RELN 112: Survey of World Religions
Credit Hours: (3)
This introductory course presents the classical expressions of the world’s most widespread and historically significant religions. Students will learn about the origins, foundational figures, scriptures, beliefs, and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Note(s): This course has been approved for Core Curriculum credit in Humanities or Global Perspectives.
Detailed Description of the Content of the Course
This course introduces students to the world’s most widespread and historically significant religions, including but not limited to Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although several different instructors teach this course and may emphasize a variety of approaches to the subject matter, all instructors will cover the historical development, beliefs, scriptures, and practices of the major religions of the world. Such a course is inevitably cross-cultural and encourages students to develop a comparative perspective regarding religion both diachronically within a religion and comparatively across religions.
Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
Although this is primarily a lecture course, students will be encouraged to participate in occasional small group and open class discussions and a variety of formal and informal writing activities. The format of this course, which is taught by several different instructors, may vary but in every case the course will involve a plurality of instructional strategies designed to help the student understand the major religious traditions of the world. Whether or not a formal research paper is assigned, students will be expected to employ basic research skills, including the use of computer technology to investigate and gather information on various religious beliefs, texts, mythologies, rituals, institutions, and values. Instructors will use a variety of teaching activities which may include:
- Lecture and discussion led by the instructor
- Guest speakers
- Small-group discussion
- In-class formal or informal debates
- Individual or group oral presentations
- Informal in-class and out-of-class writing assignments
- Keeping journals
- Individual and collaborative research activities involving library and Internet searches
- Written and oral analyses of texts
- Written summaries/evaluations of out-of-class events
- Visits to churches, synagogues, mosques or other relevant sites
- Videos, slides, and multimedia presentations
Goals and Objectives of the Course
Students should be able to:
- Identify the major religious traditions in the world both past and present
- Trace the historical development of the beliefs and practices of these religious traditions
- Show an awareness of the geographical spread of these religions and the impact of diverse cultures upon their beliefs and practices
- Apply their knowledge and skills in order to understand religious traditions or expressions which were not covered in their formal study
- Demonstrate a comparative perspective with regard to the beliefs and practices of these religions
- Understand the relationship of religious and cultural differences to contemporary events
- Appreciate the importance of Religious Studies as a means to understanding humans as individuals and members of communities
- Appreciate the importance of Religious Studies as a means to understanding diverse cultures
Broad General Education Goals
As part of the General Education program, this course is designed to help students achieve a number of broad learning goals in addition to the course-specific goals identified above. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
- Think critically and creatively about the historical development of the beliefs and practices of the major world religions and their impact on individual, social, and cultural interaction past and present
- Work cooperatively with others in small group discussions, research projects, and presentations
- Employ basic research skills, including the use of computer technology to investigate and gather information on various topics and figures discussed in class
- Identify personal and cultural assumptions and values underlying religious belief and practice and the impact of these assumptions on one's response to diverse religious viewpoints.
General Education Humanities Area Objectives
This course is intended to help students achieve a number of learning objectives in the Humanities Area of the General Education program. In particular, upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge of the general nature and various methods of inquiry in Religious Studies.
- Demonstrate an appreciation for the role of religion as a resource and expression of the characteristically human quest for meaning, value, and order in life.
- Analyze and evaluate historically and culturally diverse conceptions of the meaning and purpose of human life and the relationship of those conceptions to the ultimate concerns of human beings
- Develop a comparative and critical understanding of contemporary and historical religious beliefs and practices as diverse expressions of our humanity.
- Discuss in speech and writing the relevance of the study of religion to their lives.
General Education International and Intercultural Studies Area Objectives
This course is intended to help students achieve a number of learning objectives in the International and Intercultural Studies Area of the General Education program. In particular, upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:
- Understand the significance of diverse conceptions of the divine as a contributing factor to cultural differences
- Demonstrate an awareness of the impact of diverse cultures on the beliefs and practices of religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism that exist in a variety of national and cultural settings
- Understand American culture as the product of the interaction of different immigrant cultures with differing religious beliefs and practices
- Analyze similarities and differences between their own and other cultures in terms of dominant religious traditions, beliefs, and practices
- Identify the historical and religious context of many important global issues and interactions between different peoples and different nations.
Student progress in achieving the course-specific objectives and the General Education goals established for this course will be measured in a variety of ways. Because this course is taught by a variety of instructors, the specific assessment instruments employed may vary, but in every case the instructor will employ some of the following methods to evaluate aspects of student learning.
- Graded and ungraded homework assignments may be used to measure the student’s ability to read texts carefully, to identify the underlying values and assumptions, and to articulate central concepts.
- Journals may be used to measure the development of self-reflection and progress in critical and creative thinking about the ideas, issues, and texts of the course.
- Class discussions, debates, and small group discussion may be used to measure the student’s oral communication skills as well as the student’s ability to work with others in a shared process of inquiry.
- Individual and group oral presentations may be used to measure the student’s understanding of particular theological, historical, or social scientific theories.
- Essay examinations, objective tests, and quizzes may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the nature and methods of Religious Studies as well as knowledge of the major religious traditions.
- Research reports may be used to measure the student’s ability to employ appropriate research methods and technologies.
- Term papers may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the beliefs and practices of the major religious traditions and relevant interpretations and theories regarding those beliefs and practices, the student’s ability to think and write with clarity, and the student's ability to demonstrate the relevance of Religious Studies to his or her own life and concerns.
Other Course Information
Approval and Subsequent Reviews
Date Action Reviewed by
July 1991 Compilation from all instructors Charles D. Taylor
May 1994 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling
May 1995 Catalog entry revised Kim J. Kipling
January 27, 1997 Title change, catalog description revision, number change Approved by VPAA
April 17, 1998 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling
September 8, 1999 Syllabus revised Kim J. Kipling
September 18, 2001 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling