World Religions Homework Help
by Mandy Barrow
©Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013 primaryhomeworkhelp.com
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I teach computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.
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Teaching World Religions
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World Religion Lesson Plans
By teaching world religion in conjunction with history and social studies, students are able to gain a better understanding of the history and region they are studying. It also allows them to become greater and more compassionate world citizens and engage with a diverse array of cultures and people. For focused lesson plans, check out the following resources!
Teaching about various world religions is a vital component to the study of world history, geography, and culture. Many educators avoid teaching religions for fear of inadvertently offending someone, misrepresenting a religion, or to avoid the appearance of promoting one set of religious beliefs over another, which would be inappropriate in a secular education. However, when taught in a respectful, unbiased, and academic manner, the study of religion is a powerful way for students to learn more about world history and the belief systems that have influenced human culture for millennia.
It is estimated that 85% of the world's population practice some form of religious tradition . Students should learn why people around the globe practice various religions, why it matters to them, and what celebrations, festivals, and types of worship are embedded in their culture. Religions have impacted every aspect of human history from philosophical ideas, art, music, architecture, societal and family traditions, to politics and law. Therefore, studying different types of religions can help students understand the beliefs and motivations of people around the globe, breaking down stereotypes and leading to increased cultural awareness.
One important reason to dismantle religious-based stereotypes through education is to combat bigotry and hate directed at people of different religious beliefs. In 2020, the United States saw its highest level of hate crimes in more than a decade, most of which were motivated by race or religion. There have been an increase in hate crimes targeting our Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh neighbors. Sadly, many of these incidents are found in schools. Another important reason to include the study of different religions is to ensure that all of our students of various cultures and religious backgrounds feel safe, seen, respected, and included. Learning about different religions is helpful for students to understand the beautiful diversity as well as the many commonalities that exist. We have a duty to educate our students to encourage understanding, respect, and tolerance to create a more peaceful world for all.
We have six lesson plans that focus on the six largest world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism. These lesson plans include activities on the main facts about each religion, vocabulary, popular holidays as well as a literature connection and biography research project to help students further connect with history and their education. They can also serve as inspiration to teach about other religions if there is room in the curriculum.
The lesson on the main facts about each religion include its place and date of origins, founders, holy book, items or sacred objects, main beliefs or tenets, houses of worship, religious leaders, and population . This is an effective way for students to record the main ideas about each religion using imagery and descriptions. It is especially helpful for students to reference later, when they are analyzing the similarities and differences between each religion.
Holidays and Festivals
Holidays and festivals play an important role in religious traditions. They often are based on seasons, historical events, myths, and important people within the belief system, and they can impact the cultures in which a religion is practiced, especially if it is the main religion in a region. After researching the main holidays celebrated within a particular religion, students can record their findings in a spider map.
When delving into history, new places, and cultures, previewing vocabulary is a helpful way to increase student understanding. Some terms may be similar across regions and religions, while others are specific to each practice. As students become familiar with the vocabulary related to the religion they are studying, they can record important terms in a spider map, which allows them to also visualize the word for better retention. These can also be printed out as flashcards or hung on the wall as part of a word wall.
Making Literature Connections
Using read alouds and literature is a powerful way for students to become familiar with the central stories of a particular faith and to gain a deeper understanding of its founders and followers. Additionally, exposing students to literature about people who are different from them can also foster empathy and understanding. Students are better able to connect to a diverse group of people. Using a narrative storyboard, students can create a graphic novel that illustrates and describes the major events of the story in sequential order. It allows them to make connections between subjects as well, combining literature with history. Stories can be pulled from religious texts, biographies, picture books, and folktales from the region the religion is from.
Biographies are an essential part of any history or social studies unit. Researching real people from a religious tradition helps students gain greater insight that goes beyond simply memorizing dates and names and allows them to acquire a more substantial view of a particular religion and its followers. Students can research and create a biography poster that can be presented to the class. A biography can also cover a wide range of figures. Students can choose or be assigned to research people from a religious text, historical figures, and even modern day practitioners who have influenced the faith.
Comparing and Contrasting
After students have studied about the various major world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Sikhism, they can create a compare and contrast chart that highlights their diversity and commonalities . This can be an effective way for students to track what they learn throughout a unit, or, it could be used as a final assessment. This following example uses text and illustrations to highlight when each religion originated, where their followers are located around the world, how many followers each religion has today and what some important imagery and beliefs are related to each. Students can even get more granular, and compare and contrast only two or three religions using a poster. This type of assignment may require more research, and can be a helpful base for a larger report.
How to Foster Critical Thinking about World Religions
Establish a safe and respectful learning environment.
Create an inclusive and respectful classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions about world religions. Encourage open-mindedness, active listening, and mutual respect among students.
INTRODUCE DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES
Provide an overview of various world religions, highlighting their beliefs, practices, and historical contexts. Present a balanced representation of different religious perspectives, allowing students to explore the diversity within and across religious traditions.
ENCOURAGE QUESTIONING AND INQUIRY
Promote critical thinking by encouraging students to ask thoughtful questions about religious beliefs, practices, and their implications. Foster an environment where students feel empowered to seek answers, challenge assumptions, and engage in evidence-based discussions.
ANALYZE RELIGIOUS TEXTS AND ARTIFACTS
Engage students in analyzing religious texts, artifacts, and other primary sources to develop a deeper understanding of religious practices and beliefs. Encourage them to examine the historical, cultural, and social contexts that shape religious texts and how they are interpreted.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
Encourage students to compare and contrast different religious traditions, examining similarities, differences, and common themes. Guide them in identifying shared values, ethical principles, and philosophical perspectives across different religions.
PROMOTE EMPATHY AND PERSPECTIVE-TAKING
Foster empathy and perspective-taking by encouraging students to put themselves in the shoes of individuals from different religious backgrounds. Help them explore the impact of religious beliefs and practices on individuals and societies, promoting understanding and appreciation for religious diversity.
Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching World Religion
What is the most effective approach to teaching world religions in a classroom setting.
The most effective approach to teaching world religions in a classroom setting depends on various factors such as the age and background of the students, the objectives of the course, and the resources available to the teacher. However, some common strategies include emphasizing empathy and respect for different beliefs, providing accurate and balanced information about various religions, promoting critical thinking and analysis, and engaging students in experiential learning activities such as visiting religious sites or interacting with members of different religious communities. It is also important for teachers to create a safe and inclusive classroom environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their own perspectives.
How can teachers ensure that they are being sensitive and respectful to all religious beliefs and practices represented in their classroom?
Teachers can ensure that they are being sensitive and respectful to all religious beliefs and practices represented in their classroom by following a set of strategies. First and foremost, they should educate themselves about the different religions represented in their classroom to understand their students' perspectives and avoid making assumptions or stereotypes. Teachers should avoid expressing their personal beliefs or opinions about religion and should use inclusive language that is respectful of all religious beliefs. They should create a safe and respectful classroom environment that encourages open dialogue and discussion about different religious beliefs and practices. Teachers should also be aware of and accommodate religious practices such as dietary restrictions, prayer, and holidays. They can even invite guest speakers from different religious communities to share their perspectives and experiences. The most important thing is that they recognize and appreciate the cultural differences and diversity within and across different religious communities. By following these strategies, teachers can create a more inclusive and respectful learning environment for all students, regardless of their religious beliefs.
How can teachers address controversial topics or sensitive issues related to world religions in a way that is objective and inclusive?
