Syllabus - RELP 1030 INTRODUCTION TO RELIGION
Dr. Barry R. Sang
Room: ADM 304
Phone Ext.: 4354
RELP 1030 is a study of the characteristics and universal features of religion, as expressed in the institutions, rituals, beliefs, and other phenomena of religions of the past and present.
As human beings, each of us has distinct needs, yet one of the needs we share with each other is the need for meaning in life. Each of us pursues different courses of action and we seek experiences which will bring to our lives a sense of purpose, a sense of having a "ground" or a "center." As humans we also share with one another the common quest for answers to questions and problems which we face each day.
The answers for and sources of those questions are many and varied. But, among all human cultures there is one unique means of dealing with those features in life which we do not understand and which we cannot control. That element is what we refer to as "religion." In the practice of religion people seek to relate to a world of mystery, to a reality which may be part of our experience or which may extend beyond it. Religion involves a search for hope, for belonging, for security, for a better way of life. The varieties of religious belief are a fascinating testimony to the differences of world view which individuals and cultures alike embrace. It is this variety which we will consider; it is also the unity of humanity's constant search for understanding and the expressions of that understanding which will comprise our study of religion.
RELP 1030 will introduce you to religion as a dynamic element of the human experience. You will be invited to explore the meanings of the term "religion," and to be open to new possibilities in belief and practice. You will be led to an examination of your own views on human life issues and to compare and contrast these to beliefs and views that might be quite opposite from your own perspective.
This is not a course in comparative religions, although we will consider examples from a variety of religions to illustrate many of the concepts and issues we will study.
Expected Learning Outcomes
Means of Assessing Those Outcomes
Cunningham, Lawrence S., et al. The Sacred Quest. 4th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2006.
Several outside readings will be placed on reserve in the Library.
Your regular attendance in class is especially important in a course of this nature; i.e., this is not a lecture course in which the professor simply imparts to you a given body of knowledge which you then regurgitate in examination. On the contrary, our class sessions will consist of both lecture and discussion where we will teach one another under the professor's guidance and leadership.
Attendance will be checked promptly each day at the beginning of class. If you are late you must speak with me at the end of class or you will be counted absent. Three absences are allowed during the semester, whether "justified" or not. Each absence beyond the three permitted will result in a two-point reduction in the final grade for the course. Any student missing more than one quarter of the sessions during the semester will automatically be given an F or an I for the course, depending on the circumstances. Tardiness should be a rare exception. Should late arrivals persist, they will be counted as absences.
Late Papers are penalized one grade per week day unless a justifiable excuse is accepted.
Missed quizzes cannot be made up, although the lowest quiz score will be dropped from your final quiz tally.
If you miss an examination then you must contact me immediately (or, even better, before you miss it) and we will have a serious talk. I do not guarantee that you will be able to make up the exam, and my make-up examinations are much harder than the originals.
Summary of Grade Distribution
Examinations (2): 30%
Papers (2): 20%
Final Examination: 20%
Class Participation: 10%
100-92: A Clearly superior college level achievement
86-83: B Good college-level performance
76-73: C Acceptable college-level performance
66-63: D Minimally-acceptable college-level performance
< 59: F Failure to achieve college-level performance
outlines and preparation
Given the nature of this course, it is difficult to determine specific dates for assignments far in advance. It will be YOUR responsibility to anticipate and keep abreast of assignments.
It will be in your best interest if, from the very first day of class, you begin keeping a vocabulary list for this course. The words that are the building blocks for the study of religion will be presented often and you will be held directly accountable for their meanings, both through quizzes and tests.
I. What IS Religion After All?
A. Different definitions of Religion Preparation: [NOTE: Before reading the secondary sources, first jot down your own definition of religion, read the sources, and revise your definition if you wish.] Then, read Quest, pp. 1-3, 11-26; Comstock, "Toward a Definition of Religion," in Religion and Man: An Introduction, pp. 18-27 (reserve). What are the characteristics of a good definition, and what do they mean ? What do you mean by 'religion'or 'religious'? What is the difference between spirituality and religion ? How useful is the word "superstition" ?
FIRST VIEWING OF BARAKA.
B. Why study religion?
C. Different approaches to the study of religion
Preparation: Quest, pp. 3-10.
II. Some Useful Background in Religious Traditions
A. A Crash Course in the World’s Major Religions
Preparation: Monk, Exploring Religious Meaning, Ch. 2
B. Do You See What I See? World Views and Religion
Preparation: Monk, pp. 349-358.
WRITE: PAPER #1 (due date to be announced in class)
III. The Divine/Holy/Sacred
A. Ways of Conceiving of the Holy (including Theistic & Non-Theistic Views)
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 2.
EXAM #1: PARTS I-IIIA
B. The Appearance of the Holy
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 3.
C. The Language of the Holy
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 4; Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, pp. 41-54 ("Symbols of Faith")[on reserve] — What does Tillich say are the differences between symbols and signs? Is religious language "symbolic language" or "signifying language?" Read also the Handout, "A Scripture Sampler"— what makes these readings scripture? What do they have in common?
