Introduction to World Religions
This course will explore the historical development, principal beliefs, and basic practices of eight of the world’s major religious traditions, namely Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Some of the fundamental issues that will frame our investigation are:  how different traditions understand and respond to “ultimate reality”; the relationship between “faith” in a source of power beyond oneself and “discipline/self-cultivation” as a means of tapping into a source of power that lies within; the relationship between “other-worldly” goals (such as the soul’s fate after death) and “this-worldly” goals (such as the attainment of advanced spiritual states in this life); and finally the significance of “modernity” and “pluralism” — two of the most powerful forces that are likely to affect the evolution of religion in the 21st century.

The distribution of grades for the course is as follows:

Your final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

APossesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course. The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the readings, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these concepts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
BDemonstrates a serious commitment to the course and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.
CDemonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.
DDemonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
FFails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.
 

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
  • describe the phenomenological approach to the study of religion
  • discuss the similarities and differences between the major world religions
  • reflect on the significance of religious beliefs, practices, and experiences

Class/BodhiBlog Participation

The Class Participation mark (worth 10% of the final grade) will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material; although the quality of your comments will obviously be taken into consideration, all attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will enhance your grade. You can also enhance your grade by posting reflections on the readings and/or class discussions to an online discussion forum that I call BodhiBlog (“Enlightenment” Blog), which can be accessed through Blackboard. Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your comments, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and contribute a minimum of 5 substantial postings to the BodhiBlog.


REVEL for Living Religions (10th Edition)

This course uses REVEL, a digital platform that includes the Living Religions textbook as well as online reading quizzes. To purchase access to REVEL:

  1. Use the following link, which is unique to this course: https://console.pearson.com/enrollment/oe4ppy.
  2. Click “I have not joined this course” and then “Create a Pearson Account”.
  3. After you sign in, choose this course under “My Courses”; you will then be able to purchase access online.
  4. Bookmark https://console.pearson.com to easily access your materials. Pearson recommends using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, or Safari with this digital product.

If you have any trouble purchasing access to the text, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can work with my Pearson representative to resolve the problem. Please note that you will need to read the assignment for 9/12 and complete a few short quizzes before our first meeting.


REVEL Quizzes

As you read through the online text, there will be short quizzes at the end of each section and a longer quiz at the end of each chapter. The questions for the short reading quizzes are worth 5 points if you get it right on the first try, 4 points for the second try, and 3 points for the third; for the longer quizzes at the end of the chapter each question is worth 10 on the first try, 7 on the second, and 4 on the third. There are a total of 2500 possible points (actually 2495, but I’ll give you the last 5 points for free) with 100 points worth 1% for a total of 25%. You can complete these quizzes after the due date, but your mark will be reduced by 50%.


Essay Questions

As noted above, one of the learning outcomes for this course is for you to develop the ability to reflect on the significance of religious beliefs, experiences, and practices. Towards this end, you will write a 3-4 page paper on each of these three themes as detailed below. Essay 1 is due on September 19; Essays 2 and 3 can be done in either order, but one paper must be turned in by October 17 and the other by November 18. All papers should be submitted online at Blackboard/Assignments; late submissions will be penalized one degree (e.g. from B+ to B) for each day that the paper is late.

Essay 1: Belief-O-Matic
The purpose of this assignment is for you to reflect on your own religious beliefs by comparing them with those of various other religious (and non-religious) traditions. You will begin by completing an online survey at www.selectsmart.com/RELIGION. After you finish the survey, you will receive a list of twenty-seven religious traditions ranked according to how closely their beliefs match the answers you gave. Was the tradition with which you identity at or near the top of the list … or was it closer to the bottom? Were there any other traditions at or near the top of the list that surprised you? If you are unfamiliar with a particular tradition, read the summary provided in the box on the right and/or do further research to find out about the tradition in question. Once you have contemplated the results, write a paper that explains how they reflect — or fail to reflect — your actual religious beliefs. Your paper should include an account of how you arrived at your current religious beliefs as well as discussions of at least three of the traditions on the list. For more details on the essay requirements, see the Belief-O-Matic Rubric below. Please include a copy of the survey results with your paper.

Essay 2: Contemplative Event
Every term, the Department of Religious Studies hosts a number of “contemplative” events, each of which features a brief talk by an experienced practitioner of a particular tradition (religious or secular), followed by a meditative exercise and open discussion. During the term, you will attend at least one of these events and then write a reflection on the experience. In addition to describing the event, your reflection should explore the religious significance of the exercise in question. For example, you might explain the relevance of the exercise with regard to the tradition with which it is associated and/or how it relates to the beliefs and practices of another religious tradition. Finally, you should conclude the paper with a reflection on how the exercise helped to enrich your understanding of religious experience. For more details on the essay requirements, see the Contemplative Event Rubric below. Click the following link for more information about the Contemplative Series. Dates for this term’s Contemplative Events are provided on the syllabus.

