Course Title: Religion, Society and Culture

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Religion, Society and Culture

Credit Points: 12.00

Course Coordinator: Desmond McDonnell

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 8267

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 48:4:16

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description


What is this course about and how does it relate to other courses in my programs of study?
Although secularism is said to be one of the main features of modernity, religion remains important in both the developed and developing worlds. Its patterns of growth have been inconsistent and contradictory, characterised by an increasing diversity and tolerance, and by sectarianism and intolerance, by conservative and liberal theologians, by state sanctioned religions and by separatist sects. This course will introduce you to the study of religion from a sociological perspective. A sociological perspective seeks to study religion in its historical, cultural and political context. The course will include a broad survey of the origins some of the religious traditions inherited by modern society before dealing explicitly with contemporary issues and patterns of change. Topics covered in the course will be linked to current policy issues and controversies. Through this mapping out of religious traditions and debates, students will be encouraged to clarify and articulate their own understanding of religion in modern society and culture.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

.A rnage of research, exegesis and writing capabilities will be address in this course


What can I expect to learn by studying this course?
The aim of this course is to acquire a framework of knowledge and achieve certain intellectual skills. Further, the course aims to encourage curiosity and intrigue of a kind that will support intellectual study long after the semester has ended and your academic program has been completed. When taken together these aims are identified as ‘course objectives’ or ‘learning outcomes’.

The following are very broad general statements identifying what you are expected to know, understand and be able to do as a result of engaging with a range of integrated learning and assessment activities during the 12 week semester.

At the end of this course you will be expected to demonstrate, at an intermediate level of understanding and skill:

(1) your ability to use a variety of theories to analyse religious texts, beliefs and institutions;

(2) your ability to distinguish between the principle precepts of some of the major world religions;

(3) your ability to identify the influence of certain religious beliefs upon contemporary public policy;

(4) your capacity to critically engage with contemporary debates in relation to certain religious teachings and practices;

(5) your ability to key conceptual tools learned in this course to everyday cultural and social issues.

Overview of Learning Activities

Week Date Lecture Topics Seminars and Submissions
1 Wednesday
23 July Reasons and Resources for the Study of Religion:
Hermeneutics Introduction to the Rationale and Structure of the Course
Distribution of the Course Guide
2 Wednesday
30 July Religious Texts 1
Creation Myths from the Fertile Crescent Mythos
Phaedrus & Gilgamesh &Genesis
3 Wednesday
6 August Religious Texts 2
the Roots of Religion and the Existence of God Argument
4 Wednesday
13 August Field Study
Religious Art 1
Christian Iconography Filed Study
St Paul’s Cathedral
Swantson Street
5 Wednesday
20 August Religious Texts 3
Fundamentalism Doctrine
Submit 1
6 Wednesday
27 August Religious Texts 4
Evil and Wickedness Conundrum
7 Wednesday
10 September Religious Doctrine 1
Sex and the Sacred No seminar scheduled consultations with Lecturer to discuss final draft of briefing paper
8 Wednesday
17 September Field Study
Religious Art 2
Islamic Iconography Field Study
Submit 2
9 Wednesday
24 September Religion and Society 1
History of Religion in Australia Historiography
10 Wednesday
1 Octoberr Field Study
Religious Practice
Spirituality Field Study
RMIT Spirituality Centre
11 Wednesday
8 October Religion and Society 2
Religion Politics and Public Policy in Australia No seminar scheduled consultations with Lecturer to discuss final draft of semester research paper
12 Wednesday
15 October Field Study
Religious Belief
Explaining Death Field Study
Melbourne Central Cemetery
Submit 3

Overview of Learning Resources

What will I need to access and read for this course?
Distributed Learning System (DLS)
The DLCS will be employed to convey lecture material in the week following the delivery of the lecture and material including contemporary media material relevant to the course topics.

The Course Guide and Reader
There is no prescribed text for this course, the Course Guide has comprehensive notes and directions and should be read a kind of manual. The manual also contains essential reading for the seminar discussions

The following is only a selection of references provided to encourage you to explore the RMIT University Library and other libraries, particularly the Melbourne University Library and the State Library of Victoria, both of which are close to the campus. While a considerable amount of material relevant to this course is available on-line it is important to develop skills associated with sourcing information from libraries.

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, Penguin Books, London


TV Programs
The 7:30 Report ABC 1 at 7:30pm Monday to Thursday
Lateline ABC 1 at 10:30pm Monday to Friday
4 Corners ABC 1 at 8:30pm Monday
Compass ABC 1 at 10.00pm Sunday

Radio Programs
The Religion Report Radio National at 8:30 am Wednesday
The Spirit of Things Radio National at 6:00 pm Sundays

The above programs are available on the Radio National Website and by Podcast

RMIT Library has developed Social Science in the Global University. The site contains databases, E-Journals, Information Gateways, Search Engines, addresses for ABS data, Australian and international newspapers, Four Corners archives, journals and much more. Each Federal and State government department has its own website which provides up-to-date policies, research reports and contact/feedback addresses.

Federal government information is available from:

Victorian Government information is available from:

Australian public policy Australian Policy Online is the ABC website is the Australian Bureau of Statistics website

Overview of Assessment

How will I demonstrate my learning in this course?
You will be asked to provide an independently researched Semester Paper addressing issues associated with one of the principles areas considered in the lecture series. You may choose on of the topics provided or negotiate with the lecturer a topic of particular interest to them.

Systematic direction for completing the Semester Research Paper will be provided in the designated seminars. Personal direction will be provided at times negotiated with the lecturer.

The Semester Paper provides the opportunity to demonstrate your capacity to compose a social science paper in essay form. The Semester Paper is due in Week Ten (10).

A summary of these assessment tasks with their respective values and submission times is provided below.

Assessment Tasks and Value
Assessment will be based on the completion of the following:

Task 1 1 X Briefing Paper 5 articles 30%
Submitted 5:00 pm Friday Week 5
Task 2 1 X Media/Document Dossier 1000 words 10%
Submitted 5:00 pm Friday Week 8
Task 3 1 X Semester Research paper 2000 words 60%
Submitted 5:00 pm Friday Week 11

Each of these tasks will be graded and together will determine your final grade for the course.