REL 1220 - 905 (download syllabus pdf)

U Toledo Distance Learning Course : Aug 29 - Dec 16, 2022


Nythamar "Nita" de Oliveira, Ph.D. Dept of Philosophy, Scott Hall

Phone: 419-530-6190 Office Hours: Drop Me a Line

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Course Description: [3 hours] A study of the major religions of the world, with an emphasis on non-Western religions. In this course, we will be exploring classical and modern conceptions and receptions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will describe the essential features of the world's greatest religions and show how they have responded to basic human needs and to the cultural settings in which they developed. We also compare the answers religions have offered us regarding some of the most essential human questions: Why are we here? What is the nature of the universe? How should we live? Our aim has been to balance concision and substance in an introductory text that is accessible, as well as challenging. DL course.
The course is accessible to students coming from various academic backgrounds and its online format is very practical and pleasant. This course is being offered entirely online through the University of Toledo's Blackboard/WebCT system, accessible through the MyUT Web Portal, 24/7 (anywhere, anytime!). Students encountering any technical difficulties should contact the IT Help Desk at 419-530-2400, or the department of Distance Learning at 419-530-8835.

Required Text: Brodd, Jeffrey et al. Invitation to world religions. 4th Edition. Oxford University Press, 2021. ISBN-13: 978-0197543788 / ISBN-10: 0197543782. Third edition, 2018: ISBN-13: 978-0190690816 / ISBN-10: 019069081X. Second edition, 2013. ISBN 978-0-19-937836-4.

Grades are based on point accumulation throughout the sixteen weeks (from Aug 30 through Dec 17, 2021), divided into six Units (covering an introductory chapter on religions and five chapters on major world religions), with two optional Bonus/Midterm essays. There are 6 Homeworks/Quizzes worth 10 points each (partial total up to 60 points, assuming that the highest grades replace the lowest ones for each Unit) and a Final Exam. Participation is worth 30 points (by sharing your views, insights, comments, and criticisms with classmates on the Discussion Board on-line on a weekly basis or at least one posting per Unit). Students can earn up to 100 points in this course. Final grades for the course are based on the following scale:


93-100 = A
90-92 = A-
87-89 = B+
83-86 = B
80-82 = B-
77-79 = C+
73-76 = C
70-72 = C-
60-69 = D
59 and Below = F


Academic Honesty:

Neither plagiarism (i.e., presenting the written work of another as one's own) nor cheating (i.e., providing answers to exam questions or receiving exam answers from another) will be tolerated. Any academic dishonesty will be disciplined according to the guidelines in the University of Toledo student handbook.



If you need special accommodations to folow this course, please notify me immediately. Any student needing accommodation based on the impact of a disability and students with documented disabilities should contact the Office of Accessibility (419.383.5792 - to coordinate reasonable accommodations.


Reading Assignments & Class Structure:

Chapters on the schedule refer to the assigned readings from the textbook (6 chapters). Prepare all the readings before the date given. The reading assignments are usually short and hopefully pleasant. Every week you'll have the opportunity to post your comments (at least one posting per Unit on the Discussion Board, in order to get full credit for Participation, up to 30 points), ask questions and do self-assessment by taking the quiz online or writing a couple of paragraphs to address some of the suggested study questions. The quizzes and homeworks tabs are made available during the whole week for each Unit and will actually remain open until the last day of classes, so that at any time during this Fall course you can take the quiz online or use the Homework tab to turn in your essay (a couple of paragraphs, about 200-250 words, addressing one or two questions from the assigned chapter). Suggested dates are indicated for each Unit on the weekends, but you may take the Exam online or send in your Homework at any time. Make sure you understand the 10 key concepts or key terms for each week (see Glossary, available in PDF at the course website and the end of the textbook) and by regularly visiting the Oxford University Press link to the Student Resources for World Religions Today:


Brodd, Invitation to World Religions 3rd edition Resource Center

OUP Student Resources Portal

Oxford Handbooks Online: Religion


Class Participation

Class participation is essential. That includes active involvement in all phases of the class, including the ongoing Discussions on-line (at least one posting per Unit).