To ensure that their approach is objective and inclusive when addressing controversial topics or sensitive issues related to world religions, teachers can use a set of strategies. They can strive to create a safe and respectful classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and asking questions. Teachers should also present factual and objective information about controversial topics and avoid expressing their personal opinions or beliefs. They should also use inclusive language that is respectful of all religious beliefs and avoid derogatory or dismissive language. It is also important to encourage students to critically analyze and evaluate different perspectives and consider the historical, social, and cultural contexts in which they developed. Additionally, they should consider diverse perspectives and experiences and avoid presenting a single narrative or point of view. Another approach is to use different resources to provide a balanced and comprehensive perspective on controversial topics. Teachers can also invite guest speakers from different religious communities or academic experts to provide additional perspectives and insights.
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Religious Studies KS1: Religions of the World
BBC Teach > Primary Resources > KS1 Religious Studies
This series of animations explores the different religions of the world and their well-known stories.
The animation is bright and colourful, and immerses pupils in the story through a clear, friendly narrative.
Suitable for teaching KS1 religious education in England and Northern Ireland, Foundation Phase in Wales, and Early and 1st Level Religious and Moral Education in Scotland.
The Buddhist Story of Siddhartha and the Swan and The Monkey King
A short animated film narrating two Buddhist stories.
The Christian Story of the First Christmas
A short animated film for primary schools narrating the story of the first Christmas.
The Christian Story of the Good Samaritan and the Lost Sheep
A short animated film narrating two Christian stories.
The Christian Story of Easter
A short animated film narrating the Christian story of Easter.
The Hindu Story of Rama and Sita
A short animated film narrating one of the main stories of Diwali.
The Islamic Story of The Prophet and the Ants and 'The Crying Camel'
A short animated film narrating two Islamic stories.
The Five Pillars of Islam
A short animated film explaining the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Jewish Story of Moses
A short animated film narrating the Jewish story of Moses.
The Jewish Story of Hanukkah
A short animated film narrating the Jewish story of Hanukkah.
A short animated film narrating the Sikh Story of the Milk and the Jasmine Flower and Duni Chand and the Silver Needle.
Exploring universal values through stories from the popular Treasure Champs TV series.
Bitesize: KS1 Religious Education
Use these Bitesize resources to set homework, independent study tasks or to consolidate learning for your pupils.
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Religious Education (RE)
Religious education (RE) in primary schools is not part of the National Curriculum, but it is compulsory for all (maintained) primary schools to teach KS1 religious education and KS2 religious education .
Non-denominational state schools, including academies and foundation schools, follow a 'locally agreed' RE syllabus put together by the local authority, reflecting the fact that Great Britain is traditionally Christian but taking into account the teaching and practices of other principal religions. Faith schools can devise their own RE syllabus in line with the teaching and practices of their religion or denomination.
As well as information about how religion is taught in primary school, the Religious Education (RE) hub offers links to homework-help information about all the major world faiths : Christianity , Islam , Hinduism , Judaism , Buddhism , Sikhism , Confucianism and Shinto .
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Religion homework help for ks1 and ks2.
In primary school children are introduced to many different faiths. Religious Education (RE) aims to help develop pupils’ knowledge of the world's principal religious traditions and worldviews and promote tolerance and understanding.
TheSchoolRun's religion Homework Gnomes offer information, links, pictures, vidoes and activities about each of the world's major faith to help with at-home research and learning.
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KS2 Major World Religions for Workbook
Resources to support Religious Education (RE) teaching about the six major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Each Category focusses on a different religion and contains video clips and informative websites. Aimed at students in Key Stage Two. None of the resources in this Lesson Profile are Flash-based.
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Teaching About World Religions
Religion gives individuals a sense of purpose and has been one of the most powerful forces in human history. Understanding various religions is understanding the values and beliefs that drive a group of people to act and believe the way they do. Therefore, teaching students about world religions is a significant task, as religious tolerance is the ideal result. By being able to comprehend how religion plays a role in the cultural identities of people all over the world, students will be less quick to judge others based upon their beliefs and more likely to embrace individuals of all faiths.
There are many resources available online for teaching about world religions. This topic can be a sensitive one, but when the right approach is taken, it’s an easy (and very important) one to teach!
- Academy 4SC : Find videos related to world religions at Academy 4SC, like The Ontological Argument: Existence as Perfection and Wisconsin v Yoder 1972 , among others. Teachers have access to resources like worksheets, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more included in each topic’s lesson plan. Explore Academy 4SC’s full library of applicable content under the tag World Religions .
- Taking a Closer Look at Religions Around the World : Teaching Tolerance has put together a lesson for educators teaching about world religions in order to promote religious tolerance. Learning about the history behind different faiths will help students to “better comprehend the reasons behind divergent national and international religious beliefs” and increase their “compassion and consideration for other people and faiths.” This lesson plan includes objectives, essential questions, materials, vocabulary, a suggested procedure, and an extension activity.
- Lesson Planning Ideas: The World’s Religions : education world provides information in mini-articles on Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Baha’i. In addition, an outline on teaching about world religions in the classroom, including how to discuss diverse religions in the classroom, introductory information for students (which contains a pre-quiz of prior knowledge), discussion points and activities, an extension activity, and wrap-up/assessment options. This site is a great one to take a look at if you are looking to teach about religions that are less-widely discussed in the classroom!
- Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly – Access World Religions : PBS offers an abundance of resources from their television series Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly “to help students gain awareness and understanding of the diversity of religions and religious experiences, and the reasons for particular expressions of religious beliefs within a society or culture.” Resources include lesson plans and video clips on beliefs and practices, holidays and religious observances, religion in America, religious art and symbolism, and specific religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and more).
- How to Teach About World Religions in Schools : This article starts off with discussing the negative consequences that can and have occurred if world religions, especially Islam, are taught in the wrong way in the classroom. The author then provides ten ways that teachers can include religion as part of their lesson plan, such as observing on field trips, having guest talks on religion, choosing textbooks and supplementary materials carefully, and being culturally sensitive to the religions practiced in your community.
- Teaching About Religion : neaToday published an article discussing how the State Board of Education and other associations recommend teaching about world religions, which includes utilizing primary sources and solely sticking to teaching facts about the belief systems of various religions. Information on the separation of church and state (the Pledge of Allegiance, Science-based Curriculum) and guidelines for teaching about religion are also provided. This piece is less about delivering facts on world religions and more about the concept of religion being taught in public schools in a neutral way.
- The Misplaced Fear of Religion in Classrooms : This article from the Atlantic focuses on the fear that many parents have about religion being taught in the classroom. After a quick introduction on the topic, the author interviews a woman who has had firsthand experience with feeling out of place in school because no one at her school with a Christian majority understood her Jewish faith. She contemplates whether her experience would have been different if her school had attempted to teach students about more than one religion. This article offers a new perspective on how students of various religions can be affected by their peers’ lack of understanding and the misplaced fears some adults have about religion being taught at their children’s schools.
- World Religions Homework Help : This site has information on the six main religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. The basic information provided on this page would be good for a webquest or to have students review for homework at their leisure.
- URI Kids – World Religions : The United Religions Initiative provides a quick introduction and information on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other world religions and spiritual traditions. Details on how these religions began, their basic belief systems, and other facts related to their specific beliefs and values are included. For educators who are looking for a page of information to have their students look over before jumping into a lesson, this site is a good one to check out!
Teaching students about world religions may seem like a daunting task due to the controversy, but it is very important in order to promote a world of religious tolerance. The number-one thing to remember is that you are not trying to teach students world religions, but you are trying to teach them about world religions. Learning about the history and beliefs of religions is very different from promoting a specific belief system. Giving students the opportunity to gain an understanding of various religions will allow them to gain an understanding of the individuals who practice these religions.
- The Five Major World Religions : This video from Khan Academy about the five major world religions, which are Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, would be good to assign students for homework or as part of a classroom lesson plan. One of the most unique parts of this video is how it discusses the intertwined histories and cultures of these religions, rather than only teaching about them as separate entities.
