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California State University Northridge

Course: RS 150 World Religions (G.E. S5)
(Class number: 14366)
Tuesday (4:00 -6:45 PM); Room SH 390

Tuesday, December 8 (last day of formal instruction)
Thursday-Friday (November 26-27): Thanksgiving Recess (No Class)
Final exam: Tuesday, December 15: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
5 Requirements: 3 assignments (papers),
Midterm Exam and Final Exam (online, multiple choice format)

I. Course Description
II. Required Texts
III. Course Requirement
1. Your Grade
2. Assignments
3. Criteria for the evaluation of your assignments
4. Grading Scale and Standards
IV. Course Objectives and Students Learning Outcomes
V. Why Study this Course?
VI. Course Perspective
VII. The Ten Commandments of our Course
VIIII. Road Map for the Lectures
IX. Internet Resources
X. Group Members (for student group assignments and class discussion)
This course provides an overview of various world religious traditions in their historical and cultural developments. As such it satisfies the S5 general education requirements for comparative cultural studies/gender, race, class, ethnicity studies.
The Purpose of this course is to introduce students to the diversity and complexity of the religious phenomenon in our pluralistic Global village. This is a study of selected major world religions with emphasis on the historic international faiths of Asia and the Near East. We will investigate rituals, ethics, institutional structures and the cultural ethos of religions as well as their myths, doctrines and sacred texts.
Given that it fulfills a General Education requirement in the Humanities, this course is taught in a perspective that takes into account the current context of our pluralistic, multicultural and democratic societies.
Although we will focus on the major world religions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, we will also briefly address other forms of spirituality, mainly the ancestral spiritual ways of cosmotheandric religions which predate the current dominant religions and influenced them in a variety of ways.

1. Robert S. Ellwood and Barbara A. McGraw, Many Peoples, Many Faiths: Women and Men in the World Religions. (Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 10th edition, 2014).
2. MOODLE website :
To access what is available on the library website (connected to moodle) use the password 5656 (required for the file “Readings”).
Assignments, Study questions for quizzes and exams are posted on moodle to help you in your learning process

The grade of each student will be determined as follows: Mid-term Exam (20%) Class participation (40%) Final Exam (30%) Student’s Journal (10%)
All the exams will be in multiple choice format. Study questions for your exams are posted on the website.
Class participation includes attendance (mandatory!), reaction papers to readings and videos, short class presentations and discussion, research assignments, and quizzes.
(I have designed 6 assignments, but each student will do only 3 during the whole semester: 2 individual assignments, and 1 group assignment)

Here are your major assignments for this whole semester. You shall write 2 to 3 pages (single space) for each paper. Always mention the most important thing your learned from the assignment and specify the kind of SLOs that the assignment helped you achieve.
Assignment 1 (Week 3): Religious Landscape of the US and the World (Groups 1-2 paper, due Tuesday, September 8 )
Assignment 2 (Week 4): Religion and violence in the world (including Videos on God’s warriors) (Groups 3-4, due Tuesday, September 15)
Assignment 3 (Week 5): Attitude toward other religions (Groups 5-7, due Tuesday, September 22)
Assignment 4 (Week 7): Sacred Texts (Groups 8-10, due Tuesday, Oct. 6)
Assignment 5 (Week 10): On Monotheism and ATR (Individual paper, due Tuesday, October 27)
Assignment 6 (Week 15): Journal (Individual paper due Tuesday, December 1), synthesis of your learning during the semester)
Important Note and Basic Guidelines for the Assignments
No paper will be rewritten in this course. Once you get a grade in a paper you cannot rewrite it for a better grade. You can only try to do better on the next assignments.
All papers will be handed to your professor in two ways: a hard copy to the professor and one copy will be posted on moodle and you will see your grade on that moodle website (If you do not post a copy of your paper on moodle or you fail to hand me a hard copy, you will get an F grade for that assignment).
– For group papers, one student will post the paper once on moodle and will see the grade and inform other group members.
All assignments and guiding questions are on our moodle website. You will find there the guidelines for readings and reaction papers, and the study questions for your quizzes and exams.
Class presentations will receive a grade based on the oral presentation and the written paper.

