HinduismBuddhism Confucianism DaoismShinto  Judaism Christianity Islam
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 “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.
 
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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
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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.

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REVEL for Living Religions (10th Edition)

REVEL for Living Religions, 10e is the digital text you'll be using to access assignments throughout the semester. To access your materials, follow the link address (unique to this course) below.

  1. Go to: https://console.pearson.com/enrollment/ueefb2
  2. Sign in or create a Pearson Account.
  3. Click “View access options” to redeem your access code or buy instant access. (Temporary access option for financial aid available.)

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 complete the readings and the accompanying online quizzes (see below) before our first meeting on September 12, though you will not need to write a reflection paper for the first class.

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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 2515, so you get 15 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%.

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Reflection Papers

In order to help you prepare for class discussions, there will be a total of 31 short “reflection papers” (250-word minimum) that will focus on either “virtual lectures” or “contemporary issues.” After completing the weekly reading assignment, go to the web syllabus where you will find links to web pages with prerecorded mini-lectures together with relevant information, quotations and images. At the end of each “lecture” there will be a question for you to write a reflection on. There are also “contemporary issues” pages that have two major topics for you to reflect on in separate 1-page responses. Each paper is worth 1%, but with 31 reflections to submit, you should be able to get the full 20% if you put in a reasonable effort; for example, if you turn in 27 of the 31 reflections and get a “C” on each, you will still end up with 20%. Papers are due before class on the applicable day and should be submitted online at Blackboard/Assignments/Reflection Papers; since the purpose of these papers is to prepare for class discussions, late submissions will not be accepted.

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Essay Questions

As noted above, one of the learning outcomes for this course is for you to develop the ability to explain the significance of religious beliefs, experiences, and practices. Towards this end, you will write a 4-page paper (1000-word minimum) on each of these three themes as detailed in the assignments below. Essay 1 is due before class 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 21, and both must include references (Chicago Style or MLA) to at least two academic sources. Papers should be submitted online at Blackboard/Assignments/Essay Questions; late submissions will be penalized one degree (e.g. from B+ to B) for each day that the paper is late.

Essay 1: Religious Autobiography
Whether one is religious, a-religious, or anti-religious, everyone has a “religious autobiography.”  Writing your religious autobiography is an opportunity for you reflect on your personal history as well as your present beliefs about the meaning and purpose of existence.  It is an opportunity for you to make explicit aspects of your identity that you might never have expressed in this way before. There is no “correct” formula for completing this assignment: you may want to start with your early childhood and then trace the development of your religious views and practices up to the present; or you may decide to focus on an event in your life that had a profound impact on your religious identity. One way or another, the goal is to show how your personal history has influenced your current perspective on religion. Needless to say, I will not share the content of your paper with anyone else. For more details on the essay requirements, see the Religious Autobiography Rubric below.

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 paper based on the experience. In addition to describing the event, your paper should explore the religious significance of the exercise in question. For example, you might explain how the exercise is relevant to the tradition with which it is associated and/or how it relates to the beliefs and practices of another religious tradition. Finally, your paper should conclude 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 then write a paper based 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 similar to and/or different from at least one ritual from another tradition. 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 Local Places of Worship.

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Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Mondays 4-5  ~  Tuesdays 4-5  ~  Thursday: 3-5  ~  Fridays 4-5 ( Tea/Talk)

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

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Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<750 words

750-1000 words

100-1250 words

>1250 words

2%

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.

3%

EVOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

The evolution of your religious beliefs is minimally discussed.

The evolution of your religious beliefs is adequately discussed.

The evolution of your religious beliefs is clearly discussed.

The evolution of your religious beliefs is insightfully discussed.

5%

REFLECTION ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Your religious beliefs are not explored in sufficient detail.

The paper exhibits minimal reflection on your religious beliefs.

The paper exhibits genuine reflection on your religious beliefs.

The paper exhibits deep reflection on your religious beliefs.

5%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

15%

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Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<750 words

750-1000 words

100-1250 words

>1250 words

2%

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.

3%
REFERENCES TO ACADEMIC SOURCESThe paper has less than two references.The paper has two references, but they are not “peer-reviewed.”The paper has two “peer-reviewed” references.The paper has more than two “peer-reviewed” references.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 OF RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE

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.

4%

REFLECTION ON RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE

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%

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

15%

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Unsatisfactory
0 - .65

Satisfactory
.75

Good
.85

Excellent
.95

MARK

LENGTH

<750 words

750-1000 words

100-1250 words

>1250 words

2%

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.

3%

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%
REFERENCES TO ACADEMIC SOURCESThe paper has less than two references.The paper has two references, but they are not “peer-reviewed.”The paper has two “peer-reviewed” references.The paper has more than two “peer-reviewed” references.2%

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.

2%
DESCRIPTION
AND ANALYSIS OF RITUAL
The observed ritual is not described and/or analyzed in sufficient detail.The observed ritual is described and analyzed in minimal detail.The observed ritual is described and analyzed in appropriate detail.The description and analysis of the ritual significantly enhances the paper.3%

REFLECTION ON RELIGIOUS PRACTICE

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

 

 

 

 

15%

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