- Resources | World Religions : The New York Times has put together a list of resources on world religions, including student opinion questions, learning network lesson plans, Times topics, and recent Times multimedia about religion and spirituality. A variety of different subject matters about world religions are discussed here, and reading or watching a few of the resources may help you when putting together a lesson plan.
- World Religions, Science, and Beliefs : The Pulitzer Center provides a two-part lesson plan on world religions, science, and beliefs. The lesson plan includes detailed directions and materials that will be key when prepping for the activities.
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Hinduism for kids
Hinduism for kids in Primary Learning. Homework help with what is Hinduism, how Hindu’s worship and what there holy festivals are.
What is Hinduism?
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions, at least 5,000 years old. Hindus believe that your soul is a part of God and is eternal (lasts forever). When we die our soul enters another body. Hindus believe we can come back as a person or as a plant or animal. Depending on how good we are in this live decides what we come back as in the next. This is called reincarnation.
Beacause the soul is in all living things Hindus must show respect in all people and animals. Many Hindus don't eat meat because of this.
- Hindus often touch feet of our elders to show respect.
- Before eating food is offered to the Hindu God.
Hindus worship every day at home. They have a place where they have pictures or figures of the Gods. Worshipping is done in the mornings and uses the five senses. Sight - looking at pictures, sound - singing songs, taste & touch - offering of food, smell - incense sticks are lit.
Hindus also go to worship in Temples. A bell is rung loudly to let know God that they are there. A red spot called the tilak is painted onto the forehead which is a sign of Gods blessing.
There are many Hindu Gods. Most families will choose which Gods to worship to. Here are some of them.
Lord Shiva - Destroys evil and protects us from pain and suffering. Krishna - A warrior and teacher. Shakti - Gentle, kind but sometimes fierce. Lakshmi - Goddess of good luck and wealth. Ganesh - The God of beginnings.
Diwali - The festival of lights
Diwali is the most important festival in the Hindu calendar. It celebrates the homecoming of Rama and Sita from the forest. The lights are put out to show the Gods the way home. It also welcomes the Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of good luck and wealth, into Hindi homes.
At the beginning of Diwali, Hindus make rangoli patterns on their doorstep from rice powder, flour and water to welcome Lakshmi. Hindu's give money, fruit, sweets and rice to friends and family.
Holi - The festival of colours
Holi marks the beginning of spring and is from the story of the wicked Holika who tried to get rid of her nephew, Prince Prahlad.
Coloured powder are thrown over each other as part of the Holi festival. Water is also thrown over each other to remind Hindus of Krishna splashing in the river during spring.
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Creating World Religions Lesson Plans for High School Students
How to Begin
Educators can teach about the religions of the world through the lens of critical literacy and religious pluralism, enabling students to
gather facts, compare and contrast the various ideologies, and thereby find the commonalities that link all to the other.
According to Religious Tolerance.Org of Ontario, Canada, there are 40 organized religions or faith groups. Attempting to teach a unit on all forty religions/faith groups would be daunting, if not impossible. Therefore, before beginning, it is necessary to break down the hierarchy (classification levels) in order to determine the focus of a unit.
Over the many millenniums of human existence, society has formed, morphed and sub-divided its idea of the Divine. Religion, it could be said, is an ever-changing entity. Therefore, there is no way to look at world religions without touching upon the fact that even among various groups, there are sub-divisions and/or spin offs. Like a huge spider’s web, world religion has at the center the Divine with many paths, sub paths and tributaries leading to the center. As mentioned before, it would be virtually impossible to cover it all.
Some of the levels of classifications among the various religion/faith groups are:
- Synod, Diocese, Federation, Association, Council, Coven, Community
- Church, Mosque, Temple, Synagogue
By using the levels of classification, the historic connections to religions can be found, as well as the similarities in ideology.
Overview vs. Individual Approach
This picture above shows the symbols of nine of the world’s many religions/faith groups.
Many educators will wish to give an overview of world religions. Like a smorgasbord of information, an overview gives students a “taste” of each religion/faith group, usually touching upon facts about when and how it developed and the most basic beliefs. Obtaining a clear sense of any religion using this method is difficult. In addition, it is easy to have misconceptions when information is only skimmed from the top of the well of knowledge.
The following is a list of some of the world religions:
- Christian - Catholic, Protestant, etc.
Creating lesson plans that focus on one religion/faith group at a time or comparing and contrasting two different groups allows for a more comprehensive investigation, which leads to a more in-depth understanding.
Regardless of which approach the educator takes, they will want to cover the various aspects of a religion, or religions in general. Some of the aspects that can be discussed are:
- Rites and Rituals
- Personal Spiritual Practices
- History of the Religion
- Key Figures in the Religion
For example, if the educator is doing a general overview on Christianity, personal spiritual practices such as fasting might be discussed.
However, if the unit is focused on Catholicism, then there would be a need to hone in on more specific information on the particulars of fasting from the Catholic viewpoint. For instance, fasting is a mandatory practice at certain times of the liturgical calendar, or fasting was once required before Catholics could receive communion.
Resistance and Fear
Many school systems are reluctant to include lessons on the religions of the world into their curriculum. Parents are often afraid that in learning about other religions, children will turn away from their own faith. School administrators are often resistant to include anything that might cause controversy; they would much rather stick to teaching English, Math and Science. Yet, all will agree that knowledge is the only way to end fear.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control.”
Teaching students about the religions of the world in an unbiased, non-threatening and open manner will allow the students to gain knowledge in order to find connections that will, therefore, lead to ending fear of the “other.”
Religious pluralism is a way to encounter, connect and discuss the religion/faith groups of the world. This form of inquiry is non-judgmental, requiring a commitment to understanding that goes beyond differences.
Teaching through the lens of religious pluralism creates an environment within the classroom for sound inquiry, reflective deconstruction and profound comprehension.
Studying world religions through the lens of pluralism, means more than simply teaching facts from a book. Religious pluralism opens the door for conversations and discussion with members of other religion/faith groups, as well as sharing traditions and customs without judgment.
Questions for the Asking
When studying world religions, it is easy to become overwhelmed. The convenience of a list of questions to use as a platform from which to launch discussions is a versatile tool to have on hand.
The following questions are meant as a guide for discussion within the classroom.
- What name(s) are given to the Divine? Are there any similarities in other religion/faith groups?
- What are the chief celebrations/observances of this particular religion/faith group? What time of the year do they occur? Can you think of other religion/faith group observances that occur at or around the same time of year? Are there similarities? Why do you think that is?
- Are there any myths or legends that can be found in other religion/faith groups? Is the coincidence? (For instance, the Lakota Nation in America has a flood myth, as do all the Abrahamic religions.)
- What are the main tenets of this particular religion/faith group? How does it compare to others? (For example, can the idea of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” be found in other religion/faith groups?)
- What symbology is there within this particular religion/faith group? Can similar symbology be found within others?
When students are able to find connections to other religion/faith groups, they are less likely to continue the “them vs. us” mindset. For instance, in world religions lesson plans for high school, knowing that all major religions believe in the idea of, “First, do no harm,” helps students find connections that make common ground for discussion. Viewing the unit study through the lens of religious pluralism gives connections found a place from which they can be observed, discussed and/or shared.
Images: Symbols of Religions by Manop under Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons; Diwali Celebration by author
Source: Author’s own experience
Religious Tolerance: Religious and Spiritual Faith Groups in U.S. - http://www.religioustolerance.org/
Adherents: World Religions by Size - http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html/
This post is part of the series: World Religions
This series will look at the various aspects of World Religions, from rites and rituals to history and holy scriptures.
- World Religions: Finding Connections, Building Harmony
- Promoting Tolerance & Compassion Through Religion in Schools
- World Religion Symbols: Their Origins and Meaning
Department of religious studies.
