Religion in the United States and 140y Polk Tues

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RL ST 140Y.001Polk
Religion in American Life and ThoughtSpring 2013

COURSE POLICIES AND OVERVIEW

Instructor: Senior Lecturer Bryan PolkEmail: bep3@psu.edu Classroom: 208 SutherlandClass Times: 9:30-10:45 TR
Office: 323 SutherlandTelephone: 215/881-7548
Office Hours:11:00-12:00 MW; By Appointment 1:00-2:00 MW, 1:30-2:30 TR

Catalogue Description: (GH; US) (3) “The function, contributions, tensions, and perspectives of religion in American culture.”

The United States is arguably one of the most religious nations in the contemporary world. In the milieu of a dizzying diversity when it comes to religious expressions, many Americans participate more actively in their religions than virtually any other populace on the planet. Why this is so and what effect this participation has on American life and thought are the primary questions this course seeks to investigate. We will pursue this investigation through an exceptionally interactive course model. I hope to show you how people can discuss highly sensitive topics with mutual respect and understanding even when—and especially when—they disagree. I fully expect you to learn how to disagree with me and with some of your classmates without turning to hostile diatribes and ad hominem arguments. Furthermore, we will move beyond the type of “sound-byte journalism” that dominates our national debates on these issues, taking the time and exerting the effort to delve into the complexities and nuances of these very important issues.

The course is divided into three major sections, or units:
1) Religion and the “Founding Fathers” of the United States;

RL ST 140Y—page 2Polk

2) Religion and Contemporary Issues:
a) Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism
b) Social Issues
c) Politics
d) Education
3) Diversity and Identity Among:
a) Roman Catholics
b) Jews
c) Muslims.
d) Less “mainstream” religions: Scientology, Christian Science, Society of Friends (Quakers), et al. We will investigate these units through lectures, class discussions, films, and guest speakers. If you know of someone who you think might be an appropriate addition to our list of speakers, please let us know. Sounds like a pretty good way to spend a semester, eh?

Textbook: There are only three:
Hemeyer, Julia Corbett. Religion in America (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson, 2006.
Meacham, Jon. American Gospel. New York: Random House, 2006.
The Bible (preferably The New Revised Standard Version).
These books are available now at a college bookstore near you and should be acquired immediately. There is an assignment in both books for the first week. There are/will be dozens of postings on ANGEL to supplement this book. Some of these will also be required readings throughout the semester.

Continued….
RL ST 140Y—page 3Polk

Grades: Grades in this course are calculated on a 1,000 point system:
A = 930 points or more;C+ = 770-799 points;
A- = 900-929 points;C = 700-769 points;
B+ = 870-899 points;D = 600-699 points;
B = 830-869 points;F = below 600 points.
B- = 800-829 points;
Your grade for this course will be based on five components of varying weights:
Class Participation200 points
Questions for Speakers (see below)200 points
Quizzes (best 4 x 50 points)200 points
Paper #1150 points
Paper #2250 points

Missed quizzes cannot be made up and may not be announced.
In advance of each of our guest speakers you will be required to conduct background research on them, the organization they represent, or the subject on which they will speak. Based on this research, you must generate one written, substantive question for the speaker. These questions must be turned in, in duplicate, at least one class before the class in which the guest speaker makes his or her presentation. You are to take great care to avoid...
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