– Mastery of the material in the context of our course (What? Who? When? Where? Why? How?)
– Critical thinking (creativity and appropriate criticism): Your ability to develop a mature thought process, to appreciate and assess the various world views which have played a central role in human culture in general, and in American life in particular.
– Style and presentation of papers:
* systematic organization of ideas.
* Analytic and synthetic skills.
* Clarity and coherence in the development of ideas.
* The use of powerful intellectual arguments.
* Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are the “mechanics” of good writing, and therefore will be considered in the grading process.
– How well you specify the achieved SLOs and the most important thing you learned from each assignment
Grading scale:
95-100: A 87-89:B+ 77-79: C+ 67-69: D+
90-94: A- 85-86: B 75-76: C 65-66: D
80-84: B- 70-74: C- Below 65: F
The Meaning of your Grade:
“A” Work, Outstanding: The student has mastered the content of the course (or a specific subject matter) and was able to express his or her knowledge in an outstanding fashion, in well written papers which demonstrate a tremendous ability in critical thinking, original thinking, and the capacity to analyze and synthesize knowledge harmoniously. “A” also means that the student perfectly understood the purpose of the course and addressed the assignments properly.

“B” Work, Very Good: Evidence of grasp of subject matter, some evidence of critical capacity and analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevant issues; evidence of familiarity with the literature.

“C” Work, Average: The student has some good understanding of the subject matter or the course; but does not address the assignments in a comprehensive way or does not write in a systematic and thoughtful fashion. It also means that the student is weak in critical thinking or did not well master the readings or the lectures. A paper replete with minor errors or flaws could also fall in this category.
“D” Work, Barely Passing: The student is “intellectually poor.” The student has some familiarity with the subject matter, but is very weak in analytical and synthetic skills or simple ignores some fundamental points of the course.
“F” Work, Failure: The student is confused, does not understand properly the readings, the assignments or the course; and can’t express ideas in a meaningful way. Students who cheat, miss the course too often, or who do not do most of the assignments also fall in this category.
In order to better understand the teaching perspective of this course, students should understand from the outset the educational goals of our university by reading carefully the mission statement of the Department of Religious Studies

1. Think empathetically and critically about conflicting religious claims.
2. Acquire knowledge of the history and culture of more than one major religious tradition.
3. Become familiar with the broad outlines of several world religions that continue to shape major civilizations and which have important influences on the culture of Southern California.
4. Grasp the phenomenological approach (as exemplified in the textbook) to the study of religion and culture through the study of clear descriptions and sympathetic insights into the religion of others.
5. Become a more proficient and critical reader through careful study and discussion of a masterfully written survey of selected world religions.
• We will accomplish our goal through lectures, intensive reading of the textbook, videos, class discussions, class presentations, and research papers.
RS 150 is a course designed for the purpose of “General Education,” and “Comparative Cultural Studies.”

The vision of General Education (GE) is to ensure that all CSUN students have a broad background in disciplines at the university level in order to appreciate the breadth of human knowledge and the responsibilities of concerned and engaged citizens of the world. Students must become lifelong learners and leave the University with a set of skills that include the ability to read critically, to write and communicate orally with clarity and persuasiveness, to evaluate and draw appropriate inferences from limited information and to access the wealth of technical, scientific and cultural information that is increasingly available in the global community. Students must gain an understanding of the major contributions made by individuals from diverse backgrounds in the sciences, business and economics, the arts, literatures, politics, and technologies. It is through the GE Program, that CSUN ensures that all students gain a sincere appreciation of how the diverse cultures housed in the United States, and specifically Southern California, lead to creative thinking and expression during a time in human history when cultural diversity provides different perspectives and insights from which to view human endeavors.
The goal of General Education is to understand the rich history and diversity of human knowledge, discourse and achievements as they are expressed in the arts, literatures, religions, and philosophy.
RS150 fulfills the requirement of comparative cultural studies in our university.
Comparative Cultural Studies
Comparative Cultural Studies coursework provides students with an introduction to the cultures and languages of other nations and peoples, the contributions and perspectives of cultures other than their own, and how gender, race, and ethnicity are viewed in these cultures.

Students will understand the diversity and multiplicity of cultural forces that shape the world through the study of cultures, gender, sexuality, race, religion, class, ethnicities and languages with special focus on the contributions, differences, and global perspectives of diverse cultures and societies.

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Students will:
1. Describe and compare different cultures; 2. Explain how various cultures contribute to the development of our multicultural world; 3. Describe and explain how race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, sexuality and other markers of social identity impact life experiences and social relations; 4. Analyze and explain the deleterious impact and the privileges sustained by racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, homophobia, religious intolerance or stereotyping on all sectors of society.
V. Why should any one take this course
and consider a Religious Studies Major, Double Major, or Minor?
Most students enjoy Religious Studies courses but wonder what they can do with a degree in Religious Studies. Here are some answers:
1. Go to graduate school, including Law School and Medical School. Learn important skills sought after by employers.
2. Teach a variety of topics in the humanities and social sciences.
3. Be employed in Human Resources, Social Service, Law Enforcement, Ministry.
4. Gain personal insight and knowledge to last a life time.
Come to my office hour and learn more about Religious Studies or contact the Department Chair, Dr. Rick Talbott at ex. 2741.
Setting the Record Straight on Liberal Arts Grads’ Employability (January 22, 2014):
A report released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities dispels the popular notion that liberal arts graduates are subject to lower earnings and higher rates of unemployment than those with “practical” degrees. Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight cites U.S. Census data from 2010-11 to show that humanities, arts, and social sciences majors who earned advanced or undergraduate degrees are on average making more money by their mid-50s than those who studied in professional fields, and they are employed at similar rates.