Essay 3: Religious Service
In order to develop a deeper understanding of religious practice, you will attend a religious service in a tradition other than one with which you are closely associated and write a reflection on the experience. You will be expected to include references to a conversation with at least one member of the congregation, so you may want to contact the institution in advance to arrange for a congregant to meet you at the service. Your paper should include a general summary of the service as well as a detailed description of at least one ritual. You should discuss the significance of this ritual for the tradition in question and also how it is both similar to and different from a ritual from another religion. Finally, you should explain how attending the service and comparing rituals from different traditions enhanced your understanding of religious practice. For more details on the essay requirements, see the Religious Service Rubric below. For religious establishments in the area, see the list of Local Places of Worship.


Exams

There will be a Midterm and a Final Exam, each of which will include a combination of quiz-style questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, etc.), key terms/definitions, “identify and state the significance” questions (at least one paragraph), and several longer essay questions (three or more paragraphs). For more details, click the links above.

Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Tuesday: 2-5  ~  Thursday: 2-4  ~  Tea/Talk on Thursdays from 4-5

Phone: 630-637-5619
E-mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu


 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<650 words

650-750 words

750-850 words

>850 words

1%

STYLE

Excessive stylistic errors (spelling, grammar, sentence construction, etc.).

Ideas are adequately expressed, but there are more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are clearly expressed with no more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are eloquently  expressed with no more than 3 stylistic errors.

2%

DISCUSSION
OF RELIGIONS

None of the religions on the list are discussed in sufficient depth.

At least 2 of the religions on the list are discussed in sufficient depth.

At least 3 of the religions on the list are discussed in sufficient depth.

There is a substantial discussion of at least 3 of the religions on the list.

2%

ANALYSIS

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the survey results.

The discussion of the survey results lacks clarity and/or depth.

The survey results are thoughtfully explored and appropriately interpreted.

The survey results are explored in depth and insightfully interpreted.

2.5%

REFLECTION

Your religious beliefs are not explored in  sufficient depth.

The paper exhibits minimal reflection on your religious beliefs.

The paper manifests thoughtful reflection on your religious beliefs.

The paper demonstrates deep reflection on your religious beliefs.

2.5%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

10%

 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<650 words

650-750 words

750-850 words

>850 words

1%

STYLE

Excessive stylistic errors (spelling, grammar, sentence construction, etc.).

Ideas are adequately expressed, but there are more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are clearly expressed with no more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are eloquently  expressed with no more than 3 stylistic errors.

2%

DESCRIPTION
OF EVENT

The event is not described in sufficient detail.

The event is described in minimal detail.

 The event is described in appropriate detail.

The description of the event significantly enhances the paper.

2%

ANALYSIS

The religious significance of the contemplative exercise is not explored.

The religious significance of the contemplative exercise is briefly explored.

The religious significance of the contemplative exercise is well explored.

The religious significance of the contemplative exercise is deeply explored.

2.5%

REFLECTION

There is no reflection on the nature of religious experience.

There is minimal reflection on the nature of religious experience.

There is appropriate reflection on the nature of religious experience.

There is substantial reflection on the nature of religious experience.

2.5%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

10%

 

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<650 words

650-750 words

750-850 words

>850 words

1%

STYLE

Excessive stylistic errors (spelling, grammar, sentence construction, etc.).

Ideas are adequately expressed, but there are more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are clearly expressed with no more than 4 stylistic errors.

Ideas are eloquently  expressed with no more than 3 stylistic errors.

2%

CONTACT WITH
CONGREGANT

There is no evidence of contact with a member of the congregation.

 There is minimal evidence of contact with a congregant.

There is evidence of a significant discussion with a congregant.

The discussion with a congregant significantly enhances the paper.

1%

DESCRIPTION
OF SERVICE

The religious service is not described in sufficient detail.

The religious service is described in minimal detail.

The religious service is described in appropriate detail.

The description of the religious service significantly enhances the paper.

1%
DESCRIPTION
OF RITUAL
The religious ritual is not described in sufficient detail.The religious ritual is described in minimal detail.The religious ritual is described in appropriate detail.The description of the religious ritual significantly enhances the paper.1%
COMPARISON
OF RITUALS
The observed ritual is not compared to a ritual from another religious tradition.The observed ritual is briefly compared to a ritual from another religious tradition.The similarities & differences between rituals are discussed in appropriate depthThe comparison of rituals significantly enhances the paper.2%

REFLECTION

There is no reflection on the nature of religious practice.

There is minimal reflection on the nature of religious practice.

There is appropriate reflection on the nature of religious practice.

There is substantial reflection on the nature of religious practice.

2%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

10%