1st chapter: A short introduction to the various concepts and methods that have been used to approach the religious phenomenon. The emphasis is of course on the promise and the limitation of the sociological perspective.
2d chapter: A short and critical overview of the contributions, and of the traditions they have thus shaped, by the thinkers of the Enlightenment and the classical sociologists.
3d and 4th chapters: A comparison between the great world religions with respect to their images of God, man, and world. Then follows a comparison across time of the different shapes taken by Christianity, a topic often treated under the heading “secularisation”.
5th, 6th, and 7th chapters: The interaction between several dimensions of the religious phenomenon (its spirituality, its communication processes, its culture) and the surrounding society. Attention is paid to the opportunities, or lack thereof, for different kind of religious participation.
8th chapter: Discusses the internal organisation of the communities of the faithful, what kind of options have been chosen, e.g. church or sect, and why.
9th chapter: Analyses the influence the religion had had on our Western society and culture. This influence has been partly intentional and political. Hence we have to discuss here the delicate relationship between religion and politics, e.g. “religion and human rights”, “religion and political authorities (“Church and State”), “religion and democracy”.
This is not to promise that we will deal with all these topics. A selection will be made, in a dialogue between the teacher and the students.