Religious Studies (RELS) 218

Introduction to Religion and Popular Culture (Revision 3)

RELS 218 Course Cover

Revision 3 is closed for registrations, see current revision

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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Many people believe that religion exists solely in places of worship, but is this really true? Is there a distinct separation between the sacred and the profane? What defines religion? ―culture? Does popular culture influence religion or is it a one-way street? Is today’s western, apparently secularized, culture entirely unaware of the religious content―both subtle and obvious―that exists within film, literature, television, music, and the media? This course explores these questions, looking at the interplay between religion and culture in North America, with the goal of evaluating the influence that each exerts on the other.


  • Unit 1: Introduction
  • Unit 2: Religion in Popular Culture
  • Unit 3: Popular Culture in Religion
  • Unit 4: Popular Culture as Religion
  • Unit 5: Religion and Popular Culture in Dialogue


In order to pass the course, students must hand in their assignments and pass the exam with a grade of 50 percent or higher, and achieve a composite grade of 50 percent or higher between the exam and the assignments.

Activity Credit
Observational Journal 15%
Glossary 10%
Critical Film Review 15%
Annotated Bibliography 10%
Research Paper 20%
Final Exam 30%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Forbes, Bruce David, and Jeffrey H. Mahan, eds. Religion and Popular Culture in America. Revised Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. (PDF)

Fisher, Mary Pat, Living Religions: A Brief Introduction (3rd edition). Toronto: Pearson Education, 2012. (PDF)

Yeffeth, Glenn, ed. Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix. Texas: Benbella Books, 2003. (Print)


The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburn, and Carrie-Anne Moss. Warner Bros, 1999. DVD.

Star Wars V DVD is now available for loan from the Athabasca University Library. You may make a request online for the DVD from the library by accessing the library’s homepage at

Other Materials

All other course materials can be accessed online.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, January 29, 2015.

View previous syllabus