RELS-211 World Religions Spring 2010 MWF 10-10:50am, Olin 108 Instructor: Nathan Rein (nrein at ursinus
dot edu, office: 610-409-3571, cell: 610-9737186) Introduction to the course It has become a cliché that we live in a globalized world. The so-called "world" religions are now more global than ever — for example, according to some statistics, there are now more Muslims than Jews, more Sikhs than Episcopalians, living in the United States. There are mosques in Detroit, Zoroastrian communities in Los Angeles, Hindu temples in Jamaica and Catholic cathedrals in West Africa. Being a good global citizen means knowing something about these ever-closer neighbors of ours. In taking this course, you will gain a basic factual understanding of five of the world's great traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. You should be able to participate in an informed and educated way in cross-cultural conversations. You should know, for example, what a Jewish Bar-Mitzvah is and what it means; you should have a sense of how the Buddhist nirvana is similar and different from Hindu moksha; and you should understand why Muhammad's role in Islam is different from Jesus' role in Christianity. You should also be able to take in news reports of religious events, conflicts, and movements around the world with a better sense of context and meaning. At the same time, you will also become aware of how knowledge about religions comes to exist — in other words, along with learning about the religious traditions themselves, you will also investigate how we learn about religions, examining questions like: what kinds of information does one need in order to truly understand someone else's religion? What "counts" as a religion, or as religious? How to get more information I’ve placed as much information as possible about this course on the Web, and I promise to try to keep it as up to date as I can. Most of what you need to know about the course (including this syllabus, contact information for me, and daily assignments) can be found at the course website, http://rels-211.pbworks.com. You can also get the next assignment sent to your phone via text message. Text UCREIN RELS211 to shortcode 41411. (This usually works.) If you have a smartphone, you can just scan the barcode at the bottom of this syllabus. Course objectives By the end of the semester, you will: ● define, explain and illustrate key concepts from the five traditions discussed (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism); ● discern and describe ways in which those concepts appear in observable religious phenomena; ● develop the ability to describe religious beliefs and practices non-normatively, i.e., without reference to their ultimate truth or falsity; ● perform close readings of and comparisons between religious ideas and texts;
practice reading, writing, listening, and talking about religious ideas critically and carefully; and ● develop an understanding of how our knowledge of other religious traditions is acquired and shaped. Note: This course satisfies the Ursinus Core Curriculum requirement for a "G" (global diversity) course.
Assignments and grading: Grades in this course will be determined based on the following weights: ● Papers, 28% ● Quizzes and exams, 28% ● Informal writing and participation, 22% ● Cumulative final assignment, 22% Ungraded, informal writing and short focus papers will be required on a regular basis throughout the semester, approximately every two weeks. These will be evaluated on a check/check-plus basis. You will also take regular quizzes on vocabulary and concepts. You will have the option of turning in a writing assignment or taking an exam at the end of the semester. The field trip I have scheduled five field trips to different religious sites in the area throughout the term. One of the requirements of this course is that you sign up for one of these trips, attend it, and write a short report of your experiences afterwards (this will count as part of the course's informal writing requirement; it will be due by email 48 hours after the field trip). I will hand out a sign-up sheet in the first week of class. If you can't make any of the scheduled trips, speak with me privately about arranging a site visit on your own. You may attend as many field trips as you like, space permitting, but everyone must attend at least one. Reading list: The following books have been ordered for purchase at the Ursinus bookstore. Pay attention to the edition numbers. Older editions (especially with World Religions Today, the main textbook) are substantially different. Sorry, but it’s true. ● Endo, Shusaku. Deep River. NY: New Directions, 2002; ISBN: 081121320X. ● Esack, Farid. On Being a Muslim. Revised edition. Oxford: Oneworld Pub., 2009; ISBN: 1851686916. ● Esposito, John, et al. World Religions Today. Third ed. NY: Oxford UP, 2009 (abbreviated below as WRT); ISBN: 0195365631. ● Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. New edition. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005; ISBN: 0374529752. ● Lamott, Anne. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. New York: Anchor Books, 1999; ISBN: 0385496095. ● Nhat Hanh, Thich. Being Peace. Second edition. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2005; ISBN: 188837540X. There will also be frequent readings from short class handouts. The fine print
Written work: All written work must be submitted in order to receive a passing grade for the class. Late papers will be penalized by one grade-step (from B+ to B, etc.) for each day they are late, unless you have arranged with me for an extension well in advance of the due date. Informal writing will not be accepted late. All written work must include both page numbers and a word count in the upper right corner of the first page. Email submissions are acceptable and usually preferred. Attendance: Attendance at every class meeting is expected. Missing class shows disrespect for your classmates and professor and for the collective enterprise of the class. I will be taking attendance at every class session, and participation grades will reflect attendance records. Missing two class meetings may result in the issuance of an academic warning slip. Missing more than four scheduled meetings may result in your being dropped from the course with a grade of F. Academic honesty: Plagiarism is a serious offence, and today it has become very easy to detect. In written work, all quotations must be properly attributed and appear in quotation marks. But at least as importantly, any time you are drawing on someone else's work you must cite it! (Either parenthetical citations or footnotes are appropriate.) This includes paraphrases, summaries, or any time you make use of an idea that's not your own. Anything else, including the use of information you find online, is plagiarism and can result in one or both of the following: (1) a failing grade for the course or (2) College-level disciplinary action, including expulsion. At best, you will have an extremely unpleasant meeting with the dean and get an "F" for the assignment, and I guarantee it will ruin your day and mine. If you have questions about the proper use of sources, please don't hesitate to contact me. You are probably better off turning in nothing at all than turning in a plagiarized paper. Every formal paper should include a acknowledgements section (which will not count towards the total word length) in which you thank everyone, by name, who helped you with the paper. This should be about a paragraph and it should be in a footnote, at either the very beginning or the very end of the paper.
Schedule of major readings and assignments Note: this schedule is subject to change. It includes most reading assignments. Additional readings in handout form will also be required. I will also be assigning frequent informal writing tasks. Please complete all reading by the date listed. WRT stands for World Religions Today, the main textbook for the course.
UNIT ONE: RELIGION AND RELIGIOUSNESS M 1/17 Welcome and introduction to the course W 1/19 WRT, Introduction, pp. 3-33 F 1/21 Endo, Deep River, chs. 1-3
M 1/24 Endo, chs. 4-7 Interview assignment due W 1/26 Endo, chs. 8-13 F 1/28 Reading t.b.a. First focus paper due
UNIT TWO: CHRISTIANITY: REDEEMER AND REDEEMED M 1/31 WRT, pp. 147-173 W 2/2 WRT, pp. 173-198 F 2/4 WRT, pp. 198-211 M 2/7 Lamott, Traveling Mercies, through Part Three Christianity quiz W 2/9 Lamott, Parts Four and Five F 2/11 Lamott, to end Second focus paper due UNIT THREE: JUDAISM: MARK OF THE COVENANT M 2/14 WRT, pp. 74-114 W 2/16 WRT, pp. 114-129 F 2/18
WRT, pp. 129-145 First formal paper due M 2/21 Heschel, The Sabbath, prologue, parts one and two Judaism quiz W 2/23 Heschel, part three and epilogue F 2/25 Reading t.b.a. Third focus paper due M 2/28 Review week; reading t.b.a. W 3/2 F 3/4 Midterm exam Spring break, 3/7 through 3/11 UNIT FOUR: ISLAM: THE STRAIGHT PATH M 3/14 WRT, pp. 213-265; Qur'an handout W 3/16 WRT, pp. 265-288 F 3/18 WRT, pp. 288-299 M 3/21 Esack, On Being a Muslim, chapters 1-2 Islam quiz W 3/23 Esack, chapters 3-4
F 3/25 Esack, chapter 5 Fourth focus paper due UNIT FIVE: HINDUISM: TRUTH IS ONE, ITS NAMES ARE MANY M 3/28 WRT, pp. 301-344 W 3/30 WRT, pp. 344-362 F 4/1 WRT, pp. 362-387 Second formal paper due M 4/4 Gandhi, "All Religions Are True" (handout, pages t.b.a.) Hinduism quiz W 4/6 Gandhi, continued F 4/8 Gandhi, continued Fifth focus paper due UNIT SIX: BUDDHISM: TOWARDS ENLIGHTENMENT M 4/11 WRT, pp. 389-430 W 4/13 COSA (no class) F 4/15 WRT, pp. 430-443 M 4/18 WRT, pp. 443-469 W 4/20 Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, chapters 1-3
Buddhism quiz F 4/22 Nhat Hanh, chapters 4-5 M 4/25 Nhat Hanh, chapters 6-7 Sixth focus paper due CONCLUSION (Review week; reading t.b.a.) W 4/27 F 4/29 M 5/2
Quick information Course website Contact information for Nathan Rein http://rels-211.pbworks.com phone: 610-973-7186 email: nrein at ursinus dot edu MWF 10-10:50am, Olin 108 Midterm exam: March 4 in class Final exam: to be announced Feb. 18 April 1 Jan. 24 (interview) Jan. 28 (focus paper) Feb. 11 (focus paper) Feb. 25 (focus paper) March 25 (focus paper) April 8 (focus paper) April 25 (focus paper) 48 hours after your field trip, via email (field trip report) Feb. 7 (Christianity) Feb. 21 (Judaism) Feb. 21 (Islam) April 4 (Hinduism) April 20 (Buddhism) text UCREIN RELS211 to 41411 (or scan the barcode below with your smartphone)
Class meeting times Exam dates
Formal paper due dates
Informal writing due dates
Assignment information by text message
Tentative dates for field trips: Field trips will last three to five hours (depending on traffic) and will leave from the parking lot between BPS and the Physical Plant building. All dates and times are subject to change. Gwynedd Friends Meeting
Sunday, Feb. 13 (around 9 a.m.) Saturday, Feb. 26 (around 9 a.m.) Friday, March 25 (around 11:30 a.m.)
Tiferet Beth Israel
Blue Bell, PA
Foundation for Islamic Education
Sunday, April 10 (around 10 a.m.) Sunday, April 24 (around 10 a.m.)