HIST 492/REL 492
World Religions

10:00--11:50 a.m.
MJ 101
 Art Marmorstein             
 Office: TC 363                  
Phone: 626-2608              
marmorsa@northern.edu


INTRODUCTION:

This course will compare and contrast Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam--seven of the world's most important relgions/religious philosophies.

REQUIRED TEXTS:


   
The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions  (Philip Novak)  ISBN 978-0-08-066342-1
    The World's Religions (Huston Smith)  ISBN 0061660183
    God is Not One (Stephen Prothero) ISBN 978-0-06-157128-2)
    The Bible (I prefer you use the KJV, RSV, NRSV, NKJV or NAS)

         
There are two main texts for this course, Huston Smith's The World's Religions and Philip Novak's God is Not One. These books will serve as excellent supplements to the materials I present in class and online.
As you will discover, these books take very different approaches to world religions. Huston Smith suggests that what religious faiths have in common is more important that what separates them, arguing that all world religions point to the same essential truths and serve the same essential needs. Novak argues that the differences among the major religions are often deep and profound, and that, in practice, it makes a great deal of difference what religious tradition a society follows.

The other readings (those from the Bible, the Novak anthology, and the online readings) will serve as the basis for our in-class and online discussions.  I will have a prompt and a discussion thread on class blog for each of these readings.  Please read the prompt before starting the reading assignment.  I’ll be giving you specific instructions on what I want you to look for and exactly how much reading I want you to do.  In general, I am looking for quality reading rather than quantity.

ONLINE MATERIALS:

I will post transcripts of my lectures on my website (www3.northern.edu/marmorsa). There will be links to other online materials on the class blog Many a Winding Turn 2018 (http://manyturns2016.blogspot.com). Please let me know right away if you have any problems logging into the blog or finding the materials on my Web site.

GRADING:

Your grade for this course will be based primarily on two papers (take-home exams) each of which will count approximately 35% when I determine your final grade. In addition, I will take into consideration class participation as part of the “live” classroom and/or the online-discussion boards. I both in-class and online to add their comments to the online blog whenever there are primary source readings assigned.  Online students should *also* come back to the blog later, read all other student comments, and respond to what one or two of the other students have said.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE HYBRID CLASS:

Recent research suggests that they hybrid class, a class that combines a live classroom experience with online materials is optimal for learning. I hope that, eventually, I will be able to make this class into a true hybrid. 

Most class members will get something of the hybrid advantage this summer, and I encourage you, if possible to participating both in the on-campus lectures/discussion *and* make full use of the online materials.  However, I’ve set things up so that students who can’t be on campus regularly can still do well in the course.  I’ve had a student complete the course successfully while stationed in Afghanistan, and if your “station” is in (say) Watertown, you should be able to do just fine.

SCHEDULE OF CLASSES AND READINGS:

5/21     Quo vadis? Introduction to World Religions
5/22     Many a Winding Turn: Hinduism in Thought and Practice (Novak pp.1-48, Prothero Ch. 4, Smith Ch. 2)
5/23     Classroom Full of Stars: An Introduction to Theater Games
5/24    The Once and Future Road: Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana
5/25     Beyond this Material World I (online session)

5/28    Memorial Day: No Class
5/29    An Eight-fold Road: Buddha and his Message (Novak 49-110, Prothero Ch. 5, Smith Ch. 3 )
5/30    Greater Roads and a Lesser Roads: Forms of Buddhism
5/31     Getting it Write (paper/project advice)
6/1      Beyond this Material World II (online session)

6/4      Back to the Future: Confucianism (Novak 111-144, Prothero Ch. 3, Smith Ch. 4)
6/5     A Road that's not a Road: Taoism and Its Teachings (Novak pp. 145-174, Prothero Ch. 8, Smith Ch. 5)
6/6      Jacob's Road Map: Biblical Judaism (Novak pp. 176-212, Prothero Ch. 7, Smith Ch. 7)
6/7    
The Lonesome Road: Diaspora Judaism (Novak pp. 213-227)
6/8    Beyond this Material World III (online session)

6/11   
Shul Days, Shul Days (synagogue visit)
6/12   
What I did on my Summer Vacation I (paper/project presentations)
6/13    The Narrow Road: New Testament Christianity (Novak pp. 228-281, Prothero Ch. 2, Smith Ch. 8)
6/14    Divided Highway: Christian Denominations
6/15    Beyond this Material World IV (online session)

6/18    Islam (Novak pp. 282-333, Prothero Ch. 1, Smith Ch. 6)
6/19    The Road to Ruin: Religious Wars
6/20    The Broad Road: Ecumenical Movements, Secularism, and the Exciting Final Lecture!
6/21    What I did on my Summer Vacation II (paper/project presentations)
6/22    Beyond This Material World IV (online session)

ASSIGNMENT DEADLINES:

I know that balancing family, work, and school can be particularly hard during the summer.  Because of this, I will be more flexible than I usually am with deadlines. However, I plan to do lots of class discussion, and it helps a lot when students have read the primary sources and added their blog comments before class on the day the material is assigned.  Also, I’ve got two classes scheduled where I’m planning to have students share their work with the rest of the class (What I did on Summer Vacation I and II).  It would be nice if your work is ready to be turned in on those days.  There will be no penalty for late papers/projects, but I do expect you to be able to talk about your projects with the rest of the class whether complete or not.

