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   Course Title    Sociology of Religion
Lecturer    Serik Aidossov
Institution    Sociological Resource Center
Country    Kazakhstan

1. The Aims of the course.

The course introduces post-graduate students to current substantive problems and theoretical debates in the sociology of religion. The course will begin by explaining the new paradigm and its subsequent spread globally. We will then engage in the factors influencing individual religious affiliation and participation, using comparison as a vehicle to pose broader questions. Examples will be drawn on nearly every world region.

2. Role of the course in the overall degree curriculum.

This course is one of special sociological theory in the curriculum of sociology of economics or politics. The course is recommended for those post-graduate students who wish to study religions, in their more profound contemporary state. It is also for those who study the phenomena of mass consciousness, and the spread of fundamentalism.

3. Methods used.

Most course readings and discussions will focus on the contemporary Kazakhstan and Central Asia scene, although comparative materials will also be introduced at various points. While we will touch on a wide range of topics during the semester, the course is organized around only a few issues.

Additional readings will be announced in class and either distributed by the instructor or placed on reserve.

The Case Study provides information for the cases and in so doing communicates and exchanges information freely between sectors of society. This can, depending on where the case falls in the syllabus, be a useful juncture to help students learn to develop criteria for making decisions. This can be done by referencing the list of objectives from earlier in the discussion.


Grades will be based on three components: paper assignment of sufficient breadth and quality to be presented at a professional meeting or submitted to a scholarly journal; written commentaries on the readings, prepared each week; and regular attendance and active seminar participation.


Paper topics can vary widely, ranging from detailed literature reviews and theoretical syntheses to case studies and empirical analyses.

4. Course content.

List of lectures:

5. Secularization and the New Paradigm.

The status of the secularization paradigm, and the crystallization of a new paradigm based on contemporary experience. Secularization of social, state institutions, relationships. Theories of secularization. Secularization as an evolution of religion. A non-church religiosity.

6. The Growth and the Decline of Religious Collectivities.

Factors shaping patterns of institutional growth and decline. Church friendships. Mobilizing local religious markets.

7. Individual Religious Decision Making.

Factors influencing individual religious affiliation and participation. Freedom of self-contained person in critical perception of reality.

8. Marginal Religions and "Cults".

The emergence of various new religious movements (Cults) since 1980, and the societal response to these groups. The growth of interest in irrationalism, occult phenomena, eastern meditation, guess-works. Primitive religions.

9. The Religion-Family Connection.

A ritual significance of family relations. The role of religion in socialization of a person. Normative aspects of the attitude of religion to the family. Age and family life cycle effects on Church membership.

10. Religion, Altruism, Deviance and Social Control.

Parents’ religiosity. Religion as context: hellfire and delinquency. Suicide rates. The forms of fundamentalism. Retributive doctrine of punishment.

11. Religious Factors in Mental and Physical Well Being.

The impact of religious involvement on family life, deviance, and individual physical and mental well being.

12. Religious Communities as Free Social Space.

Religious communities in closed society. Social conformism. The role of the religious community as a diffuse power and its court function.

13. Religion Politics and Social Movements.

The role of the religious institution as free social space for ethnic groups and other cultural minorities, building of a political system. Prevention of social conflicts. Legitimization of power. Religion as a diffuse power.

14. Human Rights of religious freedom.

International standards and mechanisms protecting human rights of religious freedom. UN and OSCE documents. Research methodology and monitoring of observance of religious rights of different confessions and denominations.

List of discussions and workshops:

  1. Does Industrial Capitalism destroy traditional religious beliefs in Kazakhstan and Central Asia?
  2. Spreading nontraditional religions: kindness or evil?
  3. Case Study workshop: Co-existence of Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Kazakhstan.
  4. Religious pluralism in Kazakhstan: cultural diffusion?
  5. Religion as opposition? Are religious people nice people?
  6. Case Study Workshop: A moral crusade: conservative opposition to pornography.
  7. Orthodox fundamentalism: myth or reality?
  8. Workshop: Krishna Community Church as a case study of religious changes in Kazakhstan.

5. Readings:


  1. Garadja V. Sociology of Religion. Aspect Press. Moscow, 1996.
  2. Hargrove B. The Sociology of Religion. Classical and Contemporary Approaches. Oxford University Press, 1989
  3. Roberts R. F. Religion in Sociological Perspective 2 ed., 1990.
  4. O’Dea T. F. Sociology and the Study of Religion, 1971.
  5. Stark R. And William Sims Bainbridge The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation,1985.
  6. Richard K. Fenn The Return of the Primitive, 2001, MPG Books.
  7. L. Carl brown Religion and State, 2000, Cambridge University Press.
  8. John J. Maciounis Sociology, 1989, Prentice Hall Int.


  1. Max Weber Essays in Sociology. Oxford University Press, 1946.
  2. Lichbach, Mark I., Zuckerman, Alan S. Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
  3. Smit, Graham, Vivian, Wilson, Alworht, Edward Nation-Building in the Post-Soviet Borderland: The Politics of National Identities. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  4. Finke , Roger, Avery M. Guest, and Rodney Stark,1996 Mobilizing Local Religious Markets: Religious Pluralism in the Empire State, 1855-1865, American Sociological Review .
  5. De Vaus, David and Ian McAllister 1987 "Gender Differences in Religion: A Test of Structural Location Theory" American Sociological Review, 52: 472-482.
  6. Iannaconne, Laurence R. 1990 "Religious Practice: A Human Capital Approach" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29: 297-314.
  7. Stark, Rodney.1996 "Why Religions Movements Succeed or Fail: A Revised General Model", Journal of Contemporary religion 11: 133-146.
  8. Smith, Christian 1996 "Correcting a Curious Neglect, or Brining Religion Back In". In C. Smith (ed.), Disruptive Religion: The Force of faith in Social Movement Activism. New York: Routledge.

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