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RELS 1020-04 Honors Section LAC 3B
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD
DIVERSITY, DISAGREEMENT, & DEBATE
MWF 2:00 PM Bartlett 1043 Professor Burnidge

It is difficult to ignore how much religious conflict is in the world. Daily (even hourly) news
updates remind us of the presence of religious intolerance and conflict in the world. To many,
this is surprising because “deep down, we’re all really just the same.” Artists, celebrities,
teachers, family members, and faith leaders often remind us of this idea all the time. Maya
Angelou perhaps put it best in her poem “Human Family” when she wrote:
In minor ways we differ / in major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences / between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends, / than we are unalike
but we are more alike, my friends, / than we are unalike.1
But what if she—and, therefore, we—are wrong? What if we are more unalike than alike? What
if our differences are major and not minor to who we are? This class will explore that alternative
idea. We will consider the significance of difference, disagreement, and debate in understanding
religious diversity, striving to celebrate that which make us unalike by embracing—rather than
minimizing or erasing—our differences.
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 ​Hear Maya Angelou recite “Human Family” here: ​https://youtu.be/5F_aHt34a-g

 
 
 

Course Structure
This course will follow a seminar format with two major themes: 1) ​Learning about the role of
religion in shaping social identities​ and 2) ​Learning about “rival” religions​. Along the way,
we will consider a variety of theories of identity and religious difference in order to better
understand how disagreement and debate might contribute to religious diversity. Students will
gain familiarity with major theories of social identity then apply those approaches to social
identity and difference to “rival” religions and “real world” case studies. Through in-class
discussions and debates, we will test these social theories and reflect upon our own
understanding of religious conflict and diversity.

Assigned Readings
In this course, two books will guide our conversations. Each book focuses
on the importance of differences--not commonalities--to ​really
understanding and appreciating other people. Each book argues (in
different​ ways) that religious identities are formed through disagreement,
both within religious groups and between those groups and the larger
culture they are found in.

Each of these books are required for the course:

Stephen Prothero’s ​God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions
That Rule the World​ (HarperOne, 2011) ISBN: ​978-0061571282

Craig Martin’s ​A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion
(Routledge, 2014) ISBN: 978-1845539924

In addition to these books, there will be additional readings or podcast
“listenings” on the Course Schedule. All materials posted on eLearning or
shared via email are required. Every student is expected to read (or listen
to) these course materials when they are assigned.

Learning Goals
Through this course each student will:
1. Gain a familiarity with the ​secular, ​academic study of religion​ and critical approaches
to religion to better understand complex identity and social formations2
2. Apply those methods & theories to their study of eight “rival” religions​ and their
historic contexts to think independently and analytically about the “real world”
3. Practice civil debate and disagreement​ to prepare for a life of civic participation
4. Articulate the significance and value of cultural differences​ to develop their own
sense of belonging to and within a diverse society

2
​“Secular” refers to that which is “worldly” or governed by temporal affairs. Secular spaces and concerns are typically
contrasted with religious spaces and concerns because religious spaces are believed to be governed by the supernatural or
“other-worldly” affairs. Religious officials are credentialed by a religious institution and secular officials are credentialed by
secular institutions, like the government.
 
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Assignments & Outcomes
Four types of assignments will be used to assess student progress toward mastering each learning
goal: ​reading reflections ​(L1, L2)​; in-class discussions ​(L1-4)​ ; written essays ​(L2, L4)​; and a
public, oral presentation ​(L3, L4). Together, these assignments will develop each student’s
reading comprehension and analysis, analytical and persuasive writing skills, public speaking,
and critical thinking skills. Along the way, students will also build “soft skills,” such as critical
empathy, teamwork, self-regulation, and experience civil discourse and deliberative democracy.

Reading reflections will assess how well students are
comprehending and applying the assigned readings. They will shape
the direction of our in-class conversations, so they must be turned in Reading Reflections 30%
according the Course Schedule. Top 6 RRs (out of 10) will count
toward the final grade.

