Religion 301 W: WORLD RELIGIONS: Traditions in the Modern World
Samford University, Department of Religion, Fall 2003
Mon., Wed., Fri. 9:15 to 10:20am, 320 Chapman Hall
course website: http://faculty.samford.edu/~drbains/relg301
David R. Bains, Assistant Professor
Office: 325 Chapman Hall, phone: 726-2879, email:
Investigates the beliefs and practices of major world religions. Special attention is given to formative periods in their history and to their place in the modern world.
The student will be able to:
Required Texts: (In roughly the order they will be read.)
Esposito, John L., Darrell J. Fasching, and Todd Lewis. World Religions Today. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Eck, Diana. A New Religious America : How a Christian Country Has Now Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.
Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation. Translated by Ahmed Ali. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Malcolm X and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballentine Books, 1965.
Lincoln, Bruce. Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
The Bhagavad-Gita. Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.
Nhat Hanh, Thich. Being Peace. Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax Press, 1988.
Two mid-term examinations 20% each for a total of 40%. Study guides will be provided at least a week prior to each exam. Sample study guides from previous semesters may be available on the course web page. Exams will include objective questions, detailed term identifications, and essays.
Final examination 25% Same format as the mid-terms.
Research paper 15% On a topic of your choosing related to the course. See below for more detail.
Visit to a worship service or other event sponsored by a religious group being studied in this course 5%. See list on course web page for some suggestions. These visits should occur while we are studying the tradition you visit. You must turn in a 2 page report on your visit.
Short assignments, class discussion, class attendance. 15% Several short assignments related to the readings will be given during the semester. I may also give a few quizzes. These are not necessarily indicated on the syllabus.
Class time will be devoted to lecture, discussion, and some group activities. In order to participate in discussion, you must do the assigned reading. If you are not prepared for discussion, your grade will suffer. I don't expect you to understand everything you read; that is after all one of the reasons to discuss it. You should come to every class, however, with questions about what you didn't understand and about the implications of what you did understand.
Students are expected to observe high standards of intellectual integrity. See the relevant section of the Student Handbook and the University Catalogue. Study groups are encouraged, but all work submitted in this class must be your own. Suspected lapses in academic integrity will be investigated and adjudicated in accordance with the University's values policy.
For information on the format of papers and citations see my handout "Guidelines for Essays in Religion."
Attendance and Grading / Department of Religion:
Roll will be taken each day. In a MWF class a student may miss six classes without penalty. After the seventh absence your final grade will be reduced one letter grade. After the ninth absence the student will receive an FA for the course. Three tardies count as one absence. If you come in after your name is called, you will need to notify your professor at the end of the class period, or else the tardy will become an absence. The Department of Religion grading scale is:
A= 100%-95%, A- = 94%-92%
B+ = 91%-88%, B = 87% - 85%, B- = 84%-82%
C+ = 81% - 78%, C = 77%-74%, C- = 73% - 70%
D+ = 69% - 66%, D = 65% - 63%, D- = 62% -60%
F = below 59%
Papers that are turned in after the set due date will be penalized one full letter grade for each week that they are late.
Samford University complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students with disabilities who seek accommodations must make their request by contacting Disability Support Services located in Counseling Services on the lower level
of Pittman Hall, or call 726-4078. A faculty member will grant reasonable accommodations only upon written notification from Disability Support Services.
Research Paper: A 11-14 page paper is due on December 1. This paper should explore a modern or contemporary movement (i.e., eighteenth to twenty-first century) leader, or issue within one of the religions we have studied. Possible topics include but are not limited to:
Whatever topic you choose, you should focus on a particular movement or individual, or perhaps on a few different individuals with diverging issues on some view point. For example, if you are interested in Islamic Fundamentalism, you should focus on a particular group like the Jamaat-i-Islami in Indonesia, or a particular figure such as Sayyid Qutb.
There are several deadlines you must meet in writing your paper. Your performance on each of these transitional assignments will affect your grade on the paper.
Oct. 20 Topic and preliminary bibliography
Nov. 3 Thesis statement and complete bibliography
Nov. 21 Draft for peer review
Dec. 1 Final Paper.
