Religion 101b

Introduction to the Study of Religion

Prof. Anne McGuire, Spring 2001

Course Description: An introduction to the study of religion through examination of the major themes, sacred texts, and practices of several religious traditions. The goals of the course are: 1) to explore the history, world views, and forms of four major religious traditions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism; 2) to achieve a fuller understanding of these religious traditions and of religion by studying selected texts and practices related to each tradition; and 3) to recognize shared characteristic elements of religion as well as the distinctive features of each religious tradition and its major varieties.

Supplementary Web-Based Readings for Class

April 5, 2001, Latin American Liberation Theology


Course Outline

Course Requirements

Discussion Groups

The class will be organized into discussion groups by the end of the second week of the semester. These will be led by Religion majors and will meet once a week during regular class time, usually the second half of each Thursday class. T.A.'s will also be available outside of class time to help prepare for papers and the final exam.

Reading list

Web Resources

Under Construction: Web Resource Pages for Each of the Religious Traditions Covered in the Course

Click here for a link to the Magill Library's listing of some of the best sites online for the study of Religion.


Introduction to the Course: Approaching the Study of Religion/s. Smith, The World's Religions, 1-11

I. The Hindu Religious Tradition

Th, Introduction to the Hindu Religious Tradition "Hinduism: 330 Million Gods" "Hinduism," & "The Brahmin in the Pit" in Eastman, The Ways of Religion, 3-8 S. Radhakrishnan, "The Hindu View of Life," Eastman, 9-14 Handout: Historical Overview of the Hindu Tradition

T, Sacrifice and the Divine in the Vedic Tradition Hymns from the Rig Veda, Eastman, 15-19 Thomas Hopkins, "Creative Power of the Sacrifice," The Hindu Religious Tradition, 17-25 A. Embree, ed., "The Exposition of Life's Duties," The Hindu Tradition, 74-93

Th, The Upanishads: Close Reading of the Katha Upanishad Selections, The Upanishads, Eastman, 20-31; The Katha Upanishad Diana Eck, "The Nature of the Hindu Image," Darshan, 44-58 Patrick Olivelle, "Ascetic Withdrawal or Social Engagement," Religions of India in Practice, 533-546

T, The Bhagavad Gita: Krishna and the Ways of Yoga The Bhagavad Gita, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller, 1-87 [See also selections in Eastman, 32-44 Huston Smith, The World's Religions, 12-55

Th, Bhakti Devotion and Puja; Poems in praise of Krishna Bhagavad Gita, 88-154 (focus on Teachings 11-12) [See also selections in Eastman] Selected poems, In Praise of Krishna: Song from the Bengali Recommended: T. Hopkins, "Late Puranic Religion: The Full Tradition," The Hindu Religious Tradition, , esp. 110-119

T, Hindusim in the Modern World: Tagore & Gandhi; Samskara Eastman, 45-59 - Tagore, "Life's Stages"; M. Gandhi, "I am but a Seeker after Truth" Samskara, 1-87 Smith, 55-79

Th, Interpreting Samskara Samskara, 88-147

II. The Jewish Religious Tradition

T, Introduction to the Jewish Religious Tradition; Two Contemporary Views "Judaism: The Sanctification of Life," "What is Judaism?" "Nothing is Ordinary," in Eastman, 261-274 Huston Smith, 271-303 Handout: Historical Overview of the Jewish Tradition

Th, Purity and Holiness in the Jewish Tradition: The Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut) Eastman, Selections from The Holy Scriptures, Eastman, 275-286 Selections from Biblical and Rabbinic Sources (Ex, 19-23; Deut. 14; Levit. 11, and others) Mary Douglas, "The Abominations of Leviticus," Purity and Danger, 41-57 A. Steinsaltz, "The Essential Talmud," Eastman, 287-291

T, The Exodus Narrative in Jewish Thought and Practice Exodus 1-20; The Passover Haggadah Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai, selection Huston Smith, 303-316 Recommended for further reading: Michael Strassfeld, The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary. H MGL Ref Room BM690 .S76 1985

Th, Varieties of Judaism; The Jewish Mystical Tradition: Kabbalah and Hasidic Tales Howard Schwartz, "Jewish Mystical Tales," Eastman, 292-299 Additional readings from the Kabbalah to be assigned

