Academic Programs 

Is Religion in Trouble?: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World  (RS-610)
Summer 2005

This course will provide the opportunity to look at the different ways of being religious in the modern world.  It will draw from diverse examples, many of which are Christian, but will include perspectives from other faiths. The ‘tour’ will include the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Pacific Rim.  Particular emphasis will be given to looking at the European situation from a variety of perspectives – seeing what Europe looks like from within as well as from the outside (for instance, from the vantage points of Turkey, North Africa and the U.S.).  Throughout, the course will challenge the notion that modernization necessarily implies secularization. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Monday, June 13 – Friday, June 17 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Grace Davie
Adjunct Professor of Religion and Society and Professor of Sociology at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

 Course aim

The aim of this course is to understand more fully, and from a sociological perspective, the parameters (patterns) of faith in the modern world.  It will draw from many different examples, most of which are Christian, but will include perspectives from other faiths.  The starting point will be West Europe – examining this from a variety of view points (seeing what Europe looks like from outside as well as from within).

From a conceptual point of view, the course will challenge the notion the modernization necessarily implies secularization.  In so doing it will raise important theoretical issues best expressed as a question:  are the theoretical frameworks currently in use in the sociology of religion up to the task?  If not, what can be done about this given the increasing salience of religion in the modern world order.


Learning outcomes

Subject-specific skills.  The acquisition of knowledge in the field, i.e. an understanding of the place of religion in the modern world which takes into account appropriate historical and theoretical perspectives.

Core academic skills.  The ability to relate a body of knowledge to a specific historical context. Competence in thinking clearly and arguing logically about contemporary – as  well as historical – material. The ability to articulate complex ideas both orally and in writing .

Personal and key skills. Independent study and group work. The ability to select appropriately from a wide range of material and to present key arguments clearly. The capacity to empathize with religious positions and to appreciate that the familiar is not necessarily the norm.


Course requirements

Before the course begins:

Each student must

(a) complete a 500 word review of Grace Davie  Europe:  the Exceptional Case.  Parameters of faith in the Modern World.  London:  Darton, Longman and Todd 2002.

This assignment is worth 20% of the final mark.

(b) bring to the class some piece of evidence concerning either the funeral of Pope John Paul II or the debate about homosexuality in the Anglican Communion.  Such evidence might include press cuttings, a short article, statistical material, first hand accounts, evidence of contrasting opinions etc.


During the course:

Students will be asked to prepare oral presentations to the class.  These will be set on the first day and will be tailored to the student’s experience and interests.

Taken together, oral contributions will constitute 10% of the final mark.


On completion of the course:

Each student is required to write a 15 page (double spaced) essay on a topic related to the course.  The topic can be selected from a list or chosen by the student, but the title must be agreed with the course leader before the end of the course.

This assignment is worth 70% of the final mark

Due date:  1 August 2005.

Please e-mail assignments to


Assessment criteria

See “Grading Guidelines” and “General Guidelines for a Research Paper” (to be distributed).

Course content

The early parts of this course are relatively prescriptive and will be directed by the course leader.  The latter parts of the course will be largely student driven and their precise content will depend on the experience, interests and expertise of the group. 

Each day has been split into four sessions (two in the morning and two in the afternoon);  these divisions should be treated as a guide only.


Monday 13 June

Session 1:  Introductions and brainstorming on (a) the funeral of Pope John Paul II and (b) the issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion.

Session 2:  Parameters of faith in modern Europe (majority churches)

Session 3:  Parameters of faith in modern Europe (religious minorities)

Session 4:  Planning the week – case studies and contributions.


Tuesday 14 June

Sessions 1 and 2:  The secularization paradigm;  content and genesis

Session 3:  Parameters of faith in the United States (majority churches)

Session 4:  Parameters of faith in the United States (the New Christian Right)


Wednesday 15 June

Sessions 1 and 2:  Rational Choice Theory;   content and genesis

Session 3:  Planning a case study (a global region outside Europe and the United States or a global religious movement)

Session 4:  Group work;  library time;  written assignments (1).


Thursday 16 June

Sessions 1 and 2:  Case study A (a global region outside Europe and the United States)

Sessions 3 and 4:  Case study B (a global religious movement – e.g. Pentecostalism)


Friday 17 June

Sessions 1 and 2:  Case study C (a global religious movement)

Sessions 3 and 4:  Gathering the threads;  the notion of ‘multiple modernities’;  possible futures for religion;  written assignments (2).


Outline reading

Please note items marked with an ** (required reading), * (useful reading for the whole course)

For the course as a whole

** G. Davie  Europe: the Exceptional Case.  London:  Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002 

** P. Berger  The Desecularization of the World.  Resurgent Religion and World Politics.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdman 1999

*  W. Swatos (ed)  Encyclopaedia of Religion and Society.  Walnut Creek, CA:  Alta Mira Press, 1998 (available online through http://www.

*  R.Wuthnow (ed.)  The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion.  London:  Routledge 1998 

S. Bruce  God is Dead .Secularization in the West.  Oxford:  Blackwell, 2001

S. Bruce  Politics and Religion.  Cambridge:  Polity Press 2003

*  P. Jenkins  The Next Christendom : the Coming of Global Christianity.  Oxford: OUP 2002

D. Martin  A General Theory of Secularization. Oxford:  Blackwell, 1978


Material on Europe

European Values Study (

*  G. Davie  Religion in Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

R. Rémond   Religion and Society in Modern Europe.  Oxford: Blackwell 1999

A. Greeley  A Sociological Profile of religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium.  Somerset NJ:  Transaction Books 

H. McLeod and W. Ustorf (eds)  The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe.  Cambridge: CUP 2003


Material on the United States

American Religion Data Archive (

T. Caplow  'Contrasting trends in European and American Religion', Sociological Analysis (2) 1985

K. Hadaway., P. Marler and M. Chaves (1993) ‘What the polls don’t show: a closer look at church attendance’, ASR  (58) 1993.  See also the follow up discussion in ASR  (63) 1998.

N. Ammerman  Congregation and Community.  New Brunswick NJ: 1997

W.C. Roof and W. McKinney  American Mainline Religion:  its changing shape and future.  New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press 1987

W.C. Roof  A Generation of Seekers. San Francisco: Harper Collins 1993

W.C. Roof  The Spiritual Marketplace,  Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press

R. Wuthnow  The Restructuring of American Religion,  Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1989

R. Wuthnow  After Heaven.  Spirituality in America since the 1950s. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1999.


A more detailed reading list will be supplied on the first day of the course;  supplementary material will be provided depending on the case studies selected.


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