Professors Emeriti: Michael Buckley, S.J., Denise L. Carmody, Anne Marie Mongoven, O.P.
Senior Lecturer Emeritus: Salvatore A. Tassone, S.J.
Professors: Paul G. Crowley, S.J. (Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor), Diane E. Jonte-Pace, Gary A. Macy, Frederick J. Parrella, David J. Pinault, John David Pleins
Associate Professors: James B. Bennett, David B. Gray (Department Chair), Teresia Hinga, Akiba J. Lerner, Dorian Llywelyn, S.J., Catherine M. Murphy, Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M., Philip Boo Riley, Francis R. Smith, S.J.
Assistant Professors: Socorro Castañeda-Liles, Mark Fusco, S.J., Roberto Mata, Thao Nguyen, S.J.
Acting Assistant Professor: Paul J. Schutz
Senior Lecturers: Margaret R. McLean, Sarita Tamayo-Moraga
Lecturers: William Dohar, Robert Scholla, S.J., Sally Vance-Trembath
The Department of Religious Studies offers a degree program leading to the bachelor of arts in religious studies. The department also offers a minor program for those who wish to concentrate in theological and religious studies. In keeping with the University's commitment to the Catholic faith tradition, the department offers a variety of courses in Scripture, History, and Catholic theology. Faithful to the Jesuit tradition of liberal education and engagement with other religions, the department offers a wide breadth of courses in various religious traditions and methodologies for the study of religion. The department also offers courses as part of the Undergraduate Core Curriculum, at both lower-division and upper- division levels. Courses are clustered in three areas: Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP); Scripture and Tradition (SCTR); and Religion and Society (RSOC).
Requirements for the Major
In addition to fulfilling Undergraduate Core Curriculum requirements for the bachelor of arts degree, students majoring in religious studies must complete the following departmental requirements:
- Three lower-division courses, one from each of the three areas (scripture and tradition; theology, ethics, and spirituality; and religion and society)
- Seven approved upper-division courses, including three designated religious studies seminars, with one in each of the three areas
- RELS 90 (Theories and Methods)
- RELS 197A and RELS 197B, a year-long capstone seminar
Requirements for the Minor
Students must fulfill the following requirements for a minor in religious studies:
- One introductory-level religious studies course (1-19)
- Two intermediate-level courses (20-99)
- Four approved advanced-level courses (100-199), one of which must be a religious studies seminar. Of the seven courses, at least one must be from each the three areas (scripture and tradition; theology, ethics, and spirituality; and religion and society).
Lower-Division Courses: Scripture and Tradition (SCTR)
11. controversies in religion: ancient and modern.
The course critically explores ancient and modern debates about Western religion, especially questions of war, violence, suffering, human purpose, and the relation of science to religion. (4 units)
15. Texting God
This course explores how people express their beliefs and how the technologies they use shape what they say. Focusing on Jewish and Christian "texts" (oral, written, visual, gesture), we'll examine the core beliefs that communities inscribe in them. We'll also consider how scriptural memes are reconstructed in the ongoing process of building cultural memory. We'll learn to analyze the rhetoric of various modes, and ask how changing technologies are altering our experience of text, scripture, and our relationships with God. (4 units)
19. Religions of the Book
This course offers an introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with a study of their central texts, traditions and practices. We begin the course with a paradox: religion, that which in its literal sense "binds" or "fastens together," is also that which often violently divides our world. As we examine the sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Quran), and various methods of interpreting them, our focus will remain on what is shared and what characteristically distinguishes between the monotheistic faiths. (4 units)
26. Gender in Early Christianity
The history of early Christianity is often portrayed as a history of, by, and about men, despite clear indications that women played a prominent role in the early church. Introduces the construction of gender in antiquity, Jewish and Greco-Roman laws and customs, the biblical canon, and other Christian texts. Contemporary feminist perspectives will inform the discussion. Also listed as WGST 46. (4 units)
27. Digging Up Jesus
This course examines the archaeological and literary evidence for Jesus. We'll use these primary "texts" to reconstruct the most plausible context for Jesus' work so that we can better understand the gospel message, and learn the criteria for assessing whether he really said and did what the gospels report. We'll also try to appreciate what the gospel authors were doing in translating Jesus for their communities, just as we are doing ourselves with the historical approach of the course. (4 units)
28. Women In the Hebrew Bible
This course explores stores, tropes, metaphors, poetry, and archaeology related to Hebrew Bible and Old Testament (HB/OT) women. Biblical studies methodologies and interdisciplinary lenses will be used to create access points with the material culture of the Ancient Near East (ANE), literary life and afterlives of biblical texts, as well as intersectional juxtapositions between ANE and contemporary lives of women. We will explore questions such as: Did God have a wife? Are the oldest parts of the HB/OT written by women? How many different ways can families be defined? How does the HB/OT promote leadership and women? (4 units)
33. New Testament Narratives and Cinema
Exploration of the stories that emerged with the Jesus event, their historicity, and their role in forming the early Christian communities. No previous knowledge of Christianity is needed. (4 units)
35. Science versus the Bible: The Genesis Debates
Exploration of the continuing debate over the biblical stories of creation and the flood in relation to the sciences of human evolution, geology, and mythology. One focus is on historical developments in America and England in the 17th to 19th centuries. The role of fundamentalist Christianity in the public school system today. (4 units)
39. Biblical Women and Power
Hero, villain, prophet, deviant—these are some of the power roles embodied by women in the Bible. Explores the exercise of power by biblical women in actual and figurative situations, in culturally positive and negative ways. Attention will be given to the continuing impact of such traditions for gender socialization in our world today. Also listed as WGST 47. (4 units)
48. Racializing Jesus
The course explores the various ancient and contemporary ethnic representations of Jesus in art, film, regalia, and scripture. Although portraits of Jesus as a white, blue- eyed prophet, messiah, or rabbi haunt the popular cultural imagination, these often reflect the social location and racial biases of Western scholars. But, what if Jesus was black, non-white Latino/a, Amerindian, Asian, or Jewish? And, why is contemporary scholarship still grappling with the idea of Jewish messiah? In order to map the politics of interpretation and presentation, the course seeks to "radicalize" Jesus by (1) exploring his Jewishness in terms of race and ethnicity; (2) critically engaging sources from the New Testament, Apocryphal narratives, Rabbinic literature, and the Quran; (3) interrogation of the racial/racist reconstructions of Western biblical scholarship; and (4) mapping the implications for marginalized ethnic communities and interracial dialogue. Key themes to explore include: Race/ethnicity, Colonialism and Imperialism, the quests for Historical Jesus, Hitler's Third Reich, Eugenics, Interreligious Dialogue, police violence (Ferguson & Baltimore), and the polemic over Jesus' wife. (4 units)
65. Early Christianity
A selective survey of the history of the Christian church from its beginnings through the fifth century. Examines the origins of Christianity within Judaism and the Greco-Roman world, and studies how it moved from a marginal apocalyptic sect in Judaism to the exclusive religion of the Roman Empire. Also investigates some of the practical outcomes of Christian belief in the way it was lived. (4 units)
Upper-Division Courses: Scripture and Tradition (SCTR)
100. biblical poetry and ancient myth.