Class Schedule:

Unit 1: Aug 29 - Sep 18: Chapter 1: An Invitation to the Study of World Religions

Sep 11 – 18: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 1

Unit 2: Sep 18 - Oct 2: Chapter 4: Hinduism

Sep 25 - Oct 2: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 2 / Bonus / Midterm # 1

Unit 3: Oct 2-16: Chapter 5: Buddhism

Oct 9 - 16: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 3

Unit 4 : Oct 16 -30: Chapter 11: Judaism

Oct 23 - 30: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 4

Unit 5 : Oct 30-Nov 13: Chapter 12: Christianity

Nov 6-13: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 5

Unit 6: Nov 13 - Dec 4: Chapter 13: Islam

Nov 27 - Dec 4: HOMEWORK / QUIZ # 6

Dec 4 - 11: Make-Up / Bonus / Midterm # 2

Dec 11 - 16: FINAL EXAM (multiple-choice exam, covers all material Units 1-6)

Study & Internet Tools:

Must-Read PDF Texts & Must-Watch Clips (also available on the Course Menu):

World Religions Introduction
How to do well in this course
John Hick: Religious Pluralism

John Bellaimey, The five major world religions

YouTube Talk: Daniel Dennett, "Is Religion Man-Made? How Did Religion Start? The Evolution of Belief" ("Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon")

Intro TED Best Flips clip: "The Big Story: Origins of Religion"

Chap. 1: An Invitation to the Study of World Religions: WORLD RELIGIONS AND GLOBALIZATION

Wiki entry on Religion
YouTube: Global Technology Facts
Chomsky on Globalization
You Tube: Oneness in World Religions
<YouTube on Po-Mo: Top 10 David Lynch Movies
R.E.M. - Losing my religion (lyrics)
Wiki on "Clash of Civilizations"
Universalism and Secularization
YouTube: Chomsky on the Clash of Civilizations
YouTube: An Alternative Arabic view of the Clash of Civilizations
Islam and Secularization
Peace Now / Shalom Achshav
YouTube: Stop the Clash of Civilizations
The "Cost" of Globalization
Global Ethics and Sustainable Capitalism

Key Terms (see Glossary at the end of Textbook and/or check the PDF version out) :

cosmopolitan: a common world shared by all citizens / globalization: the growing interdependence of peoples and cultures in economic, technological, and sociocultural networks; consequently, the world religions encounter each other, with much more overlap than ever before
modern: characterized by viewing religion as a matter of private personal faith or opinion rather than objective public knowledge / premodern: when religion played the decisive role in explaining and ordering life
metanarrative: all-encompassing sacred stories through which humans interpreted life in their respective cultures / postmodern: characterized by the collapse of all metanarratives, including those from religion and science
myth: a symbolic story about the origins and destiny of human beings and their world
pluralism: A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society / relativism: the erosion of taken-for-granted confidence in one's world view, given a pluralism of worldviews
privatization: when religion is regarded as a private matter, as opposed to politics and the public life / fundamentalist: rejects important aspects of modernity and desires to return to the purer sociopolitical order of their ancestors
religion: expresses the sense of "being tied" (from the Latin "religare") and bound to whatever powers we believe govern our destiny, esp. God, gods, divine beings, a supreme force or the ultimate principle of life, death, and reality / religious: pertaining to religion
sacred: separate, holy, arousing the sentiment of fascination and dread in religious experience across cultures / ritual: actions that connect the individual and the community to the sacred
via analogia: using familiar words to create an analogy that describes something less familiar / via negativa: the assertion of what God or ultimate reality is not.

Chap. 4: Hinduism
Wiki entry on Hinduism
Hinduism documentary
Basics of Hinduism
Introduction to Hinduism
A Story of Hinduism
Wiki on Hindu Philosophy
YouTube: Hindus and Muslims manufacture sports goods in unison
YouTube: Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims live in perfect harmony at Malerkotla

Key Terms:

avatara: incarnations of Vishnu
Bhagavad Gita: a portion of the great epic, Mahabharata
dharma: duty in life according to caste
atman: individual soul / anatman: no-atman or nonself; rejection of Hindu concept of atman, or an essential, unchanging interior entity at the center of a person
Brahman: the unchanging spirit underlying reality
satyagraha: a principle, grasping the truth, developed by Gandhi with roots in the doctrine of nonviolence, or ahimsa
tantra: an innovative Hindu tradition that weaves together teaching and texts into an esoteric teaching offered only to those deemed capable; sees the human body as a microcosm of the universe and by harnessing bodily energies, individuals can have transformative religious experiences
Upanishad: tracts of teachings that began to be appended to the Vedic hymns after 1000 BCE
Vedas: a collection of over a thousand hymns of praise and supplication addressed to the gods; existed over 2,000 years in oral form
yoga: a discipline practice through which one realizes the atman within
Yoga Sutras: a compilation of yoga practices for the spiritually advanced elite, attributed to the sage Patanjali

Chap. 5: Buddhism

Wiki entry on Buddhism

YouTube: Buddha A Documentary About Buddhism

YouTube: Buddha Amitabha Song

YouTube: What is Buddhism?

