Religious Studies 133: Introduction to Religion

Indiana University-Purdue University


Instructor: Dr. Kelly Hayes


Office Telephone: 278-2639

Office Hours: M: 3–4:00 p.m. and by appointment (Cavanaugh Hall 335)     


Semester: Spring 2009

Time: M, W 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

Location: Cavanaugh Hall 241


 One of the responsibilities of the academic study of religion is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” –David Chidester



It is often said that religion touches on humanity’s deepest fears and answers our most basic questions. Religion is a factor in some of our most intractable conflicts, such as the events of 9-11 and contemporary political struggles about same-sex marriage or stem cell research. More than ever, a well-rounded liberal arts education must include the study of religion and its role in human history. However, studying religion academically is not the same thing as being religious. In religious studies, we investigate religion as a human phenomenon: our starting point is not "God," but how humans have imagined, described, worshipped and made claims about the supernatural in different times and places. This means that we will take a comparative approach to religions, looking for similarities and differences, without privileging any particular religion.  We will develop skills to understand, compare and critically analyze religions. You will leave this class with a better understanding of how humans have shaped religions and how religions have shaped human history and the contemporary world.


In the first third of the course, we will survey a variety of ancient and contemporary religions practiced in different parts of the world, including Native American and African traditions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Drawing on this foundation, in the second third of the course we will employ a broader, conceptual approach to investigate religion as a cross-cultural human phenomenon, comparing and contrasting seven dimensions of religion: experience, myth, ritual, community, doctrine, ethics and aesthetics. In the last third of the course, the case study of a contemporary religious movement will allow us to bring these approaches together.



1.     To introduce the student to the academic study of religion.

2.     To foster understanding of the role and significance of religion in human history.

3.     To encourage critical thinking about religion and its impact in the world today.

4.     To introduce the dimensions of religion, and relate them to one another and to the broader social and historical contexts of particular religions.

5.     To develop analytical and interpretive skills appropriate to the humanities, including the ability to write effectively.





The following books are available at the campus bookstore, and are on 2-hr. reserves at the circulation desk of the library:

1. Denise and John Carmody, The Range of Religion

2. Lewis Hopfe and Mark Woodward, Religions of the World (11th ed.)

3. Dennis Covington, Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia



Additional readings for this course are available in PDF format in the folder titled “Additional Readings” located in the Resources area of Oncourse CL, or directly from: 133/REL 133 class readings/

It is highly recommended that you access these readings from campus and either print them out immediately or download them to a disk. These readings are indicated in the class schedule by the abbreviation (ON). They are listed alphabetically by the first words of the title (excluding “The”).



This course assumes that learning is an on-going process, occurring both in and outside of the classroom. This process is enhanced by your careful preparation and critical reflection upon the assigned readings outside of the classroom—something that requires an active engagement with the materials. For these reasons, close reading of the assigned materials, attendance and active participation in class discussion are essential. In general, you will be expected to think about the topics presented, not to reproduce information (although some mastery of factual material is necessary). I will routinely call on you to contribute to class discussions, therefore you should come to class prepared to discuss the readings.


Class time will be structured as a forum for lecture and discussion, with lecture predominating in the first part of the course as we establish a common framework for our studies. Lectures will supplement, extend or provide context for the readings, they will not repeat them. Course materials will also be presented in the form of films, slides and guest speakers.


1.     Readings. Assigned readings should be completed BEFORE the class meeting for which they are assigned. Careful, critical reading of the assigned texts is essential for your understanding of the lectures and for productive class discussion.

2.     Reading Quizzes (10%). There will be three quizzes given in Unit I covering the assigned readings. Students must be present to take the quiz and no make-ups will be given. Two quizzes will count towards the final grade; the quiz with the lowest score will be dropped.

3.     Reading Guides (25%). During Units II and III, in lieu of reading quizzes students will complete a set of reading guide questions prior to each class period. These must be typed and will be collected at random. Reading guides submitted later than one class period after the due date will not be accepted.

4.     Field Report (20%). Attendance at a religious service of a tradition other than your own, and a written report of your observations. More information about this assignment will be given in class.

5.     Current Events Presentation (5%). Each student is required to make a 5-minute oral presentation on a current events topic concerning religion from the national news. More information about this assignment will be given in class.

6.     Midterm Examination (20%). An in-class exam drawn from a set of questions covering the course materials. A study-guide will be made available beforehand.

7.     Final Examination (20%). A comprehensive, in-class exam. A study-guide will be made available beforehand.



There are 1,000 total points that can be earned in this class. They are distributed as follows:

Reading Quizzes                                 10% of course grade                (100 points)

Reading Guides                                   25% of course grade                (250 points)

Field Report                                        20% of course grade                (200 points)

Current Events Presentation                    5% of course grade                    (50 points)

Mid-term exam                                   20% of course grade                (200 points)

Final Exam                                          20% of course grade               (200 points)


The following percentile scale will be used to determine grades: 90-100 = A; 80-89 = B; 70-79 = C; 60-69 = D; 59 and under = F. The top and bottom two numbers within each grade bracket correspond to plus and minus grade designations, respectively (e.g., 88-89 = B+, 80-81 = B-).