Comparative study of the poetry and myths of ancient Israel and the ancient world. Focuses on the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job. Examines a number of Mesopotamian, Canaanite, and Egyptian myths. Discusses the methodological problem of mythic interpretation. (5 units)
110. Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: Myth and Bible
Explores the debates about the meaning of myth in relation to the Bible and other ancient texts, with special attention to diverging theories of myth, role of the male hero, violence, feminist interpretations, problem of suffering, the relation of religion and science, etc. (5 units)
This course interrogates the role of sacred texts in legitimizing contemporary discourses on martyrdom or "Dying In God." Crucial questions to explore include: What is martyrdom and its relationship to ancient notions of noble death? Why are notions of martyrdom so prevalent amongst Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalist groups today? How is the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran used to legitimate violence against the self and others? Key themes to explore include: notions of a noble death in antiquity, imperial violence (Crucifixion), the book of Revelation, martyrdom in Early Christianity, the Crusades, Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Secularization, Fundamentalism (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim), suicide bombing, school shootings, and the rise of the Islamic State. (5 units)
128. Human Suffering and Hope
Explores issues of human suffering, justice, and belief in light of the biblical Book of Job. Best for students interested in the creative arts, fiction writing, or community service. (5 units)
132. Apocalypse Now
This course provides a comparative introduction to ideas/symbols/theologies of the "End of the World" in three major monotheistic religions. In view of the influence of apocalyptic thought upon contemporary American culture in particular, and Western and non-Western societies in general, this course prepares students to responsibly engage in discussions of End of the World scenarios and their religious, socioeconomic, political implications. Themes germane to the course include: colonialism, environmental disasters (e.g., Pentecostalism), and alternative religious violence (e.g., Jonestown). In order to help students explore and articulate these themes, the course will provide various interpretive approaches from the theories and method in the study of religion. We conclude the course by reflecting on the influence of apocalyptic thought upon our own spirituality, hopes, and religious traditions. (5 units)
139. Bible in Contemporary Fiction and Film
This course will examine representations of the Bible in contemporary fiction and film. The course aims to explore how contemporary literary and cinematic texts have used biblical sources, how these biblical sources have been adapted, and what these intertextual adaptations reveal about the concerns and purposes of their authors and readers/ viewers. (5 units)
157. The Bible and Empire
This course explores how politics shaped the Bible as it was being written and as it has been interpreted. Specifically, we will study how the experiences of empires in antiquity colored the assumptions about power, the portrait of God, and narratives of salvation that fill biblical books. We will also examine how the Bible is implicated in recent imperial adventures, both as a tool of European and American empires, and as a liberating resource for those they colonized. Also listed as WGST 153. (5 units)
158. Postcolonial Perspectives on the New Testament
Introduces students to postcolonial critical theory and uses it to explore the political contexts of New Testament texts, raising new questions about the ethical implications of how we read these texts today. Also listed as WGST 147. (5 units)
165. Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretations
This course opens the Bible to critical readings from feminist and queer theory. It examines the original contexts of contested passages (creation, the destruction of Sodom, the role of women in early Christianity) as well as subsequent interpretation, and exposes the insights and ethical challenges that gender studies pose to these classic texts. Also listed as WGST 148. (5 units)
170. Darwin and God
This course reviews the ongoing debate over the relation between Darwin's evolutionary ideas and religious belief, and specifically considers the discovery that religion and ethics have evolved. (5 units)
175. Wealth, Work, and the Gospel
This course explores how Jews and Christians understood the significance of wealth and work in the Bible and in later interpretation of those texts. Beginning with the Jewish scriptures, we will probe the economic contexts of emerging beliefs and practices, and then trace how these traditions were reshaped in the New Testament, the early and medieval churches, and the Protestant Reformation. This course concludes with the rise of capitalism and a comparison of capitalist and gospel values. (5 units)
199. Directed Reading and Research
For religious studies majors only. (1-5 units)
Lower-Division Courses: Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP)
2. magicians, athletes, and god.
An introduction to Catholic Christianity's notion of transcendence using fantasy literature to describe and inspect the selected Christian truth claims about reality: a personal God, grace, sin, doctrine, ritual, sacred texts, and the nature and role of authority. The course makes use of narratives to disclose the foundational concepts in Christian discourse. (4 units)
4. The Christian Tradition
A theological examination of the Christian tradition covering such topics as religious experience and the meaning of God; Jesus in the Gospels; the development and history of the Christian churches; and the relevance of Christianity in the 21st century global world. (4 units)
26. Sustainable Theologies
How do religious traditions, beliefs, and practices shape human attitudes toward earth and earth's creatures? Using scientific discussions of ecology and sustainability, this course critically evaluates religious and theological traditions' potential to promote the flourishing of life and sustainable living on a planet in peril. (4 units)
34. Mary and Guanyin: Catholicism and Buddhism
Comparative study of the popular devotion to Guanyin in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and Marian devotion in the Catholic tradition will be the focus of this course. It will explore the historical development, religious practices, and important role of the female deities in these two religious traditions. (4 units)
41. Theology of the Arts
All theology is interpretation, and art is a type of theology. The course engages major motifs of Christian faith in light of various artistic interpretations, understood here to be genres of theologizing: literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, theater, opera, and dance. Among the faith motifs examined are transcendence, Trinity, incarnation, Jesus Christ, suffering, forgiveness, sanctity, martyrdom, resurrection, and church. Students examine at least two different cultural expressions of Christian faith and engage in personal critical reflection, and the keeping of a journal. (4 units)
42. Global Christianities
This course offers critical inquiry, analysis, and theological dialogue with Christian communities considering the demographic shifts that are changing global Christianity. This study challenges Eurocentrism in theology by looking at emerging contextual theologies, considers interpretations of scripture, including feminist and womanist theologies, faith, and practice. Regions and cultures of the world include: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. (4 units)
45. Christian Ethics
Focus on the moral implications of the Christian commitment, formulation of the principles of a Christian ethic, and their application to areas of contemporary life (e.g., to wealth and poverty, violence and nonviolence, bioethics and interpersonal relations). (4 units)
46. Faith, Justice, and Poverty
Who is my neighbor, and how are we to be community? This course examines biblical theologies of social responsibility and solidarity, selected Christian social movements concerned with care for the other, and major theologians and ethicists on poverty and justice. (4 units)
50. Catholic Theology: Foundations
An examination of the fundamental theological issues of Catholicism such as the experience of God, revelation and faith, the historical foundations of the tradition, the mystery of Jesus, grace, sin and redemption, the Church sacraments, and religious pluralism, etc. (4 units)
60. Hispanic Popular Religion
Study of the popular expressions of faith of the Hispanic people, exploring their theological underpinnings. Includes both classroom and field experience. (4 units)
65. U.S. Hispanic Theology
Acquaints students with the historical development of Hispanic theology in the United States. Attention will be given to the works of representative U.S. Hispanic theologians and to the themes and concerns that these works address. (4 units)
71. Mysticism in Catholicism
An introduction to mysticism in the Catholic tradition and its relationship to both theology and spirituality. Special attention to the origins of the term within Catholicism, issues of gender, the relationship between hierarchy and a personal relationship with God, and historical controversies and discussions surrounding the possibility of union with God. (4 units)
72. Darwin, God, and the Poets
This course uses Darwinian and religious poetry to explore the relation between religion and science. The course asks: What is the relation between belief and evolution? How have poets responded to the deep questions raised by Darwin and his ideas? (4 units)
79. Women in Christian Tradition
History as written mostly by men has obscured the important role that women have played in Christian tradition. This course will investigate the official and unofficial positions women have held in the Christian church as well as read works by particular Christian women in an attempt to restore the women to their rightful place in Christian history. Also listed as WGST 48. (4 units)
82. Witches, Saints, and Heretics: Religious Outsiders
Survey of the experience of religious exclusion across the realms of magic, holiness, and heterodoxy. While anchored in the premodern Christian tradition, the course also explores more contemporary phenomena, persons, and movements. (4 units)
86. Spirituality and Engineering