YouTube: The Four Noble Truths (1-4) by Venerable Guan Cheng

Buddhism PBS documentary
Richard Gere on Buddhism

You Tube: Zen Buddhist Monastery

YouTube: Bodhi Zendo

YouTube: Zen Mind in Japan

Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring

CNN on Chinese-Tibetan crisis

CNN: Richard Gere on Tibet crisis

You Tube: Zen Buddhism and Western Society

You Tube: Buddhism in America

You Tube: Zen Buddhism in Japan

Buddhist female deity: Kuan Yin

Key Terms:

Amitabha/Amida: the name of a Buddha who created a Pure Land doctrine and practice that featured chanting his name
Bodhisattva: Mahayana Buddhism's model Buddhist will not attain final Nirvana until all beings are enlightened
Buddha nature theory: a Mahayana school that said if nirvana and samsara cannot be separated, then nirvana must interpenetrate all reality, therefore all beings have a portion of nirvana and so possess the latent potential for its realization
Four Noble Truths: a diagnosis of the human condition and a prescription for liberation, which involves following the Eightfold Path
Mahayana: name given to the Great Vehicle division when the sangha aligned under two main divisions after the death of the Buddha
Nichiren: Buddhist leader in Japan who opposed the popular Pure Land school and viewed the Lotus Sutra as containing the supreme teaching
Soka Gakkai: the largest new religion of Japan formed in association with Nichiren Buddhism in 1937; works for world peace and human welfare; missionizing
Three Refuges: a recitation used to mark conversion to Buddhism, to affirm one's devotion, or to start Buddhist rituals; the Buddha (Awakened), the Dharma (doctrines and teachings of the faith), and the sangha (community, assembly)
Vajrayana: another name for the Thunderbolt Vehicle branch of Mahayana Buddhism
Won Buddhism: Founded in Korea in 1924, became popular after lifting of Japanese occupation; emphasizes that Buddhist doctrines are compatible with modern thought, encourages women to be leaders, and interested in ecumenical relations with other faiths
Zen: formed as Ch'an in China; reaching nirvana is an individual effort; stresses meditation as the means

Wikipedia Glossary of Key Terms in Buddhism:

Three Refuges / Jewels :
Buddha: Awakened; a Buddha; also, the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama.
Dharma: Often refers to the doctrines and teachings of the faith, but it may have broader uses.
Sangha: "association," "assembly," "company" or "community" of Buddhist monks and nuns, teachers and practitioners.
Four Noble Truths:
1. The Truth of Suffering
2. The Truth of the Origin of Suffering / Attachment (desire)
3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirvana)
4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering
Karma: lit. "action." The law of cause and effect in Buddhism.
Mahayana: "Great Vehicle." A major branch of Buddhism practiced in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Main goal is to achieve buddhahood.
Theravada: lit. "words of the elders", The most orthodox branch of Buddhism, practiced in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand).
Zen (Chinese, Chan): a school of Mahayana Buddhism notable for its emphasis on practice and experiential wisdom - particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen - in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own true nature.
Bodhisattva: one with the intention to become a Buddha in order to liberate all other sentient beings from suffering.
Nirvana (Pali, Nibbana): Extinction or extinguishing; the cessation of suffering; ultimate enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition.
Arhat: lit. "the Worthy One", A living person who has reached Enlightenment. The pursuit of nirvana for one's own sake, in contrast with the bodhisattva ideal.
Koan: A story, question, problem or statement generally inaccessible to rational understanding, yet may be accessible to Intuition.
Prajna (Sanskrit) or panna (Pali): usually translated as "wisdom," "understanding," "discernment," "cognitive acuity," or "know-how." In Buddhism, it especially refers to the wisdom that is based on the direct realization of the Four Noble Truths, impermanence, dependent origination, not-self, emptiness, etc.
Pure Land: is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and currently one of the most popular schools of Buddhism in East Asia, along with Zen. It is a devotional or "faith"-oriented branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha.
Vajrayana: lit. "diamond vehicle", The third major branch, alongside Theravada (or Hinayana) and Mahayana.

