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HUM 1024 Religions of World 1: Western Religions


Course Description

Studies western religions. Includes religions of nonliterate societies and ancient religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, student should be able to

  • Discuss the nature-centered religious life of primal peoples
  • Explain the importance of archaic Iranian culture and Zarathustra's idea of human choice in the struggle against evil
  • Identify the Jewish notions of the divine as "I AM," creation, covenant, Torah, and prophesy
  • Define the benefits and problems that derive from the focus of Islam on the Qur'an and the Shari'a
  • Discuss the importance of faith, love, freedom, and the Spirit to the Christian life and how Christianity, as a way of life, transcends traditional cultural forms
  • Acknowledge the spiritual and moral goods to be found in the world's religions (Nostra Aetate, n. 2)
  • See how, from a Christian perspective, salvation is available for followers of the world's religions as also for those who strive to do good (Lumen Gentium, n. 16)

Week 1


Lecture: Introduction

Outcomes

  • Discover the basic course description, course objectives, and required texts
  • Discuss the objectivity with which academics study religion
  • Compare and contrast cultures covered in the reading material
Lecture: From Tribe to Transcendence

Outcomes

  • Describe the differences and similarities between tribal and classical religions
  • Recognize that both tribal and classical religions can be categorized as cosmological
  • Describe how cosmological religions differ from later transcendental religions
  • Describe how ancient Greek thought changed when orthodox cosmological thinking was challenged by the transcendental philosophies of Plato and others

Week 2


Lecture: Judaism Through the First Temple Period

Outcomes

  • Discuss early Jewish history
  • Paraphrase some of the key stories from Jewish scriptures, including God’s creation of the world; the story of Adam and Eve; the formation of the covenant with Abraham; Moses and the exodus from Egypt; the settlement of Canaan; and the history of foreign domination up to the end of the first temple period
  • Define terms such as covenant, mitzvah, exodus, and “the promised land”
  • Identify some of the more cosmological traits of early Hebrew religion
Lecture: The Babylonian Exile and Zoroastrian Influence

Outcomes

  • Identify the changes that occurred as a result of the Babylonian exile and positive exposure to Zoroastrian ideas
  • Discuss the change in Judaism from a place-based, temple-oriented religion to a teaching-based, synagogue-oriented religion; in other words, you should be able to see that Judaism made a major shift from the cosmological to the transcendental as a result of the exile and Zoroastrian influence
  • Understand that this process did not reach its full fruition until the Roman expulsion of Jews from Israel in 135 C.E. and that the dispersion of Jews throughout the world made the rabbinical (transcendental) form of Judaism a necessity for survival

Week 3


Lecture: Diaspora, The Holocaust and the Problem of Evil

Outcomes

  • Describe the hardships that Jews have faced over the centuries as they’ve tried to preserve their traditional ways in lands that were far removed from their ancestral homeland
  • Discuss the history of anti-Semitism from the medieval period to the Nazi holocaust
  • List some of the ways that Jewish theologians have tried to reconcile the concept of an all-powerful, all-loving God with the atrocities suffered by the people who are supposed to be his “chosen people.” (In other words, you should be able to identify basic Jewish theological solutions to the “problem of evil,” also known as the “problem of undeserved suffering.”)
Lecture: Jewish Life

Outcomes

  • Identify many of the most important Jewish observances, including the Sabbath, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Kosher diet, and the holidays
  • Understand that major divisions in contemporary Judaism are based on different ideas about how observances should be kept and that these, in turn, are based largely on ideas regarding the degree to which Judaism should conform to the cultural norms of non-Jewish societies
  • Make some basic distinctions between the various branches of contemporary Judaism, including orthodoxy, reform, conservatism, reconstructionism, and secular Judaism

Week 4


Lecture: The Life and Times of Jesus Christ

Outcomes

  • Describe the religious/political atmosphere into which Jesus Christ was born
  • Discuss the major elements of Christ’s biography, such as the advent; the preparation; the baptism; his ministry; persecution; the agony in the garden; the crucifixion; and the resurrection
  • Identify transcendental aspects of Christ’s life story and teachings
Lecture: Early Through Medieval Christianity