Reflects on and compares the methods and practice of the engineering sciences and theology, especially spirituality. Both affect the way we live, both endeavor to transform the world. (4 units)
88. Hope and Prophetic Politics
Focuses on Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr., two religious intellectuals whose lives and works draw on this tradition to raise and address questions basic to any discussion of the role of religion in public life. Through readings of Obama and student-directed "hope projects," we will also focus on contemporary examples of what it means to both think and live in hope. (4 units)
Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP)
108. Human Trafficking and Christian Ethics
This course will examine the global phenomenon of human trafficking—specifically sex trafficking and forced labor trafficking— using the lenses of Christian theology and ethics. Social-scientific, legal, public policy, and autobiographical sources will be used to frame the phenomenon of human trafficking; and theological/ethical categories such as human dignity and freedom, sin and redemption, neighbor love, and solidarity will be used to illuminate and assess its dimensions. Special attention will be given to the question of human agency as well to social, political, cultural, and gender-based analyses as these impact and shape an adequate response to human trafficking. (5 units)
109. Hispanic Spirituality: Guadalupe
One of the most popular Marian devotions for Hispanic people (of primarily Mexican descent) is that of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Study of the history and tradition of Guadalupe, exploring its religious and spiritual significance in both the past and the present. (5 units)
118. Clare of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola
Explores with depth and clarity, Clare of Assisi, patroness of Santa Clara University, and Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Inquiring into medieval, modern, and contemporary worldviews, this course considers how their distinct legacies remain lights for us. Facilitates students' understanding of their spirituality, vocation, and work in the world. (5 units)
119. Theology, Sex, and Relationships
This course will explore the ethics of romantic and sexual relationships, including friendship, dating, intimacy, and the phenomenon of "hooking up" in contemporary campus culture. We will engage theological, philosophical, and social science sources, with the aim of developing a "theology of relationship" that reflects our best insights about our deepest human and religious identity. (5 units)
124. Theology of Marriage
An examination of human relationships, intimacy, sexuality, and marriage through the social sciences, philosophy, and theology, and exploration of human love in the unconditional commitment to spouse as the expression of divine love. (5 units)
129. Religion and Peace
This course will explore the relationship between religion and peace by examining the call to peacemaking in several religious traditions. Understanding peace to be more than the absence of warfare, the class will consider foundational connections between justice and peace, varied definitions for peace and diverse perspectives on peacemaking, as well as distinct theological, ethical, and spiritual approaches to peace. A community-based learning placement through Arrupe Partnership will give students the opportunity to ground reflections on justice. (5 units)
130. Judaism and Political Philosophy
This course focuses on the intersection of modern Jewish thought and political philosophy. From the Hebrew Bible to modern thinkers like Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, the Frankfurt School, and Leo Strauss, Jewish thinkers have generated a remarkable textual conversation over what makes for a holy, just, and good society. We will explore the diverse philosophical and theological interpretive narratives by Jewish thinkers over the uses and abuses of political power in the modern era. This course provides an introductory overview of these conversations by additionally focusing on topics such as messianic resistance to empire, capitalism, religious violence, secularism, nationalism, Zionism, critical theory, ecology, feminism, liberal democratic rights, and redemption. (5 units)
131. Feminist Theologies
Through the analysis of a selected sample of feminist theological voices and themes, explores the phenomenon of feminist theologies in their emerging unity and diversity. Focuses on themes of inclusion, exclusion, and representation, which have also been major catalysts in the emergence of diverse feminist theologies. Also listed as WGST 149. (5 units)
137. Theology of Death
An examination of the experience of death and the meaning of Christian hope in light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus; the meaning of the Christian symbols of judgment, heaven, hell, and the end of history. (5 units)
138. Contemporary Theology of Paul Tillich
An examination of the philosophical and theological thought of one of the great 20th- century Protestant theologians, with special emphasis on his theology of culture, and his effort to reinterpret the Christian message for contemporary people. (5 units)
143. Theology and Ethics of Thomas Aquinas
A study of the life, thought, and ethics of Aquinas. Basic topics to be discussed include the existence of God, human nature, and human participation in society. (5 units)
151. Religion and Science: Conflict or Dialogue?
Are Christian theology and science irreconcilable enemies, respectful conversation partners, or perhaps even necessary and complementary aspects of one and the same quest for understanding? The course will explore historical examples (including the Galileo affair and the reception of Darwin), ancient and modern philosophy of science, the Catholic Church's most recent thinking on these matters, and contemporary issues in the academic field of theology and science. (5 units)
157. Ethics in the Health Professions
Introduction to the major issues in biomedical ethics. Basic principles of biomedical ethics, genetic interventions and reproductive technologies, euthanasia, professional responsibilities, confidentiality, and public policy issues regarding the system of delivery of health care. (5 units)
159. Ethics of War and Peace
Examination of the history of moral deliberation about war and peace in Western religious traditions, as well as contemporary, theological, and philosophical analyses of the diverse moral principles that those traditions have generated. Studies the application of theological and moral reasoning to contemporary wars. (5 units)
163. Christianity and Politics
An ethical investigation into the relationship between Christianity and the political order and into the contemporary experience of this relationship, drawing on Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. A special focus on contemporary issues of Christianity and political ethics. (5 units)
164. Religious Ethics in Business
This course is an introduction to religious ethics in a business setting. Discussions include how one might live their religious ethics at work without compartmentalizing their faith tradition when religious faith or ethics conflict with business ethics. Cases may include: deception in advertising and marketing; flawed products; affirmative action; environment and pollution; discrimination; workplace issues. (5 units)
165. Romero and the Salvadoran Martyrs
The age of martyrs is not a relic of the past but a reality of our own times. In many parts of the world, people are being murdered for their faith. This course will focus on the life of the martyr, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and other Salvadoran men and women whose life and death exemplify the consequence of a socially conscious faith. (5 units)
175. Women's Theologies from the Margins
Women of diverse cultural communities enrich theology by voicing their lived experience from global and local perspectives. Course explores the theological works of African-American, Asian-American, and U.S. Latina women in their historical and cultural contexts. Also listed as WGST 151. (5 units)
176. Nature, Humanity, Spirituality
Nature and the human soul within the Universe Story. An inquiry into the pervasive longing for meaning; human development and spirituality within an evolutionary framework; cultivating wholeness and community in a fragmented world. This course gives students the tools and processes to think theologically, to access their personal lives, and to develop a practical spirituality, which attends to their experience in the ongoing relationship among and between the Absolute Mystery, the human community, and the rest of creation. (5 units)
183. Ignatian Spirituality
An exploration of the historical background, sources, theology, and practice of Ignatian spirituality in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Jesuit documents, and a comparison of Ignatian methods of meditation and contemplation with other traditions of spirituality, Christian and non-Christian. (5 units)
184. Jesus Across Cultures
An exploration and study of selected significant and diverse interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth, and of the historical and cultural contexts that have shaped images and theologies of Jesus Christ (or Christologies). Approaches include biblical, Asian, African, Latin American, and feminist interpretations. The aim is critical exposure to the cross-cultural diversity of understandings of Jesus within Christianity itself. (5 units)
185. Foundations of Faith
A careful and critical reading of Karl Rahner's theology, with focus on his understandings of the human person, grace, and Christ within the context of Catholic faith. (5 units)
187. Christ and Catholic Theology
A study of contemporary Catholic Christology approached as Christology "from below." Initial consideration of some fundamental theological concepts and then Jesus Christ as a historical figure and object of faith. Course pivots around Jesus' proclamation of the "Kingdom of God" and considers his history through the resurrection. (5 units)
190. Celtic Christianity
This course explores Celtic Christianity throughout history, examining both historical evidence and historical projections. Beginning with archaeological and textual evidence from the first five centuries CE, the course explores the qualities that subsequent eras project upon this "golden age" of Celtic Christianity, how Celtic Christianity actually manifests in these eras, and what current projections upon Celtic Christianity can tell us about our cultures today. (5 units)
Lower-Division Courses: Religion and Society (RSOC)
7. south and southeast asian religious traditions.