Religious Studies are part of the College of Humanities (specializing in what it means to be human and humane). The College of Humanities teaches students to read, write and think. Our graduates are prepared for a 21st-century workforce that advances those who have the power not just to achieve and innovate but to communicate their ideas to an audience beyond their applied field. Humanities students master the arts of thinking critically and creatively, analyzing information, and accommodating diverse ideas to understand and interpret our increasingly complex world. Degrees in the Humanities disciplines deliver a well-rounded education along with life skills that are always in demand, preparing students to pursue an endless variety of vocational goals and careers, including business, journalism, law, politics, medicine, etc. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, (“Want innovative thinking? Hire from the Humanities”) business leaders worldwide are seeking people trained in the humanities because they “are able to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways.”


“Man cannot live by the bread of science and politics alone; he also needs the vitamins of ethics and morals, faith and hope, love and security, comfort and attention in the face of death and misfortune, a feeling and experience that as a person he matters infinitely, and assurance that he is not immediately ‘forgotten’ or even annihilated when he dies. These are the elements that religion tries to offer… Religion makes a contribution in man’s search for identity and security… It provides a basis for a direction of life for humans in a great many societies.”
John S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy. London: Heinemann, 1989, Second edition. (first edition in 1969), p.270

“No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among religions without dialogue between the religions. No genuine dialogue among religions without an accurate knowledge of one another.” (Hans Kung)

“He who knows One, Knows None” (Max Muller)

“The change that the new situation (of the global village) requires of us all – we who have been suddenly catapulted from town and country onto a world stage is staggering. Twenty-five hundred years ago it took an exceptional man like Diogenes to exclaim, “I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.” Today we must all be struggling to make those words our own. We have come to the point in history when anyone who is only Japanese or American, only Oriental or Occidental, is only half human. The other half that beats with the pulse of all humanity has yet to be born.” (Huston Smith, The World’s Religions. HarperSanFrancisco, 1991; p.7)

 “Dein Christus ein Jude
Dein Auto ein Japaner
Deine Pizza italienisch
Deine Demokratie griechisch
Dein Kaffee brasilianisch
Dein Urlaub türkisch
Deine Zahlen arabisch
Deine Schrift lateinisch
Und Dein Nachbar nur ein Ausländer?”
The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
Adopted by the 31st Session of the General Conference of UNESCO; Paris, 2 November 2001:
“The cultural wealth of the world is its diversity in dialogue… Culture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations…. Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.”
Adopted by the Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,
meeting in Paris at the twenty-eighth session of the General Conference,
from 25 October to 16 November 1995:
Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance…
Education for tolerance should be considered an urgent imperative;
that is why it is necessary to promote systematic and rational tolerance teaching methods that
will address the cultural, social, economic, political and religious sources of intolerance –
major roots of violence and exclusion. Education policies and programmes should contribute to
development of understanding, solidarity and tolerance among individuals as well as among ethnic,
social, cultural, religious and linguistic groups and nations. Education for tolerance should aim at
countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people to
develop capacities for independent judgment, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

