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World Religions Today: REL 104 (3 units)

Dr. Nancy Meyer

e-mail: nmeyer@soka.edu

**Please make sure that you identify what class you’re from in the subject line or I may delete it as junk**

Office hours: 1:30-2:30pm, T/Th                    Office: Ikeda Library 449

 

Course Description

This course explores the major religious traditions today to identify their common patterns and points of difference and to find methods of understanding and engaging human life

in its religious depth. Topics include distinctive practices, primary stories & scriptures, relation to society, and attitudes on issues of nature, life-and-death, justice, and global citizenship.

Course Objectives:

By the end of this course students will:

  • Be able to describe and respectfully talk about the traditions covered in class.
  • Understand and discuss the diversity of religious thought, mythology, rituals, symbols and beliefs, in both historic and current contexts.
  • practice greater empathy for people of different belief systems.
  • see how traditions change with time and culture as they adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Point to the complexities of the traditions when viewed academically.
  • Engage in discussions at the crossroads of mythology and history.

Required Texts:

The Bible, including both the Old Testament and New Testament (available online for FREE)

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

The Meaning of the Quran (available online for FREE)

No God but God by Reza Aslan

Siddhartha by Herman Hess

The Heart Sutra (available online for FREE)

The Mahabharata (available online for FREE)

Black Elk Speaks

**All of these can purchased very cheaply, used on Amazon!

Recommended Text:

**I like these as general descriptions of the traditions…see if they are in the library!

Our Religions edited by Arvind Sharma

Dimensions of the Sacred by Ninian Smart

A New Religious America by Diana L. Eck

Invitation to World Religions by Jeffrey Brodd et al.

Requirements:

Midterm:                     25%

Research Paper:          25%

Final Exam:                  25%

Presentation:              25%

Due Dates:

Exams and paper due dates are in the syllabus.  If you cannot adhere to these dates, you will need to provide proof of a compelling reason for an extension. You must let me know as soon as possible if there will be a problem.

 

 

Stuff that’s really good note!!

Diversity Statement:

Just because a person is in the room–and may even get an opportunity to speak–does not mean that this individual is being heard or seen. If you do not feel like you are being seen and heard, please let me know and help me rectify it. No one is ever finished learning, and the world continues to evolve in ways that may not be obvious to everyone. Please help me (and the rest of the class) engage in new conversations, ask new questions, and find new answers. The only way to move forward is through conversations that challenge not only our own perceptions and assumptions, but also challenge the fear and anger that have often dictated the prevailing climates.

Due Dates:

Exams and paper due dates are in the syllabus.  If you cannot adhere to these dates, you will need to provide proof of a compelling reason for an extension. You must let me know as soon as possible if there will be a problem. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me!

Wikipedia is not a good source for research…

Since ANYONE can contribute, you cannot use is as a source in your research BUT it is great place to start and get ideas for resources. A well written entry will give you the basic information AND will have citations. Follow the path of citations, judge those sources critically and use them if they are helpful! Wiki is a great place to get your footing, but you need to go beyond it for good research!

Cheating and Plagiarism

I will not tolerate plagiarism and cheating. If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing you will receive a failing grade for the course and you will be reported to the university for disciplinary action.

Dropping the class

If you miss too many classes and/or need to drop the class, it YOUR responsibility to do so by the appropriate time. Please refer to the university schedule of classes for all final drop dates. If you appear on my roster at the end of the semester with no or few scores, you will receive an F for the semester.

Your responsibility

It is your responsibility to know the contents of this syllabus and use it appropriately during the semester. Likewise, it is your responsibility to attend class regularly as you are responsible all content given in the readings and in lecture.  If you missed a class, then YES, you missed important information. If this happens, you need to ask a classmate for the information: I do not repeat lectures during my office hours.  I am certainly available for any questions you have regarding the material, assuming you were in class or have made a genuine effort to obtain any information you missed.

Title IX/Sexual Misconduct

Soka University is committed to providing an educational environment that is safe, friendly, accessible and free of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, domestic and dating violence. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or experiences gender-based violence (intimate partner violence, attempted or completed sexual assault, harassment, coercion, stalking, etc.), know that you are not alone.