Introduction to the major religious traditions of India and its neighbors in the subcontinent and Southeast Asia: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam; historical development of each faith; what is distinctive in each tradition; and particular attention to the ways in which these traditions have influenced each other. (4 units)
9. Ways of Understanding Religions
Introduces the categories by which religion is formally studied. Explores distinct perspectives or ways of thinking about religion (e.g., psychological, phenomenological, anthropological, theological, and sociological); also considers a variety of religious data (e.g., symbols, myths, rituals, theologies, and modern communities). (4 units)
10. Asian Religious Traditions
This course will introduce students to the history, major teachings, and practices of the major Asian religious traditions of South, Central, East, and Southeast Asia, namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism. It will do so from a historical perspective, and will also explore the development of key theological and religious/philosophical doctrines as well as the associated practices. (4 units)
12. Latinos and Lived Religion in the United States
This course introduces students to the ethnic and religious diversity among Latinas and Latinos living in the United States. Students will be exposed to the ways in which Latinos appropriate Christian, Indigenous, and Afro-Latino religions in their everyday lives. (4 units)
19. Egyptian Religious Traditions
An investigation of the ways in which Egyptian culture has been shaped by the religious traditions of ancient pharaonic polytheism, Coptic Christianity, and Islam. Attention to the influence of pharaonic religion on Coptic Christian and Egyptian Muslim ritual practices, including how these are reflected in the writings of contemporary Egyptian Muslim authors. (4 units)
27. Faith and Resilience in Silicon Valley
With a focus on the Greater Washington community in San Jose, this course analyzes the intersection of race, class, gender, faith, and resilience in Silicon Valley. Students explore the complex and diverse socio-religious dimensions of human existence through an applied sociological analysis of this community. More specifically, this class centers on Catholic social teachings to allow students to recognize, investigate, and understand how faith and resilience materialize in a community that has been highly gentrified as Silicon Valley continues to expand. One of the goals of this class is to engage students in a reflection of the ways they could apply their chosen majors in light of their greatest gifts and societies' utmost needs. This class collaborates closely with the Thriving Neighborhoods Initiative and the Arrupe Weekly Engagement. (4 units)
33. Maya Spirituality
Introduces the spirituality of the Maya, and its roots in Mesoamerican culture. Course focuses on the contemporary public reemergence of ancient practices, with attention to Maya participation in evangelical religions, and enculturated Catholicism. (4 units)
38. Religion and Culture: Africa
Introduces the study of religion from the social perspective of how religion shapes African cultures and is thoroughly shaped by them in turn. Examines texts, history, ritual practices, and modern forms of engagement with the world. (4 units)
46. African Religions
Examination of African history and its many cultures through the lens of key religious ideas, practices, and cosmologies. The power of history, geography, and political domination over the shaping of religion is matched by the power of religion as a medium of cultural expressiveness and political resistance. (4 units)
51. Religion in America
Traces the development, character, and impact of religion in America from the precolonial era to the present. Course readings and discussions will center on the relationship between religion and the development of American culture. Includes Native American traditions; slavery and religion; the rise of revivalism; gender; religion and war; immigration; and modern pluralism, etc. (4 units)
54. Comparative Religion and Social Theory
A survey of recent social theory as it bears on the comparative study of religious traditions. Theorists might include Durkheim, Weber, Malinowski, Freud, Alfred Schutz, Jan Patocka, Peter Berger, Robert Bellah, Clifford Geertz, Jurgen Habermas, and Niklas Luhmann. (4 units)
64. Comparative Religion and Environmentalism
As sustainability and ecology are becoming increasingly relevant across the globe, this course examines practical environmental projects across a spectrum of world religions. The course includes myriad voices from the margins to the pinnacles of religious authority to understand how religious people engage in environmental advocacy, activism, and earth care as expressions of reverence, piety, ethics and interconnection. (4 units)
67. Film and Judaism
Uses a variety of readings and films to explore the ideas and experiences that have shaped Jews and Judaism in the modern period. Topics include Enlightenment and emancipation, Hasidism and secularism, Zionism and socialism, immigration and assimilation, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, denominationalism, feminism, Jewish Renewal, and the future. (4 units)
Introduction to the Islamic tradition focusing on the dialectic between normative theology and popular devotion. Readings include the Quran, Sufi literature, and devotional poetry. Discussion of Quranic concerns in the Sunni and Shia traditions, ecstatic mysticism, Islamic law, and contemporary issues relating to the status of women, Westernization, and modernity. (4 units)
Exploration of the historical development, theologies, symbols, rituals, scriptures, social institutions, and 20th-century politics of Hinduism, primarily in India. Main focus on the interaction of religion and culture. (4 units)
Exploration of the whole Buddhist tradition, including Indian origins, Theravada traditions of Southeast Asia, Mahayana traditions of Central and East Asia, and Buddhism in the West. Emphasis on cultural impact of religion, Buddhist philosophy and practice, and modernizing tradition. (4 units)
87. Buddhism and Film
Explores the portrayal of Buddhism in contemporary global cinema. Covers key teachings of Buddhist religious traditions, and provides an introduction to the field of film studies, with particular focus on the skills needed to write critically about film. (4 units)
88. Chinese Religions
Focuses on the historical development of Chinese religions—Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—and their philosophies, as well as the interface between folk religion, society, and political institutions in traditional and modern China. (4 units)
91. Native Spiritual Traditions
Introduction to Native American spiritual traditions in the Americas. Examines myth, the diversity of ceremonial practices, and the historical and political contexts in which native peoples have manifested and adapted their religious ways, with an emphasis on their recent reaffirmation of indigenous traditions. (4 units)
99. Sociology of Religion
Using early and American Christianity as examples, this class examines how various social forces shape the religious beliefs and practices of people of faith. In particular it draws on a number of sociological perspectives, looking both at their historical and philosophical underpinnings and at what they can tell us about religious growth, faith in the modern world, and religiously inspired social action. (4 units)
Upper-Division Courses: Religion and Society (RSOC)
106. zen in theory and practice.