Outcomes

  • List the highlights of Christian history from the time of the apostles (the first generation of Christians) through the Middle Ages
  • Identify major events recorded in the Book of Acts
  • Recognize that the Council of Jerusalem determined the degree to which Christians were required to observe Jewish Law and that, to the extent that it affirmed the “spirit” of the Law and rejected ritualism, it represented re-affirmation of the transcendental nature of Christianity
  • Explain the types of persecutions Christians suffered during the days of the Roman Empire
  • Identify that after Christianity became legalized in Rome it set to the task of establishing an orthodoxy by way of fixing canon, creed, and clerical conventions
  • Know that much of Christian doctrine was determined by the ecumenical councils and that the councils usually debated questions regarding the degree to which Christ was human and the degree to which he was divine – to the extent that they condemned theologies of a solely divine (i.e., transcendental) Christ, they represent a step in the direction of the cosmological

Week 5


Lecture: The Protestant Reformation and Its Effects

Outcomes

  • Describe the events leading to, constituting, and following from the Protestant Reformation
  • List some of the major factors leading many western Europeans of the early sixteenth century to criticize, and ultimately break away from, the Roman Catholic Church
  • Recognize that the Protestant Reformation represents a major step in the direction of transcendentalism
  • Discuss the major characteristics of the Catholic Reformation and the Second Vatican Council
  • Identify some of the enduring effects of the Reformation, including secularism, nationalism, individualism, “disenchantment of the world,” democracy, and capitalism
Lecture: Christian Life

Outcomes

  • Identify some of the most commonly shared beliefs and practices of contemporary Christianity
  • Identify the seven Roman Catholic Sacraments and know that Protestants typically affirm only two of those (although most Protestants have modified versions of the remaining five)
  • Know some of the major holidays of the Christian liturgical year
  • Recognize some of the major trends in contemporary Christianity, including fundamentalism; charismatic worship; non-denominationalism; feminism; gay rights; allegorical interpretation of scriptures; eclecticism; liberation theology; and the growing chasm between liberalism and conservatism

Week 6


Lecture: Muhammad and the Qur'an

Outcomes

  • Explain the cosmological characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabia and the radical transcendentalism of the Prophet Muhammad
  • List the major events in Muhammad’s life and the principle tenets outlined in the Qur’an
  • Define some of the basic vocabulary that is relevant to a discussion of Muhammad and the Qur’an, including “The Age of Ignorance;” the Kab’ah; the Night of Power and Glory; the Year of Sorrows; the Night of Ascension; and the Hijra
Lecture: Muslim Traditions

Outcomes

  • Distinguish between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam
  • Know that Sunnis believe that successors were rightly chosen by popular election, while Shi’ites believed that Muhammad intended his blood relatives to succeed him
  • Know that this difference underlies almost all of the differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam
  • List the basic characteristics of Muslim mysticism, also known as Sufism
  • Know that there are certain Muslim practices and ideas that contribute to a sense of Muslim unity, despite sectarian differences (these include the Five Pillars and “jihad”)

Week 7


Lecture: The Spread of Islam

Outcomes

  • Discuss the spread of Islam from the time of Muhammad to contemporary America
  • Recognize that, although it took a long time for Muhammad to begin acquiring converts, Islam grew phenomenally during Muhammad’s lifetime and unified the entire Arabian peninsula
  • Trace the movement of Islam during the Middle Ages through the lower Mediterranean and Middle East, Turkey, India, Indonesia and other parts of Asia
  • Describe the basic characteristics of Islam in the United States
Lecture: Contemporary Issues in Islam

Outcomes

  • Discuss the major issues facing contemporary Islam
  • Summarize the factors that are contributing to a worldwide Muslim resurgence and some of the difficulties Muslims are facing as they seek to replace secular law with Shari’a
  • Describe the issues regarding the rights of women in Muslim countries
  • Be aware that Islam has frequently made international news and that many challenges involving Islam throughout the world remain unresolved

Week 8


Lecture: New Religious Movements

Outcomes

  • Identify the main factors contributing to the development of new religious movements
  • Describe the history and/or characteristics of Rastafarianism, Spiritualism, Santeria, Christian Science, the Unification Church, Neo-Paganism, and Baha'i
Lecture: Current Trends, Possible Futures

Outcomes

  • Identify the main factors that are likely to affect the future of religion in the West
  • Discuss the three main ways of reacting to other religions and ideologies
  • List the three main tactics of exclusivist groups and the three main types of inclusivism
  • Comment intelligently on the likelihood that religion will survive the various “threats” that Western culture poses
  • Identify the major areas in which Western religions stand to affect the future of the world in positive ways

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. November 2011