World Religions

World Religions

Introduction to World Religions provides an introduction to key themes and concepts of religion. This learning resource begins with a discussion of the origins of religion, indigenous religions, and the importance of studying religion. The course reviews some of the most pervasive and influential world religions, including Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism. Students are encouraged to compare and contrast the central tenets of these religions.

This learning resource urges students to think critically about religious themes. Games, videos, and other interactive elements motivate students to progress while reviewing religious concepts, traditions, practices, and histories. Each module provides students with the opportunity to reflect and write on religious themes like compassion, morality, suffering, and sin and salvation. Discussion boards encourage students to examine these issues with their peers, and summaries provide a brief, consolidated review of the key concepts introduced in each module.

 

Module 1: Introduction to Religion

  • Discuss the definition of religion and its functions
  • Explore the theme of religion and existential questions (Why are we here? How are we supposed to live? What is the role of religion?)
  • Explore the creation stories of various world religions
  • Describe the study of religion by different disciplines (anthropology, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology)
  • Explain the role of myth and symbols in religion
  • Discuss the ancient religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome, and the Norse
  • Describe some early religious texts (the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Code of Hammurabi, and the Hebrew Torah)
  • Describe the nature of indigenous religions (Asian, African, Native American, etc.)
  • Explain Divine Command Theory and its use as a basis for morality and its limitations
  • Explore how different religions express the Golden Rule
  • Discuss the impact of religious belief systems and culture
  • Understand the relative time periods for the establishment of world religions (timeline)

Module 2: Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism

  • Discuss polytheism and monotheism and the religious implications of these beliefs
  • Discuss the historical background of Hinduism
  • Describe the key beliefs of Hinduism (<em>dharma</em>, reincarnation)
  • Discuss the key sacred writings of Hinduism (Vedas; Bhagavad-Gita; Upanishads)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Hinduism
  • Understand key questions and answers about Hinduism
  • Discuss the key beliefs and sacred writings of Jainism (Five Great Vows; <em>Agamas</em>)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Jainism
  • Discuss the key beliefs and sacred writings of Sikhism (Fusion beliefs; Adi Granth)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Sikhism

Module 3: Buddhism

  • Discuss the answer to the question of suffering advanced by different religions
  • Discuss the historical background of Buddhism
  • Describe the key beliefs of Buddhism (Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, rebirth, and <em>karma</em>)
  • Discuss the key sacred writings of Buddhism (Pali Tipitaka; Mahayana Sutras; Tibetan Book of the Dead)
  • Describe the major schools of Buddhism (Theravada, Mahayana)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Buddhism

Module 4: Judaism

  • Discuss ethics and the role of morality in religion
  • Discuss the historical background of Judaism
  • Describe the key beliefs of Judaism (Ten Commandments).
  • Discuss the key sacred writings of Judaism (Torah, <em>Talmud</em>)
  • Describe the varieties of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Judaism
  • Understand key questions and answers about Judaism
  • Discuss key issues in Judaism (Zionism and Israel-Palestine, the Holocaust, intermarriage)

Module 5: Christianity

  • Discuss how religions address questions of sin and salvation
  • Discuss the historical background of Christianity
  • Describe the key beliefs of Christianity (Golden Rule, Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes)
  • Discuss the key sacred writings of Christianity (The Old and New Testament)
  • Describe the varieties of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Christianity (First World and Third World)
  • Understand key questions and answers about Christianity
  • Discuss the key issues in Christianity (pacifism, social justice, sexuality)

Module 6: Islam

  • Discuss how religions address the question of free will
  • Discuss the historical background of Islam
  • Describe the key beliefs of Islam (Five Pillars)
  • Discuss the key sacred writings of Islam (Qur’an, Hadith)
  • Describe the varieties of Islam (Sunni, Shia, Sufism)
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Islam
  • Understand key questions and answers about Islam
  • Discuss the key issues in Islam (jihad, religious tolerance, gender equality)
  • Describe the historical background, key beliefs, and sacred writings of Bahaism
  • Explore the contemporary practice of the Baha’i faith

Module 7: Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto

  • Discuss how religions approach the question of compassion
  • Discuss the different perspectives brought by non-Western religions
  • Discuss the key beliefs and sacred writings of Confucianism
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Confucianism
  • Discuss the key beliefs and sacred writings of Daoism
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Daoism
  • Discuss the key beliefs and sacred writings of Shinto
  • Explore the contemporary practice of Shinto

Module 8: Religion Today

  • Explore the theme of the rise of secularism and its current role in society
  • Describe key secularist belief systems (Unitarian Universalism, Ethical Humanism, Agnosticism, Atheism)
  • Explain how globalization influences religion
  • Discuss the impact of science on religion
  • Explain the relationship between religion and environmentalism
  • Describe the role of religion in politics
  • Discuss the application of religious principles to contemporary issues
  • Explore the Principle of Conscience
  • Discuss issues for religion in the 21st century