Explores the Chan/Zen traditions of East Asian Buddhism from the historical, theoretical, and practical perspectives. Students will explore the history and teachings of the Zen traditions, and then will learn how to undertake Zen meditative practice. The focus will be on bringing the teachings and tradition to life by experiencing them and learning about the way that practice itself drives changes in theory. (5 units)
111. Inventing Religion in America
Explores the spiritual creativity that stands at the center of the American experience and asks what characteristics facilitated such religious diversity. Looks at beliefs and practices, and also historical contexts. Includes Mormons, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, and Heaven's Gate, etc. (5 units)
113. Buddhism in America
Following a survey of Buddhist teachings and the history of the transmission of Buddhism to America, this course explores the diverse array of Buddhist groups in Silicon Valley. (5 units)
115. Tibetan Buddhism: A Cultural History
Provides an overview of Tibetan religious history and the fundamental beliefs and practices of Tibetan religious traditions. Focuses on devotional traditions centering around saints, sophisticated systems of meditation and ritual, and the experience of women in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Also explores visual media such as iconography and cinema. (5 units)
119. Media and Religion
Examines the religious, theological, and ethical issues and perspectives raised by various media: print, visual, audio, multimedia, and virtual. Special attention will be given to the nature of their relationship and the religious and spiritual issues currently present in their interface. (5 units)
121. Representing Religion in World Cinema
Examines films from various cultures and the ways religion is portrayed, stereotyped, and represented in them. Investigates both sacred texts and traditions of specific religions and the ways film enhances, provokes, or misrepresents various religious themes and motifs. (5 units)
123. Religions@Silicon Valley
Is something unique happening in Silicon Valley's religious landscape? This seminar addresses that question through different perspectives on the Valley's culture; scholarly approaches to the Buddhist, Catholic, and Muslim experiences in America; and interactions with local congregations. (5 units)
130. East Asian Buddhism
Explores in depth the major traditions of East Asian Buddhism. Following a brief survey of their teachings and history, this course focuses on several traditions (Chan/Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, and Soka Gakkai) that are represented in the Silicon Valley area, and examines in depth the practices advocated by these traditions, as well as the social implications of these practices. (5 units)
131. Tantra in Theory and Practice
Examines the development and global spread of tantric traditions. Beginning with South Asia, explores the development of the body-oriented tantric movement and its institutionalization in Hindu and Buddhist religious contexts. Explores spread of tantra throughout Asia and the West, and transformation of tantric traditions in Western cultural contexts. (5 units)
134. Religion and Secularism
Is the new atheism—and by extension, therefore, philosophy—in some genuine sense a religious tradition? This course will explore the meaning and sources of the so-called "new atheists" (C. Hitchens, R. Dawkins, S. Harris, D. Dennett). We will see that the conflict between the new atheists and the religions has a long varied history with the new atheists representing one strand of philosophy. We will flesh out this particular philosophical sub-history, as well as alternative views of the religions that develop and exist alongside the stridently atheistic, materialist forms of philosophy. (5 units)
135. Architects of Solidarity
Starting with the Jesuit claim of education for "solidarity for the real world," students explore the rhetorics of solidarity in different intellectual and faith traditions and how these rhetorics frame issues such as poverty, intolerance, suffering, and globalization to inspire and justify action on behalf of others. Course requirements include field work with local organizations whose missions include solidarity across religious, economic, ethnic, or geographic differences. (5 units)
136. Religion in Latin America
Develops intellectual tools to explore with depth and clarity the recent religious pluralism in Latin America and the Caribbean. Examines distinct historical legacies; sociocultural contexts; political and economic processes; and the role that faith, belief, and "conversion" play in people's lives and cultures. (5 units)
139. Mexican Popular Catholicism and Gender
From a sociology of religion perspective, this course explores the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of Mexican popular Catholicism in the United States and Mexico with a special focus on women's contributions. Also listed as ETHN 129 and WGST 152. (5 units)
140. Animals, Environment, and World Religion
An investigation of the resources offered by world religions for addressing current crises related to the status of animals and the natural environment. Attention will be given to traditional views of human-animal relations as reflected in various scriptures, as well as the work of contemporary thinkers who offer new perspectives on environmental theology and issues such as animal suffering. (5 units)
145. Native Myth, Memory, and History
This course examines creation accounts of native peoples, exploring earth-sky relations, and the reciprocity between the Sacred, the human community, and the rest of creation. Focus on Rainy Mountain of the Kiowa (Plains), Popul Vuj of the K'iche-Maya (Central America), trickster tales of northern and southern Native Californians, and the emergence stories of the Southwest. We consider how memories of these stories have informed historical and contemporary lives, and how native peoples today reclaim these accounts as transformed continuities, particularly in claiming sacred sites and practices, in resisting environmental devastation, and their determination to protect land rights and our common future. (5 units)
154. Jesus in Islam and Christianity
Investigation of various understandings of Jesus in Islam, beginning with an introduction to Islamic theology and Quranic Christology, emphasizing Muslim scriptural understandings of Jesus as a prophet and healer, followed by representations of Jesus in Sufi mysticism, medieval Islamic folklore, and modern Arabic literature, with consideration of how Jesus can play a role in Muslim- Christian dialogue. (5 units)
157. Religious Traditions and Contemporary Moral Issues
Explores selected moral issues and analyzes responses given to these issues by the selected religious traditions. Issues to be analyzed will include those pertaining to human life (e.g., euthanasia, HIV/AIDS), human sexuality (e.g., marriage), and global issues (e.g., war, environmental degradation, and poverty). The central approach will be to compare and contrast Western responses with responses from other cultural and religious systems in order to highlight points of difference, points of similarity, and common ground. (5 units)
159. Longings for Immortality
A chance to read the core texts that formed visions of the afterlife in Western thought, including Gilgamesh, selections from Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Cicero, Vergil, Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the Quran, Dante, and Galileo. Then, turning to the world around us, we'll explore some of the refractions of these visions in contemporary film and literature and writings about cyberspace. Along the journey, we'll ponder the implications of personal survival and death—both for the individual and society. (5 units)
168. Gender and Judaism
Explores ideas and images of Jewish "femininity," "masculinity," and "queerness" generated by Jewish and non-Jewish cultures throughout history to the present. Considers the political/economic, religious, and other cultural dimensions of these images and ideas. Also listed as WGST 145. (5 units)
170. Religion, Gender, and Globalization
Using feminist ethics as a framework, this course examines the ethical issues at the intersection of religion and globalization and unpacks the implications of this intersection for women. Focuses on the human rights of women and examines ways in which globalization has affected, supported, or undermined the human rights of women and the role of religion in their lives. Also listed as WGST 146. (5 units)
174. Jewish Philosophy: Athens and Jerusalem
"Athens" represents the philosophical world; "Jerusalem" the world of faith. An introduction to the history and major themes within modern Jewish thought. Topics investigated include secularism, capitalism, Romanticism, Marxism, critical theory, postmodernism, feminism, political theory, and prophetic politics as articulated in Judaism's encounter with modernity. These topics are united by Judaism's struggle to achieve a universal vision of hope for human redemption and liberation. (5 units)
182. Shia Islam in the Contemporary World
An investigation of Shia theory, the historical origins of Shiism (especially the Twelver and Zaydi denominations), and Shia-Sunni relations in the contemporary Islamic world. Particular emphasis on issues of ritual and communal identity in Pakistan, India, Yemen, and diaspora communities in North America. (5 units)
184. Race and Religion in the United States
Begins with an examination of the living situation of people of African descent in the United States, as well as an analysis of their social context—economic, educational, and political aspects. Considerations are then given to the effects the Christian message has had in this situation. Also listed as ETHN
166. (5 units)
188. religion and violence.
Examines the historical and contemporary relationships between religious ideologies and personal and institutional practices of coercion, force, and destruction. (5 units)
190. Islam: Reformation and Modernity
Comparative study of contemporary Islam. Beginning with the study of origins and basic doctrines of Islam, this course will study its development to the modern world. Main focus will be on Islam's interaction with different cultures, emphasizing political implications of the rise of revivalism. (5 units)
191. Religions of Colonized Peoples
The aim of this course is to analyze from an insider perspective the role of religion both in the process of colonizing Africa as well as in the process of resistance to colonization. This will include an examination of the role of religion in the African struggle against political oppression, economic injustices, racism, and cultural imperialism. Students will then critically analyze the social-political implications of religion in their own contexts. (5 units)
Lower-Division Course: Religious Studies (RELS)
(Course for Religious Studies Majors and Minors)
90. Theories and Methods
A survey of various approaches to the study of religion, scripture, and the theological disciplines, focusing on hermeneutical (interpretation) theories in each of these approaches. The course involves in-depth reading, discussion, and application of hermeneutical methods to religious, ethical and theological texts, rituals and liturgies, and art, architecture, and music. (4 units)
Upper-Division Courses: Religious Studies (RELS)
(Courses for Religious Studies Majors and Minors)
197A. Capstone Seminar
This course is part one of a two-quarter seminar for religious studies majors. It will provide an introduction to research and writing skills, and then will segue into a structured independent study in which each student will work on an independent project with the support and feedback from the instructor and their peers. (3 units)
197B. Capstone Seminar
This course is part two of a two-quarter seminar for religious studies majors. It will provide an introduction to research and writing skills, and then will segue into a structured independent study in which each student will work on an independent project with the support and feedback from the instructor and their peers. (3 units)
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