Chap. 11: Judaism

Wiki entry on Judaism
YouTube: What is a Jew ?
YouTube: Jerusalem of Gold
YouTube: History of Judaism
YouTube: History of the Talmud
Judaism (part 1)
A History of Anti-Semitism Pt. 1
Anti-Semitism Today
Wiki on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
B'Tselem Human Rights in Israel
PoMo: Derrida on Love
PoMo: Derrida on Ghosts
PoMo: Derrida on Deconstruction

Key Terms:

Ashkenazi: A member of the branch of European Jews, historically Yiddish-speaking, who settled in central and northern Europe / Sephardi: A descendent of the Jews who lived in Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages until persecution culminating in expulsion in 1492 forced them to leave.
Bar Mitzvah: boy's ritual, at age 13, that moves him into full membership of the religious community and adulthood / Bat Mitzvah: extension of bar mitzvah ritual to females by the Conservative and Reform Jewish communities
Diaspora: Jews who were dispersed in the Roman Empire
Kabbalah: Jewish mysticism, emerged in the late medieval period; defining work is the Zohar, Book of Splendor
kosher: Jewish rules for dining
Mishnah: the writings that form the core of the Talmud, primarily written by students of Hillel
Mitzvot (plural of Mitzvah, "divine commandment"): deeds of loving kindness; the 613 Mitzvot are statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah
Shema: Judaism's creed that states, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one"
Talmud: insights of the oral tradition written down, from second to fifth centuries, initiated by the Pharisees; emergence of Rabbinic Judaism
Tanak: Jewish Bible that came into existence at end of first century; called the Old Testament by Christians, comprising the Torah (Pentateuch), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings)
Zionism: form of nationalism that returns Israel to Jews exclusively

Chap. 12: Christianity

The Judeo-Christian Worldview
Wiki on Christianity
CNN Anderson Cooper: What is a Christian? (1/6)
YouTube: Schubert's "Ave Maria" by Bono (U2) and Pavarotti
Pope Francis on controversial issues in today's Catholicism
Amazing Grace Movie
YouTube: Evangelicals and Postmodernism
YouTube: Liberation Theology
YouTube: Cornel West on Being a Leftist
YouTube: Francis Schaeffer on the Judeo-Christian Worldview
History of Christianity (part 1)
Christopher Hitchens's critique of Christianity

The Historical Jesus: Four Views

Key Terms:

Augustinianism: the view that the task of Christianity is to transform every society into a Christian society comprising two branches: church and state
evangelical: form of pietist Christianity that emphasizes the centrality of the "born again" experience of spiritual transformation rather than dogma as the key to Christian authenticity and union among Christians in all their diversity
grace: the undeserved gift of God's acceptance of the sinner given through faith for Protestants; for Catholics it is an undeserved gift that transforms the sinner and enables the sinner to cooperate in God's work of spiritual renewal of the individual
homoousios: from the Council of Nicaea, "same as," i.e., the Word through which all things were created was the same as God
Kingdom of God: according to Christian canon, Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God, which is completed at the second coming when all injustice is overcome and suffering and death will be no more
original sin: the will to do good in all human beings was corrupted by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God's will
Protestant: one who believes that the way to know God is through faith and study of scripture, and no mediator such as the Catholic Church hierarchy is needed / Protestant ethic: a demand that one live simply and work hard, based on teachings of John Calvin
sacraments: in Catholicism, seven sacraments are believed to be outward and visible signs of God's inward, invisible grace; can only be administered by ordained clergy. Protestantism reduced the number to two: baptism and communion
Second Coming: when Christ will return to raise the dead and judge the heavens and earth
two natures, one person: the Council of Chalcedon decided that in the person of Jesus the two atures of divinity and humanity were united yet completely distinct
Trinity: God is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; through the trinity God is not all things (pantheism) but is in all things (panentheism)
justification by faith: Luther's teaching that knowledge of God can be obtained only through faith and scripture, untouched by reason, became the central doctrine of the Protestant Reformation

Chap. 13: Islam
Wiki entry on Islam
You Tube: FOX TV News - Islam World Most Growing Religion 2010
The True Islam
You Tube: Women in Islam today
You Tube: Islam and Modernity
You Tube: Islam, the Renaissance and the Modern Enlightenment
BBC Islamic History of Europe
Lecture on Islamic Law by Prof. Mashhad Al-Allaf

