Course Syllabus

Course Description

This course explores the nature and function of religion in human life by investigating the diversity of religious experience and expression across several cultures. The emphasis of this course is equally placed on comparative and historical religion. Thus, we will attempt to understand both the specific contexts and conditions in which a variety of religious traditions arose and exist, and also the common religious elements in the specific historical manifestations of individual religions. It is through this attention to some of the common elements of different traditions that we will develop an understanding of what it means to be religious, how religion shapes and guides societies, and what religion means and how religion functions in the life of individuals. One of the central, orienting questions that will run throughout this course is how religions change and adapt themselves to new historical and geographical settings, and especially how the five world religions we examine have adapted themselves to modernity.

Course Goals

-To acquire orderly knowledge of the historical development, major teachings, and current practices of selected living religious traditions;

-To try to understand a religion as a committed practitioner might, not simply as a detached observer; 

-To develop a richly nuanced conception of religion that recognizes both the social and the personal dimensions of religious belief and practice; and

-To develop and maintain an attitude of critical self-awareness about the limits and possibilities of our intellectual tools and methods for understanding religion.

Required Readings:

All “basic” readings available at www.patheos.com.

Diana L. Eck, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (Columbia)

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Zen Beginner’s Mind (Weatherhill; available as a pdf)

Elie Wiesel, Night (Bantam)

Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago)

Farid Esack, On Being a Muslim (Oneworld)

Assignments

Weekly reading and class participation. All readings must be completed in a timely manner to allow each student to be prepared to discuss and engage the materials.  Students will post every other week - see Discussion Guidelines.

Late posts will not be accepted. Seriously. The forums are places for conversation and interaction. Once the other students have left ‘the room,’ there is no point in posting. So don’t do it.

Essay. One essay of 1500 words. The final essay is due in week ten.

Evaluation and Grading

Class participation and discussion............................................................................ 50%

Essay..........................................................................................................................50%

In order to receive a passing grade students must attend both days of Gathering Days.

Course Summary:

Date Details