Introduction to Comparative Religion

Introduction to Comparative Religion


Fall 2010
08/23/2010 - 12/12/2010

Course Information

Section 004
Distance Learning
Grant Potts

Office Hours

  • M W
    1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    RGC 3253

Course Requirements

This is an online class introducing you to the comparative study of religion and to religious traditions. You can expect to learn fundamentals of several religious traditions. although it does not offer a solid introduction to those tradtions, and to think critically about the issues that religion presents to the world today. You will also gain an understanding of the approaches scholars use to understand religion.

The course is organized into seven learning modules, each of which requires completing readings, reviewing online materials, completing short review quizes and writing a short formal essay demonstrating knowledge and skills gained during that module.  In addition, students are required to participate in weekly discussion forums responding to prompts provided by the professor.


Studying Religion:  An Introduction through Cases, 3rd edition by Gary E. Kessler. 

Additional readings are provided to students within online learning modules.

Course Subjects

Learning Module 1: Understanding, Defining, and Studying Religion in an Academic Context:  This provides an introduction to the way the academic study of religion is organized.

Learning Module 2: Sacred Power and Sacred Story:  This familiarizes students with different concepts of sacred power in different traditions and the academic study of myth.

Learning Module 3: Sacred Action, Sacred Space, Sacred Time:  The third module helps students then see how scholars look at ritual, sacred space, and sacred time to understand different religious beliefs and practices.

Learning Module 4: Religious Experience:  The fourth module familiarizes students with the various traditions within scholarship for understanding, explaining, and interpreting religious experience.

Learning Module 5: Religion, Morality, and Evil:  The fifth module looks at the ways religions provide adherents with methods of understanding suffering and evil in the world, and for constructing moral lives.

Learning Module 6: Religion, Politics, and Social Organization:  The sixth module looks in-depth at the social scientific study of religion, with an emphasis on how scholars look at the intersection of religion and politics, and how scholars analyze the social organization of religion.

Learning Module 7: Religious Diversity, Truth, and the Religious Quest:  The seventh module provides an analysis of how religious adherents understand their ultimate destiny, and explores issues of interreligious dialog and truth.

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

  1. Students will demonstrate understanding of the central beliefs and concepts of major living religious traditions of the world, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  2. Students will demonstrate familiarity with the structure and ritual life of religious communities, including significant holidays and rituals.
  3. Students will demonstrate a grasp of the methodology of the study of religion.
  4. Students will develop skills in critically analyzing religion and comparing particular aspects of religious traditions.
  5. Students will develop skills in reading source texts as documents of religious life.
  6. Students will develop skills in observing and critically analyzing religion in the contemporary world.