"Rel 111: "Understanding Religious Experience and Expression"

Note | Week: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16
Click the number to see the classes and assignments for that week.

Students are recommended NOT to print out this syllabus as the contents may change during the semester. However, if you really need a print copy click these links for a pdf version of the schedule (5 pages) and a pdf version of the syllabus (18 pages).

Fall 2014

Religion 111 will meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:50 - 1:50 in Patterson Hall 105.

I will be available in Patterson Hall 336 every day from 10:00 until 11:00, and at other times by arrangement.

The schedule of assignments, quizzes, etc. remains negotiable until Friday of week 9. Changes must be made before this date.

Week 1 - Introduction: the Academic Study of Religion

Mon. 8/25 Introduction to the course: the class description, the webpage, and textbooks.
A brief introduction to the academic study of religion.

Wed. 8/27 The Problem of Definition: terms and categories of the study as themselves providing models of religion.

How does this apply to contemporary America? See Diana Eck's A New Religious America and The Pluralism Project

Fri. 8/29
An introduction to the idea of "Dimensional Models" of religion and the "phenomenology" of religion.
Read Bryan Rennie, "Heterophenomenology as Self-Knowledge" (Handout on the My.Westminster page) over the weekend (but it would be a good idea to get a start on Geertz's article, too).

Week 2 - The Academic Study of Religion, continued.

Mon. 9/1 Heterophenomenology and Smith's "point of departure," pp. 8 - 15 and the Foreword, Preface, and List of Contents from Novak's collection of texts.
(Note that required readings from the two textbooks are shown in blue. Other readings, usually provided as handouts on the My.Westminster page, are shown in red).

Wed. 9/3 Religious narratives as models of Human Experience.
Clifford Geertz on Religions as "models of" and "models for" human life (Handout on the My.Westminster page).

Fri. 9/5 Creation Myths: Water symbolism and creation.
See Novak's collection for examples of the creation myths of oral peoples.

Week 3 - Religious Traditions: The Oral Traditions
See BigMyth.com for many of the world's traditional oral myths.

Portrait of James Holy Eagle, Oglala, Sioux, at age 102 (1992), from The Native Americans: an Illustrated History, 
Betty and Ian Ballantine (eds.), Turner Publishing Inc. Novak Chapter Eight, Smith Chapter IX.
Take especial note of Smith's section, "Orality, Place, and Time" (p. 234) and the Native American myth, "The Story of Jumping Mouse," Novak, p. 373.

Mon. 9/8
First short quiz.
Religious Narrative: The Story of Jumping Mouse.

Wed. 9/10 "The Symbolic Vision."
"The Australian Experience" and "The Symbolic Mind," Smith pp. 232 and 241.

Fri. 9/12 First Essay Exam: (Defining Religion, Studying Religion, Oral Traditions--and how are we doing so far?)

Nandewar, Bulurru Australian Aboriginal Art by Wendy Pawley

Week 4 - Hinduism. Make sure you know the basic geography of India. See Maps of India

In fact, make sure you know the location of all of the countries involved.
See these maps (1) & (2).

Sri Venkateshwara--Patron diety of the Hindu 
Temple in Pittsburgh

There will be a trip to the Sri Venkateswara temple in Penn Hills, Pittsburgh on Wednesday, September 17th, leaving from the Patterson Hall car park about 4:30 and returning about 9:00 PM. Students are asked to dress respectfully.

Varnasramadharma - the blessed rage for order.
Novak chapter One.
Smith 16-25, 40-46.

Mon. 9/15 The Vedas and Varnashramadharma.

Wed. 9/17 The valid aims and stages of life.

Fri. 9/19 An Introduction to the BhagavadGita. See Novak 25-40.
The BhagavadGita in the Mahabharata.
Smith 47 - 57.

Week 5 - Hinduism, Continued.

Mon. 9/22 The Yogas.
Smith 26 - 39.

Wed. 9/24 A discussion of Rajayoga: How can "heterophenomenology" be applied to Hinduism? Especially to Rajayoga?

Fri. 9/26

The Buddhadharma - challenging tradition.

Novak chapter Two (especially pages 49-65)

Smith 59-97.

The Life of the Buddha (Powerpoint Handout on the My.Westminster page).

Week 6 - Buddhism continued.

Mon. 9/29 The Three Buddhist Canons and Buddhism in China

Wed. 10/1 Video: Footprints of the Buddha.

Fri. 10/3 Second Short Quiz (Oral Traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism) Discussion: Is Theravada Buddhism a "religion?"

Week 7 - Chinese Religion

Mon. 10/6 Chinese Religion
See these maps (1) & (2).
San Chiao - Unity and Diversity.
Novak chapters Three and Four
Smith 99 - 143.

See also this note on transliteration and this map of China during the Han period.
The San Chiao; China's three traditions (Powerpoint Handout on the My.Westminster page) and See this website for Classical Chinese Scriptures: Daoism.

