Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

This course is an introduction to religions and to their academic study. In this course we will survey some of the core teachings, practices and institutions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. Our twin goals will be to secure a basic understanding of the worlds of meaning that are created-, expressed-, and sustained by these religions and to learn how to reflect critically upon the function of religion in the lives of individuals and communities. We will begin the semester by reading selections from a classic theoretical text in the academic study of religion, Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy. Berger will help us to orient ourselves toward a critical and analytical approach to religious phenomena cross-culturally. We will proceed by considering a number of religious traditions through primary and secondary literature as well as audiovisual material – the latter to get a sense of the ritual and material dimensions of religious expression globally. Over the course of the semester we will be introduced to a variety of methodological issues in the academic study of religion and we will address them as they arise naturally from our discussions of the religious behaviors, ideas, texts and contexts under consideration. By the end of the course students will have developed both a vocabulary and conceptual framework for understanding religious phenomena cross-culturally within the context of a Religious Studies disciplinary focus.