In addition to the extra credit possibilities listed on the schedule, others will be announced periodically in class. For more information about extra credit in this course, refer to the document entitled “Guidelines for Extra Credit” (on the Resources page of Oncourse).



Students must have access to Oncourse and should regularly check our class site for announcements, extra credit options, assignments and other information, particularly if you are absent from class.



Failure to take either of the exams or to complete the field report will mean an F mark for the course. All written work must be typed; assignments longer than one page should be numbered and stapled, with your name on each page. You are expected to save copies of your work. Assignments must be submitted on or before the due dates, exceptions only in extraordinary circumstances and with written documentation and/or my prior approval. Assignments—including papers—later than one class period from the due date will not be accepted. Your absence from class at these times does not in itself grant you an automatic extension.



Attendance is mandatory, not optional, and will affect your final course grade. I neither want nor need to know the reason for your absence from class, but be warned that it will have the following consequences: 1) any late homework will receive half-credit and will not be accepted if later than one class period from the due date (see above); and, 2) more than four absences over the course of the semester will lower your final course grade by a half (1/2) letter grade for each subsequent absence (e.g. from a B to a B- and so forth). Exceptions will be made only in cases of documented hospitalization or grave necessity (such as the death of a close relative). In all cases, attendance should take priority over assignments—do not skip class because you have not completed an assignment!



Plagiarism is the use of the work of others without properly crediting the actual source of the ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs, entire articles, music or pictures. Plagiarism is a form of stealing and is a serious offense. Avoid the temptation to plagiarize: DO NOT cut and paste sentences or phrases from the internet or other sources into your written work. Do not copy sentences verbatim from the readings into your homework, instead, use your own words. Whenever you take words from, or whenever your ideas or expressions have been shaped by, another author or source (other than our class), you must reference these borrowings and contributions using the proper citation format.


I may use the anti-plagiarism software “” to guarantee that the work you submit is all your own. A finding of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for that assignment and notification of the appropriate authorities (see Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct:



If you need assistance, guidance, some reassuring words, or would just like to chat about something pertaining to the course, drop by during office hours or write me an email.  Please note that you can expect a response to any e-correspondence within twenty-four hours or less during regular business hours; I do not check e-mail after 5 pm or on weekends.


For students who require particular types of accommodation and assistance, please contact IUPUI’s Adaptive Education Services (AES).  You can learn more about AES by visiting its home page,  You can contact AES by phone, 274-3241 (voice) or 278-2050 (TDD/TTY), and e-mail,








EXPERIENTIAL: That dimension of religion wherein the superhuman realm is perceived as being experienced directly (in an instant or cumulatively over time), and which evokes an emotional response or feeling (of awe, dread, fascination, etc).  In order to be understood, described or communicated, such an experience must be interpreted. One can interpret and preserve the experience using original imagery or by adapting imaginative concepts and language drawn from culture, folklore, legends, religious stories, or sacred texts.

Examples: The revelation to Muhammad, prophecy, satori, sensing an answer to a prayer, speaking in tongues.


RITUAL: This dimension includes the highly symbolic activities of prayer, worship and other patterned behaviors designed to re-enact, commemorate, or celebrate an important event in a tradition’s sacred history; to bring about communication with the superhuman realm; and/or to foster experience. Ritual is a “scripted performance” consisting of symbolic gestures and words that produce a felt participation in a tradition’s sacred beliefs or traditions and that affirms or transforms people’s identities, roles and communal bonds.

Examples: the hajj, baptism, Eucharist, formal prayer, Sabbath observances, rites of passage (Bar or Bat Mitzvah, confirmation, vision quest), holiday celebrations (Passover, Easter, Diwali, etc)


SOCIAL/COMMUNAL: This dimension refers to the forms in which religious teaching, authority, and common living are organized and transmitted. A body of people linked by common beliefs and practices or the observance of prohibitions that mark them as different from other communities or the outside world.

Examples: church, synagogue, Muslim umma, Buddhist sangha, temple, mosque, cult, sect


DOCTRINAL: This dimension contains explanatory statements about the beliefs of a religion. Religious beliefs are usually embedded in stories (preserved in oral tradition, text or Scripture, folklore, myth, etc) and doctrine is the attempt to interpret these stories and to explain logically and consistently the beliefs or ideas embedded in them. Doctrine is thus a product of a philosophical process that is applied to these stories in order to clarify or harmonize contradictory beliefs and to give them intellectual vigor using human reason. Doctrines provide religion with intellectual systems of guidance for the purposes of practice, instruction, discipline, interpretation, propaganda, proselytization and polemic. They are organized systematically in some traditions but not in others. Theology is the study of doctrine.

Examples: creeds, Papal bulls, theologies, rules for interpreting sacred texts, systematic teachings about sin, sexuality, salvation, the afterlife, etc.


ETHICAL: A religion’s more or less systematically organized set of beliefs and behavioral guidelines about right and wrong. Ethics prescribes moral ideals for personal and social life and prohibits activities contrary to those ideals.