Wed. 10/8 Confucianism.

Fri. 10/10 Chinese Buddhism (and a word about research)

Note that your term paper and MUST be determined by this time.
Please turn in a one paragraph statement of your topic and your thesis.

Week 8

Mon. 10/13 "Taoism: A Question of Balance" (Video).

Wed. 10/15 - Further Discussion of Chinese Religions and research and preparation for the second essay exam.

Novak chapter Five

Smith 179 - 203.

Fri. 10/17 - Second Essay Exam (Hinduism, Buddhism and Chinese Religion).

Week 9 - Judaism

Mon. 10/20 Judaism: The People of the Book--Relating texts and history--expression and experience.
Bear these questions in mind as you study.
The Texts, and the History.

Wed. 10/22 Guest Speaker: Jonathan Solomon, a lay member of the Jewish Community in New Castle.

Fri. 10/24 Video: Mightier than the Sword. "A detailed examination of the remains of some of the greatest cities of the time ... shows the nature of the Eastern Hellenistic civilization of which Jerusalem was a part and into which Jesus was born."

Mid-Term Break October 25th - 28th (Saturday to Tuesday)

Week 10 - Religion and the Arts.

Wed. 10/29 Third Short Quiz (Chinese religion and Judaism)
Religion and the Arts: Perceiving the Sacred in the Profane.
The art of Christianity.

Fri. 10/31 Art in Other Religions.

Week 11 - The History of Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World.

See these documents on The Greco-Roman Context (Link on the My.Westminster page), Greek and Roman Mysteries, and Mithraism and Gnosticism.

Mon. 11/3 The Mystery Religions, Mithraism, and Gnosticism..

Wed. 11/5 Zoroastrianism: the religion of the Persian Empire.

Fri. 11/7 Fourth Short Quiz. Introduction to the Insider/Outsider problem in the study of religion, by Gary Kessler (Handout on the My.Westminster page). See also the article by Kim Knott (Handout on the My.Westminster page).

You are required to turn in a working bibliography for your paper at the end of next week. This must contain at least five properly documented sources, written up in the style required by the notes on the essay.

Week 12 - Introduction to the Study of Christianity.

Mon. 11/10 The Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Smith 205 - 216.
See also the PBS Frontline website From Jesus to Christ.

Wed. 11/12 Christianity in History: the successful spread of the early Church. Smith 217 - 229.
Students should see Rel 111: "Early Christian Growth.doc" (Handout on the My.Westminster page)

Fri. 11/14 Consider The Liturgy of Christianity (Handout on the My.Westminster page) and try to answer the question, "How do the Christian narratives of Easter and Christmas relate to the seasons of the solar year? What, in your opinion, is the significance of this?"

Whether you are an "insider" or an "outsider," you came into this course with some assumptions about Christianity and/or Christians. Have your assumptions been confirmed, called into question, or unaffected by the treatments of topics such as "the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith," the spread of Christianity, Christian "denominations" or "branches," and Christian sacraments? Responses to such questions should always cite the specific data on which they are based.

Your working bibliography is also due today (Friday 14th) and should be sent by e-mail. This must contain at least five properly documented sources, written up in the style required by the notes on the essay.

Week 13 - Christianity concluded.

Mon. 11/17 Third Essay Exam: (Judaism, Graeco-Roman Religion, and Christianity).

Novak chapter Seven
Smith 145 - 159.

Wed. 11/19 The History of Islam: The Prophet and the Book.
The Caliphate and the origins of the Sunni/Shia division.

Fri. 11/21 Out-of-class research assignment: Find out all that you can about The Five Pillars of Islam and Principles of Islamic Theology and try to discover their bases in the sacred texts. See this searchable database.

Week 14 - Islam Continued.

Mon. 11/24 Out-of-class research assignment continued: Find out all that you can about The Five Pillars of Islam and Principles of Islamic Theology and try to discover their bases in the sacred texts. See this searchable database.

Thanksgiving Break Wednesday November 26th to Sunday November 30th

Week 15- Islam Continued
Smith 160 - 177.

Mon. 12/1 Discussion of the out-of-class research assignment.
Today is your last chance to have a rough draft of your paper checked.

Wed. 12/3 Dr. Ahmad Abul-Ela, a member of the local Muslim community will visit the class today.

Fri. 12/5 The last class. Heterophenomenology and Islam. Your paper is due in today (as an e-mail attachment, by 4:30).
Explanation of the Final Examination.
Student Assessments of the course.
I will hand out the take-home final in this class.

The Completed take-home final examination may be handed in as an e-mail attachments anytime before the deadline, but you must await a positive response from me that I have received your paper before you assume that I have got it, because I will not accept any excuses whatsoever for final exams that have been somehow lost.

Reading Day: Wednesday, December 10th.
The deadline for the take-home final is 4:30 PM on Thursday, 11th.
They can be submitted earlier.
Finals period Monday 12/8 to Thursday 12/11.
Term ends Thursday 12/11.