FYI: A Few Major Religious Holidays occurring this Semester:
September 10: Mid-Autumn Festival (Chinese Religions)
September 26: Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year, a solemn fast) begins at Sundown
October 5: Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Atonement) begins at Sundown
October 10: Sukkot (Jewish festival of Booths) begins at Sundown, lasts seven days.
October 25: Diwali (Hindu Festival of Lights)
October 26: Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting during daylight hours) begins at Sundown
November 25: Eid-al-Fitr (Islamic festival at the end of the Ramadan fast) begins at Sundown
Dates are given for each unit. We will cover the topics in the order listed. Some topics will take less than a day, some more. It is your responsiblity to keep up with where we are and to stay ahead. I'll try to announce what you should read for the next class. For Wednesday. August 27, you should read all the pages assigned for the "Introduction" (i.e. World Religions Today, pp. 3-35). Key terms are provided in Unit I to guide your reading. I'll aim to add terms for later units to the on-line syllabus.
Readings in brackets ([ ]) are recommended, not required.
Introduction: What are religions? August 25-27
Definitions of religionsWRT, pp. 3-13
Religions as Questions vs. Religions as AnswersWRT, pp. 13-24
Modernity and PostmodernityWRT, pp. 24-35
Key Terms: premodern, modern, postmodern, religare / religion, via analogia, via negativa, myths of nature, myths of harmony, myths of liberation, myths of history, socialism, fundamentalism, heretical imperative.
Unit I: Christian Encounters with Modernity and with Other Religions August 29 - September 5
Christianity and the Emergence of ModernityWRT, Ch. 2, esp. pp. 37-45, 50-53, 55-60, 66-75, 80-83, 84-87, 89-100.
Key Terms: supersessionism, Constantinianism, Augustine's two cities, via moderna, devotio moderna, modernity, syncretism, colonialism, postcolonialism
Assignment: Due August 29. In a carefully crafted 2-page essay answer one of the following questions: Question 1 or 3 on p. 105 or "How have the theological claims and political ideologies of Christianity affected its relation to different religions and cultures?" Due in Class.
Christian Theologies of Religions
McDermott, Can Evangelicals [on soteriology] 39-44, [on revelation, most fully 43-119] 61-78, 110-119
Key Terms: unitive pluralist, radical pluralist, inclusivist, restrictivist, natural (general) revelation, special revelation, Melchizedek, revealed type
"Christian America?" Models of cultural responses to religious diversityWRT, pp. 100-105 and Eck, A New Religious America, [pp. xiii - 25] pp. 26-77.
[For a critical review of Eck see Richard John Neuhaus, "One Nation Under Many Gods," review of Eck, A New Religious America, First Things, 116 (October 2001): 71ff. Available online at
Key Terms: Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, establishment, tolerance, exclusivism, assimilation, melting pot, pluralism, Johnson-Read Act, Will Herberg, relativism
Assignment: Two good questions about the reading. Guidelines for good questions will be discussed in class.
Unit II: Judaism September 8- September 22
Introduction to JudaismWRT, pp. 109-110, 120-129
Genesis 17:1-27, Genesis 32:22-32, Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25, Malachi 4:13-16, II Chronicles 36:15-23 Bring a Bible to Class
Rabbinic JudaismWRT, pp. 129-155
Judaism and ModernityWRT, pp. 155-163
in packet Pittsburg Platform (1885)
in packetCharles Liebman, "Religion and the Chaos of Modernity: The Case of Contemporary Judaism" in Neusner, Take Judaism for Example: Studies toward the Comparison of Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). Reprinted in Neusner. Judaism in Modern Times. Pp. 93-98.
in packet Seymour Siegel, "The Meaning of Jewish Law in Conservative Judaism" in Siegel with Elliot Gertel, eds. Conservative Judaism and Jewish Law (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 1977), pp. xiii-xxvi. Reprinted in Neusner, Judaism in Modern Times. Pp. 115-122
Zionism and the HolocaustWRT, pp.164-175, 111-119, 175-178
in packet Columbus Platform (1937) http://www.ccarnet.org/plaforms/columbus.html
in packet"A Statement of Principles for Reformed Judaism" (1999) http://ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html
Jacob Neusner, "American Judaism of Holocaust and Redemption," chapter 8 of Judaism in Modern Times. Pp. 206-220.
