Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:
(1) Describe the main philosophical tenets of the major world religions,
including but not necessarily limited to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism,
Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
(2) Critically evaluate these same philosophical tenets.
(3) Show the internal relationships between the ideas examined in each
of the religions under consideration.
(4) Compare and contrast the various religions with respect to their
conceptions of things such as: ultimate reality, the physical world,
humankind, afterlife and morality.
(5) Describe the origin, the historical development, the cultural
setting, and the global spread of each of the religions covered, in so far
as such considerations help elucidate the religious philosophies and
(6) Describe how these religions have influenced each other throughout
Topics include some of the following:
1. Key concepts and theories used in the philosophical study of world
religions (e.g., ultimate reality, theology, mythology, afterlife,
monotheism vs. polytheism, morality, history, rituals, scripture)
2. Historical development, tenets, and texts of the major world
a. Hinduism (Bhagavad Gita, Trimurti, Brahman-Atman, maya, karma,
samsara, caste system, four stages of life, yogas/paths)
b. Buddhism (life of Buddha, relation to Hinduism, Four Truths,
Eightfold Path, Tripitaka, anatman, nirvana, bodhisattva,
Theravada vs. Mahayana, zen, Tibetan Vajrayana)
c. Confucianism (life & historical context of Confucius, li, jen,
filial piety, education, relation to Taoism)
d. Taoism (legend of Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, I Ching, tao,
wu-wei, yin-yang, popular deities, relation to Zen Buddhism)
e. Judaism (creation, Patriarchs, Prophets, Exodus, Diaspora,
relation to Christianity, Zionism, Orthodox, Reform & Conservative
f. Christianity (life of Jesus, relation to Judaism, resurrection,
disciples, early Christians, incarnation, original sin, Trinity,
last judgment, Roman Catholicism vs. Protestantism vs. Eastern
g. Islam (life of Muhammad, Five Pillars, Sunnis vs. Shi'ites,
Sufism, jihad, relation to Christianity & Judaism, fundamentalist
3. The manner in which various religious ideologies have influenced each
other throughout history.
4. The effects that interrelationships between religions have had upon
global events and international relations.
May include any/all of the following:
1. Readings from course text and/or supplementary materials
2. Group discussion of specific issues raised in readings or lecture
3. Short essays (2-4 pages) comparing and contrasting various aspects
of the major religions
4. Research project and written essay (5-10 pages) defending a specific
position on a comparative issue.
5. Quizzes (multiple choice and/or short answer) on assigned readings
6. Midterm examinations including essay, short answer, and multiple
7. Final examination including essay, short answer, and mulitple choice
PATTERNS OF RELIGION, Roger Schmidt et al
1st edition, 1999, Wadsworth
EXPERIENCING THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS, Michael Molloy
2nd edition, 2002, McGraw-Hill
WORLD RELIGIONS TODAY, John L. Esposito, et al
1st edition, 2002, Oxford. U. P.
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD, Lewis M. Hopfe & Mark R. Woodward
8th edition, 2001, Prentice-Hall