EXAM/PAPER FORMAT:

The exams for this class are essentially take-home papers asking for your reflections on the readings and the material presented during each week of class.  Writing these papers can be a dreadful chore--or it can be one of the most valuable learning experiences you'll ever have.  It might be both!

In my own undergraduate days, I learned more from writing papers than from anything else my professors asked me to do.  The assignments forced me to read closely some of the greatest works of all time.  Often enough when I began my work, I didn't see any point in struggling through the difficult and sometimes lengthy works assigned.  But as I read and reread the texts, struggling to find something to say, quite often a light would come on.  All of a sudden I would see what the writer was up to, or at least part of what the writer was up to--and I'd get excited about writing. I hope that you have the same kind of experience as you write your papers for me.

          Length: 4-6 pages (1000-1500 words)
          Format: typed, double spaced, standard (1") margins
          Penalty for late papers: none
          Penalty for plagiarism: death

I will evaluate your papers using the rubric attached to this syllabus.  As you are writing and revising, use the rubric to evaluate your own work.

Be sure to follow proper MLA form for citing classical and Biblical sources.  One cites classical sources differently from other works!  With religious texts, cite by title and book/chapter/line/verse number, not by page number. For this paper, you may cite any of the selections in the Novak anthology by a parenthetic reference to Prothero himself (e.g., Prothero, p. 35). If you want to give credit to a fellow student or to me, just credit your source in the text: no need for a parenthetic citation.

Be sure your paper has a clear thesis.  It's almost impossible to get credit for logic or analysis if your thesis isn't clear.

Be sure to proofread your work before you turn it in.  It would be a good idea to have someone else proofread your paper as well.

Be sure to give your paper an interesting title.  A good title reinforces your thesis and will often help the reader see the logic/organization of your paper.

PAPER ALTERNATIVE:

I encourage students to work on a creative project instead of a paper if they like.  Last summer, I had one student do a series of water color paintings illustrating the various religions we talked about.  He was able to use these painting in his senior art show.  Another student put together a children’s pop-up book retelling one of the Hindu stories.  A third student combined teachings from various religions as part of a chapter for a science fiction/fantasy novel, while another student wrote a play for me.  This class lends itself easily to creative approaches!

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY STATEMENT:

Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty and misconduct run contrary to the purposes of higher education.   Cheating includes the use of any notes during the midterm or final exam.  Please place no marks of any kind on or in your blue book before I give the signal to begin taking the exam.  All exams must be taken on blank bluebooks.  On at least one exam, bluebooks will be checked before the exam.  Bluebooks that have not been checked, have missing pages, or pages with large erasures will not be accepted.

It is not cheating to study with another student, to share notes, or to prepare essays or ID's together. However, if you do study with another student, be sure you do not sit next to each other during the exam. 

Please be especially careful to observe academic integrity standards on the take-home quizzes. The quizzes are intended to make sure you have done the primary source readings, and your comments should be based on your own observations, not someone else’s ideas. Plagiarism (e.g. copying material from the internet or recycling work done by another student) is not allowed.  I do sometimes allow “group work” on quizzes, but unless I have specifically indicated that you are allowed to work with other students, make sure your quiz comments are entirely your own.  

Northern State University's official policy and procedures on cheating and academic dishonesty as outlined in the Northern State University Student Handbook applies to this course. Students caught cheating will receive a zero for the assignment, and, since zeros are worse than F's, they are likely to fail the course as a whole.

Note that cutting and pasting from an internet site is usually plagiarism, the most common form of academic dishonesty.   If you have any doubts as to what constitutes plagiarism, see me.

PAPER/EXAM #1

The first half of the course will focus on the religions of the Far East. These religions have much in common, but also major differences. While Eastern faiths can often be blended, they are sometimes incompatible. Further, choosing among these faiths means important changes in lifestyle as well. Please demonstrate your understanding of these themes by writing an essay of 1000-1500 words that addresses one (1) of the following prompts:

1.  Stephen Prothero and Huston Smith take very different approaches to world religions, Smith emphasizing what the great religions have in common and Prothero emphasizing the differences among faiths.  Choose any two of the great Eastern religious traditions that we looked at in class (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) and compare and contrast what Prothero and Smith have to say about these faiths.  Which author makes the more convincing argument?  Support your view with citations from the religious texts studied in class.

