This course introduces the central aims, questions, and topics pursued within the academic study of religion. Students will consider how individuals and groups organize themselves with relation to god/s, spirits, ancestors, or other non-ordinary agents, and will explore how recourse to these agents impacts the legitimacy, authority, and authenticity of particular practices and institutions. Through analysis of a variety of case studies, students will acquire knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that are relevant both within and beyond the classroom. This is not a World Religions survey course.
After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Recognize and describe the key ideas and practices of several religious traditions;
- Discuss the ways in which human behavior is shaped by beliefs in a divine being or beings, spirits, ancestors, or other non-empirical agents;
- Examine religious texts critically and analyze and compare specific examples of religious discourse;
- Analyze and compare specific examples of religious social formation;
- Explain the main approaches, methods, and critical terms in the academic study of religion, and identify current issues and debates in the field;
- Articulate your own perspective on the current issues under examination and discuss the strengths and limitations of that perspective;
- Engage deeply and respectfully with views other than your own.