 

Please be aware that all Soka faculty are responsible employees with reporting responsibilities and obligations. This means that if you tell me about a situation, I may have to report the information to the appropriate college administrator.

 

Reports may be made to:

Hyon Moon, Deputy Title IX Coordinator (for Students) | (949) 480-4139

For other information on the code of conduct or links for further information and help, please refer to:  https://www.soka.edu/student-lifepolicies-procedures/title-ixsexual-misconduct-policies-procedures

Special Needs:

Students desiring accommodations on the basis of physical, learning, or psychological disability for this class is to contact the Office of Student Services. Student Services is located in Student Affairs. For more information, please refer to: https://www.soka.edu/student-lifeliving-sua/disability-services

 

Please remember, above all, we all want to help you succeed! Come and talk to us!

 

 

 

The Schedule

This is not the final word on everything we will be doing in class. I reserve the right to adjust the schedule as needed based on the needs of the class.

Week Tuesday Thursday Notes and Readings
1 (2/4) Introductions and the Syllabus (2/6) Patterns in Religions

Definitions

Nothing happens in a vacuum!

Introductions and preliminary notes: What do you think? Notes on definitions, terminology, roots, and approaches
2

Judaism

(2/11) Evolution out of the Levant, Babylon and Assyria, A quick history of Judaism, Origin stories (2/13) Seminole moments and the develop of the text...this is REALLY complicated...I’m simplifying it! Hebrew Bible: Exodus
3

Judaism

(2/18) Evolution of religion, and theology through time: retaining identity = being a target

**Presentation: What Sephardic Judaism? (1)

(2/20) Modern Judaism

Conservative and Reform Judaisms in America

**Presentation: The rise of Hasidism (2)

Hebrew Bible: Ezra & Nehemiah

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

 

4

X-ianity

(2/25) Evolution of Christianity out of Judaism, and the Greek-Roman world, Mystery Religions, Jewish Sectarianism (Jesus was a Jew)

**Presentation: Cult of Isis (3)

(2/27) The Gospels, Paul, Evolution of Christian thought

**Presentation: Plato and Christian thought (4)

Gospels of Mark and John
5

X-ianity

(3/3) The Split between east and west, and the Role of Constantine & his buddy Eusebius (3/5) The rise Protestantism, Modern evolutions; religion as an economic and political force

**Presentation: Mormonism (5)

I Corinthians, Galatians, James
6

Islam

(3/10) Before the Prophet, The Night of Power, The Five Pillars (3/12) Relationships to Judaism and Christianity, The split between Shia and Sunni

** Presentation: Tell us about the Moors in Spain (6)

Surahs 1 The Opening, 2 The Cow, 4 Women, 12 Joseph, 14 Abraham, 19 Mary, 22 The Pilgrimage, 47 Muhammad, 76 Man

 

7 (3/17) BREAK (3/19) BREAK NOTHING TO SEE HERE...

WORK ON YOUR MIDTERM

8

Islam

(3/24) TAKE HOME MIDTERM DUE!!! Expansion, The Closing of the Gates of Reason, Jihad and your alarm clock

**Presentation: What is the Nation of Islam? (7)

(3/26) Modern political landscape, Palestine and Israel, Iran... No God but God by Reza Aslan
9

Hinduism

(3/31) Introduction to Eastern thought, The wheel of Samsara, Karma, Dharma (4/2) The Caste System, Brahman and Atman

 

The Mahabharata
10

Hinduism

(4/7) The Gods and Man, Avatars and Krishna, Some of the deities

**presentation: Kali (8)

(4/9) Arjuna and Krishna, What is a Just War, the nature of reality

**Presentation: Who is Rama Krishna (9)

The Mahabharata
11

Buddhism

(4/14) The gods and man, Impermanence, Reincarnation, The 4 Divine Truths, The 8-Fold Path, and the 5 Skandhas (4/16) The Buddha and Bodhisattvas, Nirvana, The illusion of the self, Splits within Buddhism

**Presentation: Theravada Buddhism (10)

The Heart Sutra
12

Buddhism

(4/21) Buddhism (and Hinduism) hits the west! new dialogues across faiths

**Presentation: Vajrayana Buddhism (11)

(4/23) Cafeterian Religion: “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Neo-pagans, New Agers, and Druids...oh my!