IV. Elements of Religious Experience
A. Ritual Preparation: Quest, Ch. 5.
B. Religion and Community
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 6.
EXAM #2: PARTS IIIB -IVB
C. The Mystical Experience of the Holy
Preparation: Monk, pp. 81-84; "Mystical Fragments" (handout). What characteristics do these short stories/sayings have in common?
WRITE: PAPER #2 (due date to be announced in class)
D. Magic and the Holy
Preparation: When you think of magic, what comes to mind? Is it different from religion? If so, in what ways? Might it also be similar to religion and, if so, in what ways?
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 7; Handout: "Regarding Theodicy." Things to think about: What is evil? What are the two types of evil? What is a theodicy? What are some the classic "responses to evil" (Christian and non-Christian)? What questions might we ask of a theodicy to evaluate its adequacy?
VI. Religion and Morality
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 8.
VII. The Quest For Salvation
Preparation: Quest, Ch. 9. From what are people "saved" in each of the major religious traditions? How are they "saved?"
VIII. Conclusions, Second Viewing of Baraka, Evaluation, and Loose Ends
FINAL EXAMINATION: Tuesday, December 13, 11:30am– 2:30pm
NOTE:The major essay question (though not necessarily the only essay question) for your final examination in this course is no secret, and you should begin to prepare for it from the very beginning of the course. You will be required to analyze the religious dimensions of select scenes from the film, Baraka. Your essay will be graded on the basis of how well you explain the religious dimensions of what you have seen, connecting the scenes to the various facets of religion that we have discussed in this course. I do not expect you to see everything in each scene that I do, but I will expect your analysis to demonstrate a collegiate understanding of the nature of religion. I will place a DVD copy of the film on reserve in the Library. Please be considerate of others in the handling of this valuable learning tool.
Your Application Papers
The two papers you will write for this course require you to directly apply knowledge acquired to analyze religious experience. Each paper should be 3-6 pages long, typed, double-spaced, standard fonts, and should reflect those qualities epitomized by a liberal arts education.
NOTE: Your grade will be affected by grammar, syntax and spelling. After determining your paper's grade, I will deduct 2 points for each grammatical error, and 1 point for each spelling and punctuation error, not to exceed 10 points (i.e., one letter grade). The simplest way to avoid such penalties is to have a reliable friend proof-read your paper before submitting it for a grade. For further information on plagiarism and the Honor Code consult the appropriate pages in the Catawba College Honor Code. On the first page of your paper you must type the following statement (I will not accept your paper without this statement):
In accordance with Catawba's Honor Code I have communicated honestly and have strived for excellence in the preparation for and completion of this paper.
The general purpose of these papers is to require you to demonstrate your understanding of the assigned topics by analyzing readings on those topics. Be sure to follow the specific instructions for each paper, but remember overall that the care which you take in presenting your analysis is critical.
Paper Grading Criteria:
- Extent to which you fulfill the specific instructions
- Coherency of your response
- Grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax
- Carefully read the John Fire Lame Deer handout.
- Carefully analyze the worldview represented in John Fire Lame Dear's account of his ritual experiences.
- In your paper determine which worldview is represented by Lame Deer and provide thorough evidence from throughout the text justifying your claim, i.e., carefully connect the evidence with characteristics of the worldview you think it represents. It is also best to indicate why the evidence indicates that his worldview does not match the other worldviews you eliminated.
- Carefully read the handout called An Experience With Kyudo. Kyudo, by the way, is the employment of the art of archery to teach Zen Buddhist principles.
- Analyze Mr. Herrigel’s mystical experience in terms of William James's Four Characteristics of the Mystical Experience. In your paper explain how Herrige’s experience conforms to James’s typology. You must define James’s characteristics and demonstrate how they are found in Mr. Herrigel’s experience. For example, if you see the characteristic of ineffability present in Herrigel’s experience, describe the text where you see it and explain why you think it represents ineffability. You will find several examples of each of James's characteristics.
Special Instructions for Papers Submitted via E-mail
It is a requirement of this course that you submit your two papers to me via e-mail as attached files. You must follow the following instructions carefully:
- Compose your paper in WORD 98 or better.
- Write the following at the top of the first page: a) Your name; b) Your e-mail address; c) The required honor statement (see above). I will not consider your paper to be "turned in" without this information in the proper place.
- The paper must be titled and must conform to all of the requirements stated above.
- Save the paper in WORD, noting where you saved it.
- E-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and attach the paper file.
- Wait for me to confirm receipt of your paper. NOTE: It is your responsibility to insure that I have received your paper. If you have not received confirmation of receipt within 24 hours of e-mailing your paper, then I have not received it.
- When you receive your graded paper, you must first save it in WORD and then open it again before you can read my remarks and your grade. To read my remarks, be sure that your computer "view" is set to "print layout" or "web layout." Then, simply guide your computer's pointer to the yellow-highlighted section of the paper and my remarks will appear within a small window box. If you are using OFFICE XP, it will not be necessary to use your pointer because the remarks will automatically appear in "print layout." Your grade will be found at the very end of your paper where I have typed and/or highlighted your name.