society generally and in the expression of religion in relation to these changes.
  4. To examine in depth one religious phenomenon and its relationship to contemporary society.
  5. To employ this knowledge of the contemporary global religious trends to speculate on the future role of religion in the world.

Course Requirements:

  1. Class presentation on religious phenomenon 25 percent
  2. Attendance, class and web discussion participation 20 percent
  3. Reading summaries posted to web site 25 percent
  4. 15-page paper exploring a contemporary 30 percent
    religious phenomenon

Research project - Each student will choose a contemporary religious phenomenon or trend to focus on throughout the course of the semester. During the appropriate week of class each student will gather information about this religious phenomenon or group for presentation to the class. The purpose of this presentation is twofold: 1) to uncover primary sources related to this phenomenon, and 2) to introduce more information about the phenomenon or trend to the class. The primary source might include a group’s confessional statements, published materials from the organization, sermons, videos, news reports, web material and other items that furnish information about the phenomenon.

Students will use this material, plus other scholarly sources to write a 15 page research paper on a topic related to this phenomenon or tradition and the place of this tradition in the contemporary global religious context. This paper must explore information about the phenomenon in relation to larger patterns of culture and societal changes that have taken place globally in the past twenty years. Please be prepared to sign up for a presentation topic by the second week of class and a preliminary idea of your final paper topic

VERY TENTATIVE Schedule of Topics

Introduction to course & web site -

The Dynamic of Social and Religious Change

Exploring the Changing Global Culture(s)

Changing Population Concentrations – Urbanization & suburbanization

Changing Organizational Realities – Institutional fluidity

Changing Worship Realities - Expressivism & multiculturalism

An Increasing Diverse Population – Immigration and religious pluralism

Virtual is better: The Internet and a “Flat World”

I’ll Do It My Way – Individualism and the erosion of community

Spiritual and vacuous – Form without substance

Secular not religious – the Nones

A Religious Future – Of what and at what expense?


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500