Since disagreement and debate only arises when we are in
conversation with other people, we will have regular in-class
discussions moderated by Professor Burnidge. Students ​will be In-Class Discussion 30%
graded​ on their engagement & participation.. If students are absent,
they cannot receive a grade.3 The top 6 (of 10) discussion grades will
count toward the final grade.

For midterm and final “exams,” students will have a take-home 2 Essays 30%
essay.4 Both essays will require students to articulate the value and
significance of cultural differences using “real world” examples.

Working in teams, students will deliver a 10-minute oral Public Presentation
presentation informing the campus community of a real- world & Paper 10%
example of religious diversity, debate, & discord.

Student Evaluation
Because this course is focused on appreciating diversity in new ways, it is about much more than
just a letter grade. Instructor feedback will serve as a regular assessment of progress by
identifying your work in one of three stages ​(​mastery​, a ​proficiency​, or​ developing​)​.5 Students
will receive a rubric for each assignment describing the criteria that fits each category. Since
mastery of a course outcome is the goal of each assignment--and not a point value or letter
grade--​students have 1 chance to revise & resubmit ​written​ assignments if they have not
mastered it​. Revised written work must be resubmitted within one week of grades being issued.
Academic dishonesty, when or if it occurs, will be handled on a case-by-case basis in accordance
with UNI Academic Honesty policies.

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Make-ups will be assigned on a case-by-case basis and must be the result of an usual or emergency situation.
4
Since students have time to complete it on their own time, there will be no make-ups for these assignments.
5
This model of specification grading is based on Rice University Professor Caleb McDaniel’s U.S. History Survey, 1848 to
present, (​http://wcm1.web.rice.edu/pdf/hist118sp15.pdf​) and Linda Nilson and Claudia J. Stanny, ​Specifications Grading:
Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time ​ (Sterling, VA: ​Stylus Publishing, 2014).
 
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Assignment grades will be posted on eLearning and will contribute to the student’s final grade
according to the percentages above. Final grades will be assigned according to the rubric below.
This rubric ​already takes rounding the nearest integer ​into account.

Final Grade Rubric
A’s A- A
89.5-92.4% 92.5-100%

B’s B- B B+
79.5-82.4% 82.5-86.4% 86.5-89.4%

C’s C- C C+
69.5-72.4% 72.4-76.4 76.5-79.4%

D’s D- D D+
59.5-62.4% 62.5-66.4% 66.5-69.4%

Campus Resources
Success does not happen all on our own. It requires building relationships and working
with other people. It means asking for help or assistance along the way towards your goals​.

Professor Burnidge
Since Professor Burnidge designed the class, created the assignments, & assesses your progress,
she’s likely to be the best person to answer your questions. You can reach her in person at ​1101
Bartlett Hall ​& via email at ​cara.burnidge@uni.edu​. ​Walk-in office hours are Mondays
3-5PM​. All other meetings can be made by adding yourself to her calendar:
https://goo.gl/WZ8URR​. If there isn’t a time that works, then email her with 2-3 possible
meeting times.

Academic Learning Center
For help beyond your Instructor, the Academic Learning Center provides free assistance. UNI’s
Academic Learning Center is located in 008 ITTC. You can call 319-273-2361 or visit the
website at ​http://www.uni.edu/unialc/​ for more information and to set up an appointment.

Student Disability Services
Those interested in disability accommodations should visit the Student Disability Services office
located in the Student Health Center Room 103 (phone 319-273-2677, for deaf or hard of
hearing, use Relay 711). Students seeking accommodation should obtain a SAAR form from
SDS and then set up a meeting with Prof. Burnidge to modify the learning environment.

UNI Counseling Center
The UNI Counseling Center promotes personal development and psychological well-being. All
appointments are confidential with a trained counselor. UNI Students who have paid the
mandatory health fee are eligible for Counseling Center services. The Counseling Center is
located at 103 Student Health Center. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit
https://www.uni.edu/counseling/​ or call 319-273-2676.

 
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​For a full list of student resources see: ​https://www.uni.edu/resources/current-students

 
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