T, Responses to the Holocaust: Fackenheim and Wiesel Emil Fackenheim, "Holocaust"; Elie Wiesel, Night

Th, Transition: World Views and Ways of Life in the Hindu and Jewish Traditions Review readings on Hinduism and Judaism Amanda Porterfield, "The Power of Religious Community"

III. The Christian Religious Tradition

T, Introduction to the Christian Religious Tradition Eastman, 337-342; 343-353, Selections from the New Testament; Cunningham, "Christianity," Ways of Being Religious, 403-41; The Nicene Creed; Historical Overview of the Christian Tradition (p)

Th, Images of Jesus and his Teachings in the New Testament and Christian Tradition Selections from the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke 1-6, 14-24; Romans 1-8; The Gospel of John 1-3, 18-21; The Gospel of Thomas, Eastman, 353-364; Frequently Asked Questions about the Gospel of Thomas. Smith, 317-339. See also The Gospel of Thomas home page.

T, Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation; The Crucifixion and Resurrection in Christian Faith and Practice Martin Luther, Selections from his Works; Click here for web resources on Luther; The Crucifixion and Resurrection in Christian Memory and Ritual (packet); Teresa of Avila, Selection on Spiritiual Marriage from "The Interior Castle." Smith, 339-63.

Th, Modern Christian Thought: Rudolf Bultmann and Hans Frei. Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Mythology," Kerygma and Myth, 1-16, 33-44. Hans Frei, "Jesus Identified in His Resurrection, The Identity of Jesus Christ, 139-152.

T, Models of Liberation Theology: Martin Luther King, Jr.; Delores Williams; Jon Sobrino. Albert J. Raboteau, "African Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel"; Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream," 1963; Delores Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: "Preface," "Womanist God-Talk and Black Liberation Theology," 143-153; "Black Women's Surrogacy Experience."Jon Sobrino, The Spirituality of Liberation, Chaps. 1-2 (13-45).

Th, Liberation Theology in Latin America: The Work of Jon Sobrino. Jon Sobrino, The Spirituality of Liberation, 80-182, focus on chaps. 4-5, 7, 10-12 (80-102; 117-131; 153-182).

IV. The Buddhist Religious Tradition

T, 4/10 Enlightenment, Compassion, Nirvana: Introduction to the Buddhist Religious Tradition. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. "Buddhism: An Overview," Ways of Being Religious, 163-177; Eastman, 77-81. The Dhammapada, trans. Carter and Introduction; Chapters 1-9

Th, 4/12 The Buddha and His Teachings: Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Dhammapada, Chapters 12-26; Heinrich Zimmer, "Buddhahood," Eastman, 82-90; Selections, Buddhist Scriptures, in Eastman, 91-98; Smith, 92-119.

T, 4/17 Varieties of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, Tantrism, amd Tibetan Buddhism. Eastman, Selections from Mahayana Buddhism and Zen, 105-139. Nancy Auer Falk, "The Case of the Vanishing Nuns: The Fruits of Ambivalence in Ancient Indian Buddhism," Unspoken Worlds, 196-206. Selections from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism (p).

Th, 4/19 Buddhist Sutras: Excerpts from the Lotus Sutra, Heart Sutra, and Philosophical Buddhism. Reread selections from Lotus Sutra and Heart Sutra from Ways (p). Short Excerpts from Mahayana Philosophy: Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, and Shantideva, Ways of Being Religious, 192-200 (p).

T, 4/23 Buddhism in the Contemporary World: The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. Selections from Tibetan Buddhism: The Dalai Lama, "Holder of the White Lotus," Eastman, 122-129; "Prayer of the Word of Truth," and "The Nobel Peace Prize Lecture," from Essential Tibetan Buddhism, 280-289 (p); Reginald A. Ray, "Accomplished Women in Tantric Buddhism of Medieval Indian and Tibet," Unspoken Worlds, 233-242. Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, 1-59

A viewing of Martin Scorsese's film Kundun may be arranged outside of class time, depending on student interest.

Th, 4/25 Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: Inter-Religious Encounter from a Buddhist Perspective. Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, 60-198. Thomas Merton, "Nhat Hanh is My Brother"

T, 5/1 World Views and Ways of Life in Christianity and Buddhism. Review readings on the Christian and Buddhist Traditions

Th, 5/3 Review Session: The Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist Religious Traditions

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