2.  Most Roman philosophers avoided choosing a single philosophical master, but embraced instead what's called eclecticism, picking and choosing what they liked best from a variety of philosophies.  Eastern religions tend to lend themselves well to eclecticism.  Suppose you were trying to find for yourself a faith that drew on all four Eastern religious philosophies discussed in class.  What Eastern teachings would you include in your personal religious philosophy?  What would you avoid?

3.  Following a religion involves more than just believing certain things. With the Eastern Religions in particular, religion permeates every area of life.  Choose an area of life particularly important to you (e.g., law, ethics, family life, cultural/artistic life, economic life) and compare and contrast what the four Eastern faiths we studied in class have to say about this issue.

4.  Much of the finest religious teaching is done in story form.  Choose some favorite stories from some of the religions we have studied so far.  What do you find particularly appealing in these stories?  What lessons do the stories teach that might not be so easily taught in a different format? 

PAPER/EXAM #2

The second half of this class focuses on three great monotheistic religions, Christianity Judaism and Islam and a fourth "faith" which, for lack of a better name, is often called secularism.  These faiths have much in common, but also major differences. Not surprisingly, adherents of these faiths have often been in conflict with each other, though they often try to find enough common ground where they can peacefully coexist.  Please demonstrate your understanding of these faiths and their potential for cooperation and conflict by writing an essay of 1000-1500 words that addresses one (1) of the following prompts:

1.  Stephen Prothero and Huston Smith take very different approaches to world religions, Smith emphasizing what the great religions have in common and Prothero emphasizing the differences among faiths.  Choose any two of the faiths discussed in the last part of the course (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Secularism) and compare and contrast what Prothero and Smith have to say about these faiths.  Which author makes the more convincing argument?  Support your view with citations from the religious texts studied in class.

2.  "Why can't we all just get along?" asked Rodney King during the riots following his beating by the police. Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons why we can't so easily get along with each other, and, while religion might sometimes help end conflicts, it might aggravate conflicts as well. Discuss the reasons followers of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and/or Secularism  might end up at odds with one another.  Are there ways of reconciling the differences and living at peace, or are conflicts inevitable?

3.  Following a religion involves more than just believing certain things: it involves actions as well. Choosing to follow Judaism, Christianity, Islam or Secularism has a great deal of influence on aspects of life not always immediately seen as religious.  Choose an area of life particularly important to you (e.g., law, ethics, family life, cultural/artistic life, economic life) and compare and contrast what the four faiths we studied in class have to say about this issue.

4.   Some human achievements involve the discovery of already existing truths, e.g., Newton's discovery of the law of universal gravitation.  Others involve invention, e.g., Watt's invention of a more efficient steam engine.  And sometimes human achievements are based on something else entirely: Kepler claimed that, though he had worked hard, his dicovery of the laws of planetary motion came about through "divine providence."  Compare the religions we studied in the last half of class.  To what extent do these religions seem to reflect "discovered" universal truths?  To what extent do these religions seem to be invented, employing human ingenuity to achieve a desired end?  To what extent do they involve elements of something like Kepler's "divine providence," e.g., to what extent are they "revealed" religions?

5.  Much of the finest religious teaching is done in story form.  Choose some favorite stories from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  What do you find particularly appealing in these stories?  What lessons do the stories teach that might not be so easily taught in a different format?

6.  Imagine a trial involving this REL 492 class in one way or another, with charges brought against someone or something connected to the court.  Present  the case of either the prosecution or the defense (or perhaps both) would make at that trial.  Possible "trials" would include:

 Paper/Take-home Exam Rubric:

 

Criterion

Point Total

Comments

Introduction:

The introduction should gain the readers’ interest, identify the central issue of the essay, and create the tone for the essay.

 

 

Main point or thesis:

The essay should have a strong sense of purpose throughout. A good title, good topic sentences, and a solid thesis statement really help here.

 

 

Logic/organization:

The essay should have logical organization

 

 

Transitions:

The essay should move coherently from one idea to the next and the logical connections between ideas should be clear.

 

 

Support/evidence:

The essay should use specific evidence and details to support its claims, and this evidence should be sufficiently developed.

 

 

Analysis:

The essay should demonstrate the originality, reflective ability, analytical ability of the writer.

 

 

Diction/ voice:

The essay should employ a consistent voice, consistent diction, and precise/vivid language

 

 

Conclusion:

The conclusion should make one last effort to convince the reader, suggest larger implications of the thesis, and provide a sense of closure to the essay.

 

 

Final presentation:

The essay should demonstrate proper use of standard edited American English and use proper citations.

 

 

Comprehension:

The essay will demonstrate the writer’s comprehension of the material presented in this portion of the class.

 

 

Total Score/Overall Comments

 

 

 

Ten total points possible for each of the 10 categories, 100 points total.