Introduction to the Study of Religion
Fall Semester 2016

Course Outline:



Videos listed in green

Readings and Assignments

Readings are due for the day
on which they are listed




Defining Religion and Studying Religion

Week One

Aug 29: Introduction to the Course



Aug 31: What is Religion?


      Livingston, ch. 1

      Recommended: Pals, Introduction

Sept 02:  Ways of Studying Religion



      Livingston, ch. 2



Ideas of the Sacred and the Holy

Week Two

Sept 05: No Class (Labor Day)


Sept 07: Sacred Power and the Mysterium

      Livingston, ch. 3

Sept 09: Video: American Mystic





Animism and Magic
E.B. Tylor and James Frazer

Week Three

Sept 12: Ecstasy and the Mysterium
Discussion of American Mystic, comparison with scriptural selections from Hinduism and Judaism


      Bhagavad-Gita, ch. 11 [BB]

      Job 40-42 [BB]

Sept 14: Sacred Space and Sacred Time

      Review section in Livingston ch. 3.

Sept 16:  E.B. Tylor and J. Frazer on Animism, Magic, and the Origin of Religion


Totemic Traditions


      Pals, ch. 1, pp. 15-44



Symbols, Myths, and Doctrine

Week Four

Sept 19: Myth


Video: The Message of the Myth

(Interview with mythologist Joseph Campbell)



      Armstrong, Karen.  Mythos and Logos, from the Preface to The Case for God

Sept 21: Mythos and Logos


Sept 23: Sacred Symbols and Religious Narratives


      Livingston, ch. 4


Week Five

Sept 26: Theories of Myth




Ritual: Sacred Action


Sept 30: The Ritual Engagement


Puja in the Hindu Traditions


      Livingston, ch. 5



Week Six

Oct 03: Our own people / Our own gods
Ritual possession and : Gods and Humans



Oct 05: Ritual Cycles in Life and Society





Society and the Sacred


Oct 07:  Society and the Sacred

The Shaker Tradition

Video: The Shakers


      Livingston, ch. 7


Week Seven

Oct 12:  QUIZ


Oct 14: Society and the Sacred



Week Eight

Oct 17: Emile Durkheim – Society as Sacred


      Pals, ch. 3


Oct 19: Midterm Exam





Ideas of the Divine and Ultimate Reality


Oct 21: Divine and Ultimate Reality


      Linvingston, ch. 8


Week Nine

Oct 24: Polytheism, Sky Gods, and the Mother Goddess




Oct 26: Video:
330 Million Gods


Oct 28: Pantheism, Dualism, Monism, and Monotheism




Mircea Eliade and the Reality of the Sacred

Week Ten

Oct 31: Meetings



Nov 02: Eliade: The Sacred and the Profane


      Pals, ch. 7, pp. 227-246

Nov 04: Eliade: History and Sacred Time


      Pals, ch. 7, pp. 246-261


William James and the Varieties of Religious Experience

Week Eleven

Nov 07: On Religious Experience


      Pals, ch. 6

Nov 09: Video :
Sufi Soul -- The Mystic Music of Islam




Nov 11: James on Mysticism


      James, Mysticism [BB]


The Human Problem and the Problem of Theodicy

Week Twelve

Nov 14: The Human Problem


      Livingston, ch. 10

Nov 16: Theodicy: Encountering Evil


      Livingston, ch. 11

Nov. 18: (continued)




Week Thirteen


Nov. 21-26: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)




Soteriology: Salvation and Liberation

Week Fourteen

Nov 28:  Video: Land of the Disappearing Buddha


      Livingston, ch. 13

Nov 30: Ways and Goals of Salvation and Liberation



Dec 02:  (continued)




The Sacred and the Secular in Modernity

Week Fifteen

Dec 05: Ultimate Aims


Dec 07: Secularization, Pluralism, and Revitalization



      Livingston, ch. 14

Dec 09:  Contemporary Religious Fundamentalism




Final Exam:

Section 01 (8-9:10):         Tuesday, December 13.  9:00 – 11:15 am

Section 02 (9:20-10:30):  Thursday, December 15.  9:00 – 11:15 am


Exams will take place in our usual classroom