in packet Ismar Schorsch, "The Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism"http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/luminaries/monograph/core.shtml
[Christian and Jewish Dialogue: National Council of Synagogues and Delegates of the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Reflections on Covenant and Mission,http://www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/2002/02-154.htm]
First Mid-Term--September 24
Unit III: Islam Sept. 26 - Oct. 22
Introduction to IslamWRT pp. 181-188Eck, 222-239
Muhammad and the Origins of IslamWRT pp. 188-197
Al-Qur'an, Suras TBA
Spread and Division of IslamWRT pp. 197-205
Law and PracticeWRT pp. 205-224
Islam in AmericaWRT pp. 252-260Eck, pp. 243-251
African American Islam and the Post-Colonial ExperienceWRT pp. 251-260Autobiography of Malcolm X, [the entire book] pp. 129-389
Responses to Colonial Encounters with the WestWRT pp. 224-252; Lincoln, Appendix A, 93-98
Terrorism, Rhetoric and Religious Movements--Lincoln
Unit IV: Hinduism and South Asia October 24 - Nov. 14
Introduction to HinduismWRT, pp. 273-279Eck, New Religions America, pp. 80-94
Vedic HinduismWRT, 279-282
in packet Gods of the Rig Veda
in packet Creation accounts, Rig Veda
Axial Age in India: Buddhism, Jainism, and Upanishadic HinduismWRT, pp. 282-289, 358-365
in packet "Sixth Prapathaka," Chandogya Upanishad
Second Mid-Term--November 3
Devotional HinduismWRT, pp. 290-300
Philosophical HinduismWRT, pp. 301-305
Hinduism in the Islamic Era: The emergence of SikhismWRT, pp. 305-311
in packet Guru Nanak, Japji
Hinduism in the Colonial AgeWRT, pp. 311-319
Eck, pp. 94-108
in packet Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekandanda in Beckerledgee, ed. World Religions Reader, pp. 292-296
in packet V. D.Savakar from Beckerledgee
Growth of Hinduism in AmericaEck, pp. 108-130
Contemporary Hindu practiceWRT, pp. 319-323Eck, pp. 130-140[WRT, pp. 323-335]
Neo-traditionalism and Hindu nationalismWRT, pp. 335-348(review WRT, pp. 275-279)
Unit V: Buddhism and East Asian Religions Nov. 17 - Dec. 3
Introduction to BuddhismWRT, pp. 353-357Eck, pp. 142-164
The Spread of Buddhism and its Core TeachingsWRT, pp. 358-376
Introduction to Taoism and ConfucianismWRT, pp. 431-438
Confucian FoundationsWRT, pp.439-444
in packet Selections from the Analects
Taoist FoundationsWRT, pp. 444-447
in packet Selections from the Tao Te Ching
Varieties of Mahayana BuddhismWRT, pp. 376-394Oxherding Pictures
in packet Selections from Mahayana scriptures from Beckerledgee
Buddhist PracticeWRT, pp. 394-403
Buddhism in the Colonial EraWRT, pp. 403-410Eck, pp. 164-190
Contemporary BuddhismEck, pp. 191-218[WRT, pp. 410-421]WRT, pp. 421-427
Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
in packet Nhat Hanh, "What I would say to Osama Bin Laden"
Development of East Asian Religions, WRT, pp. 447-467
East Asian Religious Practices, WRT, pp. 478-485
[Colonial and Post-Colonial Developments, WRT, pp. 468-478, 485-509]
Conclusion: American Responses to DiversityEck, pp. 26-80, 294-396
Final Exam--Wednesday, December 10, 8am [The final exam will be given at the time specified in the Class Schedule for this term. Sometimes I make typos. Double-check me to make sure the date I've given here is right before making any travel plans.]