In this section you are to clearly and succinctly explain an analytical concept or a discrete argument that was introduced in any one (or more) of the assigned readings for the appropriate subsection in the course schedule.

1. Have to use course reading. This is not book review or general reserach paper. Critical thinking paper. Professionals prefer to think of one content as being deeply critical. 2.Course Description: Religion is an enormously important and, despite all the talk about us living in a secular society, persistent component of human experience. Focusing primarily, although not exclusively, on the United States, this course will attempt to introduce students to the sociological study of religion and provide them with the theoretical tools necessary for thoughtfully analyzing the place of religion in the modern world. Among the topics this course will address are: the manner in which religion functions to provide a sense of individual meaning; the social construction of religious conversion and commitment; the types and dynamics of religious groups; the increasing significance of the spiritual but not religious and the religious nones; and the impact of religion on social cohesion, conflict and change. Three 3-4-page critical analysis papers. This course is divided into six weeklong subsections; students are asked to write one paper at the conclusion of any three of these subsections and submit it at the conclusion of that Thursdays class. These papers should come with a title and, while it is unnecessary to label them as such, they should be comprised of the following three sections: Explanation: In this section you are to clearly and succinctly explain an analytical concept or a discrete argument that was introduced in any one (or more) of the assigned readings for the appropriate subsection in the course schedule. Obviously, given the brevity of this assignment, you need to carefully select a topic that is not unduly broad. For example, religion is too broad; whereas analytical concepts that would be more appropriate could include motivations (Geertz), collective effervescence (Durkheim), sect (McGuire), symbolic dilemma (ODea), marginal situation (Berger), investment (Kanter) and so on. Similarly, writing about Webers entire Protestant ethic thesis is too broad; whereas such more discrete arguments would include: the contention that people generally overestimate the degree of religiosity in the past (Stark and Finke); the argument that religion functions as a political opiate (Marx); the claim that Americas civil religion creates a sense of national solidarity (Bellah); the thesis that there is a persistent culture war in the U.S. (Hunter); the claim that intergroup conflict engenders greater in-group solidarity among religious communities (Smith), and so on. Critique: In this section you are to offer your own critical assessment of the analytical concept or argument you introduced in the first section. You may rely on your own critical acumen (of course!) and youre also free to draw upon other scholars addressed in this class (especially those for this same week) to help you think through your assessment. In terms of being critical, I dont simply mean that you come to the conclusion that you agree or disagree with an authors use of a concept or support for an argument. Rather, you might add nuance, contradictory or additional supporting evidence, distinctions pertaining to when or for whom this concept or argument may or may not apply, and so forth. Application: In this final (likely longest) section and, importantly, in light of the critiques you delineated in the previous section you are to discuss how, when or to what extent your specified analytical concept or argument helps to illuminate some aspect of contemporary religion. In other words, you have introduced an important concept or argument (i.e., explanation), you have offered your assessment of an authors use of that concept or argument (i.e., critique), so now tell your reader why doing this was worthwhile how this concept or argument (again, in light of your critique of it) helps you to see something about religion today that you otherwise would not have seen. To do this, you may reflect analytically on some aspect of religion that: a. you are already aware of (or have already experienced or witnessed); b. you have read or heard about from the news, etc.; or c. you do some modest exploration about, which can include visiting a Pentecostal service, listening to some Christian rock music, speaking with an inter-religious couple, reading some pop spirituality literature, attending an AA meeting, viewing a religion-related documentary (there are lots of these on Netflix or at UCBs Media Resource Center), analyzing Zen center websites, watching an atheism-related podcast, exploring an Internet chatroom concerning Ramadan, watching a televised megachurch sermon, analyzing a religious nonprofit organizations mission statement, etc., etc.

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