RELG 110

Introduction to World Religions

 

Professor: Daniel Meckel

Office: MB 104. Tel: 4464

Email: djmeckel@smcm.edu

Office hours: Fridays 11-Noon

 

Course Summary

Arguably, it has never been more important for us to develop a basic and comparative knowledge of world religious traditions.  In this course, you are invited to acquaint yourself with the histories, beliefs and practices of four major world religions:  Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.  You are also invited to explore the place of these traditions in the contemporary world and in your own life (religious or otherwise).  We will approach each of the four religions by first examining its foundations -- its early history and central symbols, tenets, and practices.  Second, we will consider the spectrum of religious perspectives within the tradition.  As the class progresses, students will learn to compare traditions along the lines of their notions of (a) ultimate reality, (b) ultimate aims, (c) the means to attaining those aims, and (d) notions of the human condition. 

 

Course Materials:

         Fisher. Living Religions

         Eastman, Roger  The Ways of Religion

 

 

COURSE SCHEDULE

 

IN CLASS:

Lectures, Discussions, Videos,
Quizzes and Exams

ASSIGNMENTS:
Readings, Writing, Discussion

Readings are due for the day on which they are listed

 

 

 

HINDUISM


Week I

Jan. 20:  Introduction to the Class

 

            





Response Paper Option #1:

Eastman, The Hindu View of Life, by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.  Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

 

Jan. 22:  The One and the Many

 

Film: 330 Million Gods

 

Video Worksheet 1

 

Week II

Jan. 29: Early Veda: Gods, Priests

                  & the Fire Sacrifice

 

 

 

·      Fisher, pp. 71-77

·      Eastman, Hymns From the Rig Veda, pp. 22-27

 

Response Paper Option #1 due at
the beginning of class.

 

Week III

Feb. 03: Vedanta:

The Upanishads and
the Way of Mystical Knowledge

 

 

 

·      Fisher, pp. 77-83

·      Eastman, Selections from The Upanishads, pp. 27-39

Response Paper Option #2: 

I am but a Seeker after Truth,
by Mahatma Gandhi (Eastman, pp. 65-74).

Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

 

Feb. 05: Renunciation and Yoga

 

 

·      Eastman, Yoga: The Discipline of Freedom, pp. 53-58

 

 

Week IV

Feb. 10: Bhagavad Gita and

         the Way of Action

·      Eastman, Selection from the Bhagavad Gita, pp. 40-52

 

Response Paper Option #2 due at
the beginning of class.

 

 

Week V

Feb. 17: Snowed Out



 BUDDHISM

 

Feb. 19: Introduction to Buddhism

Film: In the Footprints of the Buddha

QUIZ 1

·      Fisher, pp. 134-147

·      Eastman, pp. 77-90, The Roar of Awakening; Buddhahood

Response Paper Option #3: 
The Roar of Awakening; Buddhahood (Eastman, pp. 77-90).  Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

 

Week VI

Feb. 24: The Four Noble Truths (1):

The Nature and Source of Suffering

 

Feb. 26: The Four Noble Truths (2):

The Cessation of Suffering

·      Eastman, pp. 91-98,
Selections, Buddhist Scripture

Response Paper Option #3 due at
the beginning of class

 


Week VII

Mar. 03: Snowed Out

 

 

Mar. 05: Mahayana Buddhism

and the Bodhisattva

 

Film: Land of the Disappearing Buddha

·      Fisher, pp. 147-154

·      Eastman, pp. 110-115, The Mahayana and the Ideal of Bodhisattva

 

Response Paper Option #4: 
Be Like a Frog, by Shunru Suzuki (Eastman, pp. 154-160).  Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, Mar. 10.