In the modern world, tolerance is more essential than ever before. It is an age marked by the globalization of the economy and by rapidly increasing mobility, communication, integration and interdependence, large-scale migrations and displacement of populations, urbanization and changing social patterns. Since every part of the world is characterized by diversity, escalating intolerance and strife potentially menaces every region. It is not confined to any country, but is a global threat… Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
Tolerance involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
The practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one’s views are not to be imposed on others.
It is essential for international harmony that individuals, communities and nations accept and respect the multicultural character of the human family. Without tolerance there can be no peace, and without peace there can be no development or democracy. ..Intolerance may take the form of marginalization of vulnerable groups and their exclusion from social and political participation, as well as violence and discrimination against them. As confirmed in the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, ‘All individuals and groups have the right to be different’ (Article 1.2).
1. Always mention on the first page of your papers the title of our course (RS150, Fall 2015, and the time of our class meetings, since I have 2 sections of this same course).
Group papers must have a cover page containing the names of group members, the topic and the assignment’s number. Each paper should be typed (single space) and stapled. (Papers that are not stapled and do not follow these instructions will not be graded , in other words you will get F as grade for that specific assignment).
For each assignment you shall give a hard copy to the teacher and post another copy on our Moodle website. This is very important!
2. Assigned readings must be completed before coming to class. Readings available on the web site must also be printed and brought to class.
3. More than two absences will seriously affect your final grade. Coming too late to the class or leaving too early counts as an absence.
4. Late assignments may receive an “F” grade.
5. Bring the Bible and the Koran regularly
6. You have made a conscious, informed choice to be a member of this class. This means that you have read the syllabus, and know the workload required. I am ready to help you at any time, even outside my offices hours. But you must let me know that you need help. Remember that this course is not “taught online.” This means that if you miss the class, you are responsible for what you missed that day. You can ask your fellow students for the assignments, but it is not up to the teacher to do that by email.
7. As a matter of respect for yourself, your fellow students and the teacher, you are required to observe basic classroom decorum. In particular, this means that You will turn off (or set to “silent” mode) any electronic devices such as cellular phones, watch alarms, and pagers.
8. If you do not turn in an assignment, I will not ask you for it. I will assume that you are content with a “F” grade for that assignment.
9. The university policy on academic dishonesty, particularly with regards to cheating and plagiarism, are taken for granted.
10. Unacceptable behaviors that can dramatically affect your grade:
a. Disturbing the class with cell phones or other negative behaviors
b. Playing with computers and cell phones instead of following the lecture
c. Absentism
d. Not doing Class presentations
e. Plagiarism
Keep in mind the Student Conduct Code of our University:

Students are expected to be good citizens and to engage in responsible behaviors that reflect well upon their university, to be civil to one another and to others in the campus community, and to contribute positively to student and university life.
Dishonesty is therefore an unacceptable Student Behavior:
By dishonesty, we mean, among other things:
– Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty that are intended to gain unfair academic advantage.
– Furnishing false information to the faculty member,
– Forgery or alteration of documents

For details on all the assignments see our moodle website: you will find here the guidelines and guiding questions for your papers)
Week 1 (August 25)
General Introduction to the Course
No paper required this week, but do the following readings to get some sense of the direction of this course:

Epistemological Foundation of the course:
Why study world religions? And How?
Context and Methodology of the course
Educational goals of the course and course requirement
1) Educational Goals (Library’s website):
2) Epistemological Foundation of the Course (see Moodle)
3) Allegory of the Cave (see website)
4) Textbook, chapter 1 (pp.1-19, focus on Joachim Wach’s theory)
5) Definition of religion (see moodle)
6) Chronology of World Religions

Preliminary readings (Understanding the Religious Phenomenon):
Ellwood, chap.1 and 10, and Final Word and Appendix

Also read at least 3 texts of your choice from the following list (available on moodle):
1) Christianity in Key Theses
2) ATR in Key Theses
3) Epistemological Foundation of the Course
4) We are all Hindus
5) Religious Knowledge in the US
6) State of Religious Education in the US
7) State of Religious Beliefs in the US
9) American Piety in the 21st Century:
Civil Religion and War Prayer
10) Dynamics of Prejudice
11) Religious Alterity
12) Diversity: CSUN and the American Society
13) Unesco universal declaration on cultural diversity
14) Universal declaration of human rights (by the UN)
15) Multiculturalism and Me

The Religious Landscape of the US and the World and Attitude toward “other” religions
Ellwood, chap.1 and 10, and Final Word and Appendix
Class discussion on Preliminary Readings
Week 3 (September 8): Spiritual Paths of India Hinduism (Reading: Ellwood, chap.3) Jainism and Sikhism (Reading: Ellwood, chap.3)
Tuesday (September 8): Assignment 1 due
Assignment 1 : Religious Landscape of the US and the World
(Done by Groups 1-2; paper due , followed by class presentation)

Week 4 (September 15): Spiritual Paths of India Buddhism (Reading: Ellwood, chap.4)
Assignment 2 due: Religion and violence in the world (including Videos on God’s warriors) (Done by Groups 3-4, due Tuesday, September 15, paper and class presentation)

Week 5 (September 22): Spiritual Paths of China Confucianism and Taoism(Reading: Ellwood, chap.5)
Assignment 3 : Attitude toward other religions ( due Tuesday, September 22) (Done by Groups 5-7, paper and class presentation)
Week 6 (September 29): Monotheism and Its origins and Cosmotheandric religions Readings on the website (moodle): Bumuntu Paradigm and ancestral values Ellwood, chap.2 (Indigenous Sacred Ways)
Week 7 (October 6): Judaism Reading: Ellwood, chap.7
Assignment 4: Sacred Texts (due Tuesday, Oct. 6) (Done by Groups 8-10, paper and Class presentation)
Week 8 (October 13 – 15): Judaism Reading: Ellwood, chap.7



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