Examples: the Ten Commandments, the Sha’ria, Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, the Eightfold Path


MYTHOLOGICAL: Narratives or stories about beginnings and endings, gods, culture heroes, special times, places, historical events. Myths establish paradigmatic models for the universe and for the relationships of humans to each other and to the superhuman realm. They are past-oriented narratives told for the purposes of the present: to explain or legislate a certain order to the universe, to explain or legislate certain relationships (such as that between men and women), and to explain or legislate certain values (“be fruitful and multiply,” honoring parents, stewarding animals).  Cosmogonic myths are stories about creation.

Examples: Genesis 1-3, stories about Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, spirits or ancestors


AESTHETIC: This dimension includes all of the ways that religion seeks to engage the senses and communicate its beliefs and values through material objects (stained glass windows, ritual vestments, etc.), the organization of space (architecture, altars), or other sensory media (incense, special foods).

Examples: religious art, sculpture, statuary, music and dancing, ritual vestments and objects, ceremonial food and drink.



Beliefs                          Practices


doctrines                      experience

ethics               aesthetics         institutions

myths                          rituals









What is the Academic Study of Religion?” (ON) and Hopfe, 1-11


I.              SURVEY OF WORLD RELIGIONS                                                               


JAN   19          NO CLASS (Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday)



Hopfe, chapter 3



Hopfe, chapter 2

Guest Lecture: Dr. Johnny Flynn

Quiz 1


JAN   28        NO CLASS (Snow Day)


FEB  2         BUDDHISM

Hopfe, chapter 6

Guest Lecture: Dr. Walter Robinson


FEB  4        HINDUISM

Hopfe, chapter 4 (skip section entitled “Devotion to Knowledge” on pp. 102-106)

Quiz 2


FEB  9        JUDAISM I

Hopfe, chapter 11 (up to section entitled “Judaism and the Modern World” on p. 271)

Guest Lecture: Rabbi Aaron Spiegel


FEB 11             JUDAISM II

Hopfe, 271-285



Hopfe, chapter 12 (up to section entitled “Growth of the Church of Rome” on p. 310) and the following two website readings:

1) "What can we really know about Jesus" (Read all 5 pages)

2) "The Diversity of Early Christianity" (Read all 7 pages)

Film #1 From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians (vol. II)

Extra Credit Option: The Last Temptation of Christ (film by Martin Scorcese)




Hopfe, 310-334

Quiz 3


FEB  23          ISLAM I

Hopfe, chapter 13 (up to section entitled “Variations within Islam” on p. 364)

Film #2: Islam: Empire of Faith (vol. I)                                                                 


FEB  25          ISLAM II     

Hopfe, 364-373


MAR  2          MIDTERM EXAM





EXPERIENTIAL DIMENSION: Embodiment and Experience


MAR  4        “Zen Buddhism” (ON) and Carmody, 8-10 and 11-26 (Philip Kapleau)    


MAR  9        Carmody, 27-43 (Julian of Norwich); Carmody, 44-58 (Michael Harner)


RITUAL DIMENSION: Practice and Performance


MAR   11        Carmody, 145-163 (Malcolm X: Mecca)

Film #3: The Haj

Extra Credit Option: “Pilgrims at Heart” (ON)


MAR  16 - 22   NO CLASS (Spring Break)


MAR  23        “The Lubavitchers of Brooklyn” (ON) and

Carmody, 164-177 (Lis Harris: Sabbath excerpt)

Extra Credit Option: article: “Bring Back the Sabbath” (ON)



SOCIAL DIMENSION: Institutions and Communities


MAR  25          “The Dietary Laws: A Diet for the Soul” (Kosher) (ON)






MAR  30        Carmody, 63-76 (Marcel Griaule excerpt: Dogon)

(bring to class for discussion)


APR  1           Genesis 1-3 (NRSV Bible) (ON)

(bring to class for discussion)


DOCTRINAL DIMENSION: Authority and Interpretation


APR  6         The Oneida Community” (

and “Oneida Community” (ON) (bring to class for discussion)



APR   8          “Women and Marriage, Vatican Style” (ON) (bring to class for discussion)


ETHICAL DIMENSION: Religion and Violence


APR   13        Soldiers for Christ;” and “Islam’s Neglected Duty” (ON)

(bring to class for discussion)


APR   15        “Symmetric Dualisms: Bush and bin Laden on October 7” and “Appendix B-C” (ON) (bring to class for discussion)

 Extra Credit Option: “Why Do They Hate Us?” (ON); or “Osama bin Laden” (ON)


AESTHETIC DIMENSION: Afro-Brazilian Religions


APR  20        “The Orixás” (ON)

Film #4: Bahia: Africa in the Americas


APR  22        Umbanda” (ON)




APR  27          Covington, Prologue and 1-63

Film #5: Joy Unspeakable


APR  29          Covington, 64-177 (skip Chapter 6; skip 137-144)


MAY  4        Covington, 178-end



(EXAM WILL BE HELD FROM 8:00 A.M. – 10:00 A.M. in CAV 241)  (NOTE the difference of time)