Video Worksheet 3


Week VIII

Mar. 10: Zen

 

QUIZ 2

·      Fisher, pp. 163-172

·      Eastman, pp. 133-144,The Essence of Zen; Zen Dust: The Koan

 

Response Paper Option #4 due at

the beginning of class

 

Mar. 12: MIDTERM EXAM

 

 

 

Week IX

Mar. 16-23: No Class (Spring Recess)

 

 

 

ISLAM

 

Week X

Mar. 24: Intro to Islam

Film: Inside Islam



Response Paper Option #5:
Selections
, The Koran (Eastman, pp. 406-415). Due at the beginning of class on Thursday, April 02.

 

Mar. 26:  Muhammad in Historical Context

 

 

·      Fisher, pp. 376-384

·      Eastman, pp. 400-405,
Muhammad, Prophet of God.

 

Week XI

Mar. 31: No Class – All Day Advising

 

April 02:  The Qur’an and the Hadiths

 

·      Fisher, pp. 384-398

·      Eastman, pp. 416-421, The Qur'anic Teaching

 

Response Paper Option #5 due at
the beginning of class


Response Paper Option #6: 

Male and Female in Islamic Perspective (Eastman, pp. 435-444).  Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 09.

 



Week XII

April 09:  The Five Pillars of Islam

 

 

                                              

 

·      Fisher, pp. 399-401

 

Response Paper Option #6 due at
the beginning of class

 

 

 

Week XIII

April 14: Suni and Shi’i Islam

 

QUIZ 3

 

·      Fisher, pp. 401-406

 

 

April 16: The Sufi Way

 

Film: I am a Muslim, I am a Sufi

 

·      Eastman, pp. 422-428, selections from Al-Ghazali's Deliverance from Error

 

Response Paper Option #7:

Selections, The New Testament

(Eastman, pp. 343-352 )

Due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 21.

 

Video Worksheet 4

 

 

CHRISTIANITY

 

Week XIV

April 21:  Introduction to Christianity

 

 

·      Fisher, ch. 9, up to The Early Church

 

Response Paper Option #7 due

at the beginning of class.

 

Response Paper Option #8:

"The Anguish of Being a Christian" by Soren Kierkegaard (Eastman, pp. 373-379)

Due at the beginning of class on Thursday, April 30.

 

April 23: Life and Teachings of Jesus

 

 

 

 

Week XV

 

April 28: Paul and the Jesus Movement

 

 

 

QUIZ 4

 

·      Fisher, “The Early Church” up to “Roman Catholic Reformation”

 

 

April 30: Protestant Reformation

 

 

·      Fisher, “The Protestant Reformation”

 

Response Paper Option #8 due

at the beginning of class.

 

 

Week XVI


Final Exam
Location: Our usual classroom

Section One (TR 10:00-11:50):  Monday, May 11.  2:00-4:15 PM

Section Two (TR 12:00-1:50):  Saturday, May 09.  2:00-4:15 PM

 

Graded Assignments

                                        Graded Assignments                                Points Possible

Quizzes.................................................. 150 (high three at 50 pts each)
Video Worksheets.................................. 30 (6 pts each)

In-class Writing Exercises...................... 20

Response papers..................................... 200 (five at 40 pts each)

Midterm exam........................................ 250
Final exam............................................. 250
Participation........................................... 100

 

Please note that your overall quiz score will be worth a significant portion of your final grade.

Thus your final grade will in part be a function of how faithful you are to the reading assignments and to the review of your readings and notes from class.

 

FINAL GRADE VALUES

1000 Points Possible


920 to 1000 = A

  900 to 919 = A-

  880 to 899 = B+

  820 to 879 = B

  800 to 819 = B-

  780 to 799 = C+

 


720 to 779 = C

700 to 719 = C-

680 to 699 = D+

620 to 679 = D

600 to 619 = D-

599 and below = F

 

Go to Blackboard to track your progress in the class

 

A note on grading:  If ever you disagree with a grade, you can always come to me and argue your position.  I may or may not be convinced, but I will always take you seriously.


My Office Hours:
  My office number and hours are listed above.  Please make an appointment if you can, but feel completely free to drop by with your concerns, ideas, questions, etc.  I will always make time if I can.  If need be, we can certainly communicate by email, but in-person is always best.