Key Terms:
Allah: Arabic word for God; originally, the high god over a pantheon of tribal gods, became the one, true God with the teachings of Muhammad
ayatollah: a senior religious leader among Shiah Muslims
caliph: a successor to Muhammad who served as political and military head of the community
fatwa: official legal opinions or interpretations of Islamic law
hadith: tradition, narrative stories about what Muhammad said and did that make up the Sunna
hajj: fifth pillar of Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim who is physically and financially able is expected to make at least once
hijrah: Muhammad's emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622
jihad: means to struggle or to strive; generally means the obligation of all Muslims to fulfill God's will, as well as armed struggle to defend oneself, community, or religion when under attack
muezzin: one who issues the call to prayer from the top of the minaret
Qu'ran: the Islamic book of scripture, as revealed to Muhammad over a period of twenty-two years; considered to be the very word of God; the primary material source of Islamic law
Ramadan: month of fasting
shahadah: (to witness or declare), first pillar of Islam, confession of faith, "There is no God but the God and Muhammad is the messenger of God," allows one to become a Muslim
shariah: Islamic law
Shiah: followers of Ali, fourth caliph and Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law; this major branch of Islam was a minority from its beginning and operated from a worldview based on suffering, oppression, and being victims of injustice. Believes that the imam or leader must be a direct descendant of Muhammad's family and is a religiopolitical leader
Sufism: Islamic mysticism; began as a reform movement to counter a trend of the Umayyad caliphs to live lavishly
Sunni: the majority branch of Islam, 85 percent today, believes that the caliph is the selected or elected successor of Muhammad, not as prophet but as political and military leader
surah: a chapter of the Qu'ran


About the Textbook, World Religions, and Globalization:
Featuring a unique, consistent, and modular chapter structure --"Teachings," "History," and "Ways of Life"-- and numerous pedagogical features, Invitation to World Religions invites students to explore the world's great religions with respect and a sense of wonder. This chapter structure enables students to navigate each religion in a consistent and systematic way and helps students to make comparisons between religions. The book describes the essential features of each religion and shows how the religions have responded to basic human needs and to the cultural contexts in which they developed. The authors also encourage students to develop an appreciation for what religious beliefs and practices actually mean to their adherents.

The twenty-first century is witnessing a resurgence and globalization of religion. Around the world, religion has become an increasingly more vital and pervasive force in both personal and public life. Revealing the significance of religion in the contemporary world, Religion and Globalization: World Religions in Historical Perspective explores seven major religious traditions as dynamic, ongoing forces in the lives of individuals and in the collective experience of modern societies.
Written by three highly respected scholars --the authors of World Religions Today, Second Edition --this text covers Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, East Asian Religions, and new religious movements. Taking a fresh approach, it uses historical coverage of the religious traditions as a framework to help students understand how faiths have evolved to the present day and continue to have an impact on belief, politics, and society. The book connects today's religions to their classical beliefs and practices but also shows how they have been transformed by globalization and by their contact with one another. The authors examine how the global changes that began with the Scientific Revolution influence the ways that religions are practiced today. They reflect not only on how ancient traditions have been modified in order to accommodate current realities but also on how the global synergy of these traditions is changing current social and political realities. To help students grasp what might be "new" about the emerging era of religious life in the twenty-first century, each discussion opens with a contemporary scenario of religious experience that illustrates the tension between pre-modern views and modernity.
Ideal for courses on religion and globalization, religion and politics, and comparative religion, Religion and Globalization features sixteen custom maps, key terms at the end of each chapter, a glossary, and timelines of major events in each tradition. 

Related Links:

The Bible, Hermeneutics, and Deconstruction
The Big Religion Chart
World Religion (includes maps)
New World Encyclopedia entry on Religion
Religious Tolerance
American Academy of Religion
The Huffington Post
CNN GPS: Global Public Square

Spinoza's Critical Hermeneutics of Revelation

G-d : Reformed, Catholic, Jew
UT Course: Philosophy of Religion
UT course on World Religions
UT Course on Buddhism
UT Course on Contemporary Moral Problems
Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions, ed. Yudit Greenberg
Wiki on New Religions
Wiki on Native Americans
Wiki on Candomble
Michael Jackson & Olodum (African-Brazilian)
Enya: New Age pop music
Environmentalist New Age Religion
Wiki on East Asian Religions
YouTube on China
YouTube on Taoism

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