 

Siddhartha by Herman Hess
13

African Trads.

(4/28) Converging worlds:

Vodoo

(4/30)

Presentation: Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen (12)

TBA
14

Native

American

Trads.

(5/5) Sioux traditions

Presentation: How long have they been here? (13)

(5/7) Genocide Black Elk Speaks
15 (5/12)  Flex time... NO CLASS...FINAL EXAMS  

 

COVID ADDENDUM AND NOTES

  1. Put your exams and research papers into dropbox on BrightSpace. I’ll get them from there
  2. If you have not presented, email your presentation slides to me WITH your notes that you would have used for the spoken part...no need for formality, just tell me what you were going to say.
  3. I’m recording these lectures since people are scattered all over the place, and in different time zones. It seems rude to demand that someone attend class at 2am.
    1. I will open a discussion section on Brightspace...please leave some comments there so I can say “yup, they all got instruction for the whole semester!” The comments will be used as attendance. Just let me know what you found interesting at the very least.
    2. The final exam will be all inclusive of the whole the semester...so you’ll need the lectures.
  4. During the regular class time I will open a conference channel so you can comment, ask questions, do something other than focus the binge and cringe news cycle. This is NOT mandatory, but if you want to stay focused on something other than the current freak out (totally justified though it may be), I’ll be there hanging out. I’ll post the codes and what not about 15 minutes before class so you can join at any time.

 

7 (3/17) BREAK (3/19) BREAK NOTHING TO SEE HERE...

WORK ON YOUR MIDTERM

6...yeah...that didn’t happen!

8

Islam

(3/24) Before the Prophet, The Night of Power, The Five Pillars  (3/26)Relationships to Judaism and Christianity, The split between Shia and Sunni

** Presentation: Tell us about the Moors in Spain (6)

Surahs: 1 The Opening, 2 The Cow, 4 Women, 12 Joseph, 14 Abraham, 19 Mary, 22 The Pilgrimage, 47 Muhammad, 76 Man

 

9

Islam

(3/31) TAKE HOME MIDTERM DUE!!! Expansion, The Closing of the Gates of Reason, Jihad and your alarm clock

**Presentation: What is the Nation of Islam? (7)

(4/2) Modern political landscape, Palestine and Israel, Iran... No God but God by Reza Aslan
10

Hinduism

(4/7) Introduction to Eastern thought, The wheel of Samsara, Karma, Dharma (4/9) The Caste System, Brahman and Atman

 

The Mahabharata
11

Hinduism

(4/14) The Gods and Man, Avatars and Krishna, Some of the deities

**presentation: Kali (8)

(4/16) Arjuna and Krishna, What is a Just War, the nature of reality

**Presentation: Who is Rama Krishna (9)

The Mahabharata
12

Buddhism

(4/21) The gods and man, Impermanence, Reincarnation, The 4 Divine Truths, The 8-Fold Path, and the 5 Skandhas (4/23) The Buddha and Bodhisattvas, Nirvana, The illusion of the self, Splits within Buddhism

**Presentation: Theravada Buddhism (10)

The Heart Sutra
13

Buddhism

(4/28) Buddhism (and Hinduism) hits the west! new dialogues across faiths

**Presentation: Vajrayana Buddhism (11)

(4/30) Cafeterian Religion: “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Neo-pagans, New Agers, and Druids...oh my!

 

Siddhartha by Herman Hess
14

African Trads.

(5/5) Converging worlds:

Vodoo

(5/7) Sioux traditions

Presentation: Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen (12)

 Black Elk Speaks
15

Native

American

Trads.

(5/11) Review and final thoughts

Presentation: How long have they been here? (13)

NO Class...Final Exams...I’m guessing it will be a take home.

We’ll deal with that issue as it gets closer

 

 

Methodology and Scope:

We cannot possibly cover everything...SOOOOOO...here’s the general pattern we’re going to observe.