 

Descriptions of Assignments:

Quizzes: There will be four 20-minute quizzes.  Missed quizzes cannot be made up.  I will count the top three of your quizzes toward the final grade point tally. 

Questions on a quiz can cover anything from the reading assignments, videos, discussion, images, lectures that followed the previous quiz, and from the readings for the day of the quiz.  Quizzes will usually consist of short answers and definitions, and sometimes image identification.  My own lecture outlines as well as “terms and questions” will be posted on the “Study Aids” page of the web site to help you prepare for class discussions, quizzes and exams. 

Please be sure to take a look at the link “How to Write a Good Quiz” on the Assignments page of the course website.

 

Video Worksheets: You fill these out in class during a video.  Here I am looking for you to use the opportunity to watch/listen actively and anchor your knowledge through writing.  Worksheets gain full points so long as the student gives as much as s/he can in responding to the question(s). 

Midterm and Final Exams: The content of these exams and my criteria in grading them are described on pages linked to the “Assignments” page of the course website.

 

Participation: By this I mean that a student is (1) present with a good attitude, (2) alert and focused, (3) prepared with assignments, (4) punctual to class and outside meetings.  Lack of any of these will affect the grade, excessive lack (e.g., more than 3 undocumented absences) is reason for dismissal from the class. 

 

Very Important Info:

 

My Attendance Policy: Attendance is required.  Without regular attendance, students do not tend to do well in the class.  I allow two free days.  As a courtesy, please let me know when you will be taking a free day.  There is no need to say why.  After the two free days, each undocumented absence results in a 20 point reduction from the final grade tally.  More than three undocumented absences is grounds for withdrawal from the class.  In this case, if the deadline for withdrawal has passed, the student will receive an F for the course. 

Documenting an absence: A note from a doctor, dentist, coach, or funeral director -- with contact information -- is acceptable documentation.  The student must present the note on the day that he or she returns to class, otherwise the absence will be counted as undocumented.  Without such a note, or in the case of a late note, the absence will not be counted as documented. 

Please note that a phone call or email message saying that you are ill is not sufficient, nor is a note from the health center confirming an appointment.

 

Lateness: Late arrival in class is noted.  Three late arrivals result in a 20 point reduction.  More than three is grounds for removal from the class.

 

Office Hours:  My office number and hours are listed above.  Please make an appointment if you can, but feel free to drop by with your concerns, ideas, questions, etc.  I will always make time if I can.  If need be, we can certainly communicate by email, but in-person is always best.


Online Syllabus: This online syllabus can be accessed through the Blackboard course page but I recommend that you bookmark it so as to bypass BB when it goes down.  I might well alter the assignment schedule as seems appropriate or necessary; but I will not change the grading policies.

 

Email:

Email Communications: Students are responsible for checking the online syllabus and their email every day. I will announce any and all changes via email -- e.g., a changed deadline or altered reading assignment.

 

Emailed Assignments: I do not accept them unless you clear it with me in advance and only under unusual circumstances.  While I appreciate that print costs are considerable, I consider them a legitimate part of college expenses.  Running out of pay for print is not a valid reason for submitting an assignment by email.

 

Computer Failure: This is not a valid excuse for a late assignment.  Be sure to back up.  If you have a broken or unreliable computer, use the computers at the college computer labs.


Academic dishonesty
in any form -- including plagiarism of self or others, falsified documentation of a doctor’s note, etc. -- will not be tolerated.  Cheating of any kind results, without exception, in an “F” for the course without the option of withdrawal.


Food in class:
Drinks and snacks of the very quiet variety are allowed in class (e.g., poi, rasgula, duck pate), nothing else.

Use of cell phones for any purpose is not allowed in the classroom (so please turn them off).  If a student is seen using one, s/he will be asked to leave the class and will receive an undoc absence for that day.  If it then happens again, s/he will need to withdraw from the class.
 

Use of computers or readers in class is not permitted unless the student has documented special needs that require the use of one.