Intro to Religious Studies

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Relg 141: Introduction to Religious Thought

Instructor: Dr. Tom Dickens Fall Semester, 2012 Office: 108 Clare Center T, Th 1:00-2:25; 2:35-4:00 E-mail: wtdickens@siena.edu Siena Hall 105

Course Description:

A survey of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that familiarizes students with their most important theological and ethical dimensions. Among the topics considered are notions of the divine, human existence, and the world. Using both primary and secondary materials, students will examine these religious traditions' diverse perspectives on these topics within their respective historical, social, and cultural contexts. There are no prerequisites for this course.

Objectives:

This course shares with other courses in the core curriculum the following objectives: To encourage critical thinking, to familiarize students with methods of study appropriate to the discipline, and to provide students with tools they will need to thrive within and contribute to a rapidly changing and diverse society. More specifically, students who do consistently excellent work in this course will, by the end of the semester, be able to

1. identify the assumptions students and scholars of religion bring to the study of religion; 2. identify the most significant persons, events, rituals, and beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; 3. appreciate the historical and contemporary diversity within and among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; 4. analyze the logical relationships among arguments presented in sacred texts of, as well as in historical and contemporary works by adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; 5. understand some of the practical, social implications of being an adherent of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam; 6. understand the human problems identified and the solutions proposed by adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; 7. understand and assess the main responses to some of the most pressing contemporary challenges confronting adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and 8. make informed, critical comparisons of their own views with those of the authors we read.

The mission and learning goals of the Religious Studies Department are listed here: http://www.siena.edu/pages/1937.asp

Required Texts:

The one required textbook for the course is World Religions Today, 4th edition, edited by John L. Esposito et al. Excerpts from other texts will be assigned as the occasion warrants. See the course outline in the syllabus for where to find them. There will be a modest copyright fee assessed for these materials.

Requirements:

Class participation will account for 20% of your final grade. The best participation grades will go to those who consistently demonstrate an excellent command of the material; who volunteer to participate frequently; who respond to my questions accurately; who comment thoughtfully, and who make insightful connections between the course materials and our world, including issues and ideas raised in other courses. Simply attending class without active, intelligent participation, as defined above, will yield a C- for participation. If you plan to miss class, you must let me know the reason before class by email. Failure to do so will lower your participation grade. So will more than four absences. More than seven absences will lead to a failing grade for the course.

Most of our time together in class will be spent discussing the assigned readings. You will find on the Blackboard course site a list of discussion questions based on the readings that we will use to organize our conversation. If you email me responses to these questions by 5:00 pm on Monday of the week we discuss them, you will improve your participation grade. These responses will not be graded, nor handed back, so I encourage you to keep a copy for yourself to use when preparing for the exams. Please...
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