Religious Studies 111

RELN 111: Introduction to Religion

Credit Hours: (3)

Presents recurrent forms and issues in religious life, e.g. myths, rituals, the nature of the divine, good and evil, and introduces students to the academic study of religion. Traditions are covered thematically, with emphasis upon cross-cultural features of religion and pertinent theories.

Note(s): This course has been approved for Core Curriculum credit in Humanities.


Detailed Description of the Content of the Course

This course introduces students to the academic study of religion. While this course is taught by several different instructors who may use a variety of approaches to achieve this goal, it will be developed thematically and emphasize the cross-cultural study of religion. Students will learn about recurrent forms, such as, myth, ritual and symbol that are part of a variety of religions. They will explore significant issues, such as the nature of the divine, good and evil, and the problem of suffering. Students will also learn about significant theories, such as those of Freud, Eliade, Geertz, and Turner. They will learn to distinguish the academic study of religion, a scholarly investigation of a universal type of human behavior, from personal belief and theology.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Though primarily a lecture course, this course will also involve students in small group and open class discussion and a variety of formal and informal writing activities. The format of this course, which is taught by several different instructors, may vary but in every case the course will involve a plurality of instructional strategies designed to help the student understand the academic study of religion, recurrent forms, key concepts, and significant theories. Whether or not a formal research paper is assigned students will be expected to employ basic research skills, including the use of computer technology to investigate and gather information on various theorists, persons, and topics discussed in class. Instructors will use a variety of teaching activities including:

  • Lecture and discussion led by the instructor
  • Small-group discussion
  • In-class formal or informal debates
  • Individual or group oral presentations
  • Informal in-class and out-of-class writing assignments
  • Keeping journals
  • Individual and collaborative research activities involving
      library and Internet searches
  • Written and oral analyses of texts
  • Written summaries/evaluations of out-of-class events
  • Videos, slides, and multimedia presentations


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students should be able to:

  • Define the term "religion"
  • Discuss "religion" as an aspect of human life and culture
  • Recognize recurrent forms such as myths, rituals, and symbols which are aspects of diverse religions
  • Recognize some of the important theories about the function of religion in the lives of individuals and communities
  • Appreciate the importance of Religious Studies as a means to understanding humans as individuals and members of communities
  • Appreciate the importance of Religious Studies as a means to understanding diverse cultures

General Education Program Objectives

As part of the General Education program, this course is designed to help students achieve a number of broad learning goals in addition to the course-specific goals identified above. Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Reflect critically, comparatively, and creatively about the diverse ways that humans individually, socially, and culturally have defined their ultimate concerns and the implications of those definitions for spiritual, moral, and artistic expression
  • Recognize a variety of methodological approaches to the study of religion and develop the ability to utilize these approaches to investigate problems
  • Collaborate with others in small group discussions, research projects, and presentations
  • Identify personal and cultural assumptions and values underlying religious belief and practice and the impact of these assumptions on one's response to diverse religious viewpoints.

General Education Humanities Area Objectives

In addition to the course-specific goals and the broad General Education learning goals indicated above, this course is intended to help students achieve a number of learning objectives in the Humanities Area of the General Education program. In particular, upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the general nature and various methods of inquiry in Religious Studies, such as historical, phenomenological, and social-scientific approaches.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation for the characteristically human quest to identify and interact with the sacred, the supernatural, or the divine as an avenue in the pursuit of meaning, value, and order in life.
  • Analyze and evaluate historically and culturally diverse conceptions of the meaning and purpose of human life and the relationship of those conceptions to the ultimate concerns of human beings.
  • Interpret and critically evaluate contemporary and literature, music, painting, sculpture, texts, and scriptures as diverse expressions of and responses to the ultimate concerns of humans.
  • Discuss in speech and writing the relevance of the study of the religion in relationship to their own lives.


Assessment Measures

Student progress in achieving the course-specific objectives and the General Education goals established for this course will be measured in a variety of ways. Because this course is taught by a variety of instructors, the specific assessment instruments employed may vary, but in every case the instructor will employ some of the following methods to evaluate aspects of student learning.

  • Graded and ungraded homework assignments may be used to measure the student’s ability to read texts carefully, to identify the underlying values and assumptions, to articulate central concepts.
  • Journals may be used to measure the development of self-reflection and progress in critical and creative thinking about the ideas, issues, and texts of the course.
  • Class discussions, debates, and small group discussion may be used to measure the student’s logical reasoning and oral communication skills as well as the student’s ability to work with others in a shared process of inquiry.
  • Individual and group oral presentations may be used to measure the student’s understanding of particular theological, historical, or social-scientific theories.
  • Essay examinations, objective tests, and quizzes may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the nature and methods of Religious Studies, knowledge of the course material and ability to think and to write with clarity.
  • Research reports may be used to measure the student’s ability to employ appropriate research methods and technologies.
  • Term papers may be used to measure: the student’s understanding of theories, key concepts, and definitions significant for the academic study of religion; the student’s ability to think and write with clarity; and to demonstrate the relevance of the academic study of religion to his or her own life and concerns.


Other Course Information


Approval and Subsequent Reviews

Date Action Reviewed by
July 1991 Compilation from all instructors Charles D. Taylor
May 1994 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling
May 1995 Catalog entry revised Kim J. Kipling
January 27, 1997 Title change, catalog description, Revision Approved by VPAA
April 17, 1998 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling
April 21, 1999 Syllabus revised Kim J. Kipling
September 18, 2001 Reviewed Kim J. Kipling