Part I (weeks 2-8): Traditions that dominate the Western/US mind

  • Working from oldest to newest (historically speaking)
  • In each, we will look at
    • The socio-historical context of its origin (VERY briefly)
    • Basics of the faith (mythologies, rituals, creed...)
    • Major schisms
    • Historical problems
    • Current expressions (...some of them, anyway)

Part II (weeks 9-12): Traditions from India

  • Working from oldest to newest (historically speaking)
  • In each, we will look at
    • The socio-historical context of its origin (VERY briefly)
    • Basics of the faith (mythologies, rituals, creed...)
    • A different way to think (linear thinking vs. circular thinking)
    • Major groups/schisms
    • Transmission to and Expression in the US

Part III (weeks 13-14): Unique and often overlooked Faiths of the US

  • Working from oldest to newest (historically speaking)
  • In each, we will look at
    • The socio-historical context of its origin (VERY briefly)
    • Basics of the faith (mythologies, rituals, creed...)
    • Cultural clashes within the US
    • Current expressions and problems

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Guidelines

You need to format your paper with the following guidelines

  • 1 inch header and footer
  • 1 inch margins
  • No cover page
  • On page 1 provide the following information, single spaced in the upper left corner
    • Your Name
    • Date
    • Class title
    • Nancy Meyer
  • Double space the rest of the paper with NO extra spaces between the title and opening paragraphs or between paragraphs.
  • Use a standard font (12 point, Times New Roman is good! Bookman Old Style says “I’m taking up as much space as possible with padding, like a big font.”)
  • You MUST cite your work!!!! Anytime you “quote” from a work, you must tell me where you got that quote. Likewise, if you use someone else’s idea or data, that too must be cited. Paraphrasing is plagiarism too!
Friendly hint!

I have a lot of papers to read, so make your thesis obvious. State the point of your work in 1 sentence in the introductory paragraph. I recommend you highlight it by italicizing it, using bold letters, or underling it!   

  • You may use any format you are comfortable with (MLA, APA, Chicago, SBL, etc. Please be consistent.)

 

 

If you want a C, you need to:

  • Write no less than 5 full pages
  • Use appropriate formatting
  • Use and Cite at least 3 good sources
  • Provide a thesis
  • Support your thesis with appropriate material....A.K.A. scholarly work!
  • Organize your material cohesively (using paragraphs) and use proper sentence structure.

If you want a B, you need to:

  • Write no less than 6 pages full pages
  • Use appropriate formatting
  • Cite at least 5 good sources
  • Cite your information appropriately (it’s better to over cite, than under cite!)
  • Provide a strong thesis statement and support your argument
  • Organize your material cohesively and use proper sentence structures. AND
  • Show evidence of critical thinking and reflection on the material.

If you want an A, you need to:

  • Write no less than 7 pages full pages
  • Use appropriate formatting
  • Cite at least 7 good sources
  • Cite all your information appropriately (note the advice above on this topic!)
  • Provide a strong thesis statement and support your argument
  • Organize your material cohesively and use proper sentence structures.
  • Show evidence of critical thinking and reflection on the material. AND…
  • Synthesize information from multiple sources and perspectives.

 

 

Possible Topics…

  • Compare and Contrast Mary in the New Testament and Quran.
  • Compare and Contrast Joseph in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran.
  • Describe in detail the split and differences between Sunni and Shia Islam, and discuss how that continues to play out today.
  • Describe in detail the split and differences between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, and describe where that relationship stands today.
  • Describe the role of works versus faith in salvation in one of the traditions discussed or in a modern sect of any tradition.
  • Compare and Contrast the concept of deity in Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Discuss the role of the social justice in a religious tradition, and the role of religion in social justice.
  • Describe the rise of one of the traditions (not Christianity) in America. How did it get here? When? Who was involved? How did Americans receive it? How is it received today?
  • Compare and contrast differing views of sin and death between 2 religions or 2 sects within a given tradition.
  • Compare and contrast some of the mystical writing between 2 religions.
  • Trace the mystical tradition within 1 religion from its ancient roots to its modern expressions.
  • Trace the evolution of the idea of hell and/or sin in Christianity or another tradition.
  • YOU ARE WELCOME TO COME UP WITH YOUR OWN THING!! PLEASE FEEL FREE TO RUN IT BY ME.

