RLST 2400 Religion and Contemporary Society

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Ira Chernus

Email: Ira.Chernus@Colorado.EDU

Course Description:

In this course we will look at contemporary United States society, using the concepts and methods of academic religious studies as our basic tools.  The course will not focus on organized religion (Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, etc.).  Rather, we will give most of our attention to the values and cultural patterns that people in the U.S. tend to share in common—what we often call secular life.  We will see how religious studies can shed new light upon our everyday secular life.

The ideas in this course are meant to be complex, difficult, and challenging.  You are not expected to understand them all perfectly or in complete detail.  But you should be able to grasp the main themes clearly, understand at least some of them in good detail, and put some of them together to develop new ideas of your own.  Most importantly, by the end of the course you should be seeing “contemporary society”—which means the everyday world around you in the U.S.—in new, more complex, and more interesting ways.

Required Text:

Peter BERGER, The Sacred Canopy

Leonardo and Clodovis BOFF, Introducing Liberation Theology

Charlene SPRETNAK, The Resurgence of the Real

You should order these books through your favorite online site. You will need the BERGER book for the very first part of the course. You will read the other two books toward the end of the course.


Your grade in this course will be based on two midterm exams and a final exam. All exams will be essay format.

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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado