Examines comparative approaches to religious experience and belief with emphasis on conceptual issues such as ritual, symbolism, identity, ecstatic experience, and revitalization movements in the context of globalization. Addresses criteria of both similarity and difference in the comparative work.
In this course you will embark on an intellectual and experiential exploration of some diverse religious traditions. We will begin by examining how we all look at the world from a certain perspective - we will try to uncover some of our own ‘hidden assumptions’ and explore how our worldviews converge and diverge from each others. We will look at what we mean by concepts such as ‘religion’, ‘faith’ and ‘myth’, and how our understanding of our terms might affect the way we make sense of the world. We will then ‘zoom’ in on three different faith traditions: Islam, Taoism and Buddhism. We will learn about them through secondary texts, primary scriptural sources, and through reflective experience. We will compare how they respond to fundamental questions about the meaning and value of existence, and how these values are manifested in rituals, beliefs and practices. Our intellectual, analytic capacities offer one way of knowing, but we also have the capacity to learn through quiet and contemplative reflection on our own experiential encounters with the world. This course will accommodate both ways of knowing.
Student learning goals
Recognize that you have a position or ‘worldview’ and that it is one among many; it is a view that is part of a particular time and tradition, and which can be challenged and enhanced by other views.
Develop cross-cultural awareness and religious literacy through respectful and open-minded inquiry into the beliefs and practices of other tradition in their historical and cultural contexts.
Gain a sympathetic understanding of how the diverse religious traditions of Islam, Taoism and Buddhism answer fundamental questions of meaning and value, such as ‘What is ultimate reality (the ‘really real’) like?’; ‘What is the right way for a human being to live?’, ‘How do we know what is right and wrong?’, ‘What are the sources of religious truth and authority?’
Discuss, compare, analyze, critique and evaluate these faith traditions (and different ‘schools’ within these traditions) respond to these questions.
Develop awareness of some of the challenging issues associated with the academic study of religion.
General method of instruction
Lecture and class discussion.
Class assignments and grading