 

 

 

 

Name __________________________________________             Paper Rubric

  Above Standard Standard Below Standard Unsatisfactory
Grammar 15

Few or no mistakes

12

Several errors (1-3 per page) but they don’t make the essay difficult to understand

 

7

Lots of errors, and/or the errors make the writing difficult to understand in 2 or more places

3

Many errors in grammar; Perhaps English is not your primary language and you need consult the writing center.

Vocabulary 10

Vocabulary is varied, and interesting, precise words are used, specialized vocabulary is used correctly when appropriate

8

Attempts are made to use specialized vocabulary, but it is used incorrectly.

5

Words are used incorrectly or the vocabulary makes the essay difficult to understand at times.

 

3

Vocabulary is limited and makes the essay difficult to understand.

Format 10

Uses appropriate formatting, and is an appropriate length to the assignment

8

Minor errors in formatting OR is a bit short ( ¼ page)

5

Significant errors in formatting, OR is short for the assignment ( ½ page)

3

Errors in formatting and/or is significantly short (more than ½ page)

Organization 15

All elements are present for the assignment: 3 part format, details, examples, w/ STRONG THESIS etc.­

12

One element is weak:

 

8

One area is not present, or several areas are weak.

 

3

Limited structure, disorganized, and difficult to follow

Citation and Sources 15 Good sources, good number of sources, cited consistently, with a bibliography 12 Good sources…need more support for your argument from good sources 9 One or more sources is … questionable, or you don’t cite your sources well in your paper, and/or Support needs significant help! 3 Two or more sources are weak, citations are weak, sources are missing, and/or bibliography is missing
Content 35 Argument is strong, supported and well reasoned. Content is accurate and well researched 28 Argument is weak in some areas, you jump to conclusions without explaining at least once, and/or you go slightly off topic 21 Your argument is weak in general, and/or you go significantly off topic 10 I’m not entirely sure what the point is, or you made a point and walked away from it.
  100 80 55 25

 

 

Score _________________________

 

 

Name ______________________________________________

 

Presentation Rubric

 

 

Category Above Standard Standard Below Standard Unacceptable
Introduction and Thesis: What is the point? 15) Clear thesis with background and hook 13) Clear Thesis; weak background or hook 10) Missing thesis, or it’s not clear 5) …you tried, but was there a point to this?
Body: Give me the data and supporting arguments! 35) Body makes sense and supports your thesis, well reasoned with sources 27) elements not well defined, rambles a bit, needed to cite your sources better 16) You just started talking but I think I found a point in there somewhere!

Sources not cited nearly enough

5) … you were up there, but I don’t know why we are talking about this
Conclusion: What did we do? 15) Presentation leads to clear conclusion with restated thesis and summary of arguments 12) Conclusion is present; thesis restated; summary of arguments too brief 5) No summary or no restated thesis 0) You just ended it … I feel incomplete now!
References: where did it come from? 10) Appropriate citations in the presentation and a references slide correctly formatted 8) Citations were in the slides, but were not formatted correctly/consistently 5) No citations in the presentation or no bibliography 0) No apparent use of any outside sources… seriously!??!

 

Visual Aid Use: I want to look at something! 10) Good use of images and key words/phrases;  the only sentence was your thesis 8) Slides may have too much text (not paragraphs), may not include appropriate images or may be too few 6) Slides have paragraphs and presenter is reading from the slide…

STOP THAT!

Or it’s not very helpful

0) no useful visuals at all…at the very least write on the board!!
Time 5) Good to go! 4) A bit over or under

+/- about a minute

2) significantly over or under

+/- more than 90 seconds

0) I fell asleep and class was over when I woke up…or you just said “hi” and sat down!
Fluency and Rapport: uhhhhhhhh… 10) Smooth with eye contact with the audience & you sound confident! 9) Mostly smooth, making some eye contact, mostly confident! 6) lots of  “uh’s”: You don’t sound confident or you just read to me from a paper…zzzzz… 0) huh?
TOTAL 100 80 50 10

 

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