Studying
Religion in
Culture


REL 100-002/003
Introduction to the Study of Religion


Class Times:
T/Th 2:00-3:15
Classroom:
tenHoor 30

 

Professors

Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon
russell.mccutcheon@ua.edu
Office: Manly Hall 211
Office Hour:
W 10:00-11:00

Ms. Vaia Touna
vtouna@as.ua.edu
Office: Manly Hall
315
Office Hour:
M 3:00-4:00


Handouts

Not all class material will be posted here but some will be, either before or after a class.

 
 

Background

Who was Rudolf Otto?

Who was Paul Tillich?

Who was Mircea Eliade?

Who is Karen Armstrong?

Who was Karl Marx?

Who was Emile Durkheim?

Who was Sigmund Freud?

Who is Stewart Guthrie?

Who was Ludwig Wittgenstein?

Who was Mary Douglas?

Who was Euripides?

Who is Jonathan Z. Smith?

 

Resources

The links below are posted as background, are relevant to different parts of the course, and are not required as part of the regular class readings, unless specified by the Professor. They are posted in the order in which we address the material.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed by Congress 1789/ratified by Congress 1791)

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (proposed on June 13, 1866, and ratified by Congress onJuly 9, 1868

The Lemon Test (1971); the court decision from which this legal test is derived can be found here.

Youtube
Interpreting the Constitution: Originalism vs. Living Document

Youtube
A Conversation on Constitutional Interpretation: Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia
Part 1 and Part 2

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (watch this episode from PBS's Nova)

Abington School District, PA v. Schempp (1963)


 
 

 

Description

As a general introduction to the academic study of religion, REL 100 is focused on the problem of defining religion, in theory and in practice. The course examines classic approaches to defining religion, identifies the theories of religion's role or purpose implicit in each, and uses actual US Supreme Court cases as examples of how religion is defined in practice--and the practical (that is, social, economic, political) implications of defining it in this or that way.

As a Core Curriculum Humanities course, REL 100's goal is for all students to learn to define, accurately describe, and compare in a non-evaluative manner so as to find significant similarities and differences among forms of observable human behavior.


Syllabus

Spring 2010 (PDF)

See the note toward bottom of this page concerning a revision to the sylalbus, effective on March 30 and April 1, 6, and 8.


There are two books required for this course (both available at the University Supply store, as well as other local bookstores), one of which was written specifically for the class: Studying Religion: An Introduction


The other book is Euripides's tragedy, Hippolytos, which the class reads and discusses, in the context of the history and social life of classical and Hellenistic Greece, at the end of the course.


Because the campus bookstore has run out of copies, and the distributor is currently awaiting its own orders to be filled, you can obtain a PDF copy of Studying Religion here (note: this is a large file).


Opening Case Study

Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (Case # 07-665) focuses on the First Amendment's free speech clause, which forbids the government from discriminating among private speakers in public forums on the basis of the content of their speech.

Based on this, the Summum church, which seeks to erect a monument to its "seven aphorisms" in a public park in Pleasant Grove, Utah, argues that the government can also not discriminate between private monuments donated for public parks.

Our Question: Should the city be mandated to accept the monument?

National Public Radio: Supreme Court Hears Religious Display Case (Nov. 12, 2008)

Visit Summum's web site

Read The New York Times article on the Summum case


Online Resources

The following resources and readings are in the order in which we will use them (see the course schedule on the syllabus).

Note: This course uses this web page instead of the eLearning site, so do not send the instructor messages via eLearning and expect replies. Instead, contact him and the student assistants by email.

If you have difficulty accessing the readings below then contact the instructor by email.

Nix v. Hedden, 149 US 304 (1893)

Jeff Strickler, "Spiritual But Not Religious"
The Life and Times of Tim: What is a Restaurant?
Plato's Euthyprho

Rudolf Otto,"Religion is an Experience of Awe and Mystery" (PDF)

Paul Tillich, "Religion is an Expression of Ultimate Concern" (PDF)

Mircea Eliade, Foreword, Patterns in Comparative Religion (PDF)

Karen Armstrong, Preface to Islam: A Short History (PDF)

Learn more about
essentialism


Karl Marx and Fredrick Engles, "Religion is the Opium of the People" (PDF)

Emile Durkheim, Excerpt on Magic and Religion from The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Chpt. 1 Section IV pp. 41-46)

Sigmund Freud, "Religion is an Illusion Produced by Psychological Projection" (PDF)

Stewart Guthrie, Introduction (pp. 3-7) to Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion

Learn more about
functionalism


Test 1 (PDF) and an explanation of the online grading key (PDF).


Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, PA, Case No. 04cv2688 (PDF)

Horace Miner, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" (PDF)

Mark Muesse, "Making the Strange Familiar and the Familiar Strange" (PDF)

An example of the
insider/outsider problem


Test 2 (PDF)


Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Philosophical Investigations, paragraphs 66-70" (PDF)

William Alston, "Religion" from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (PDF)

Learn more about
family resemblance


Euripides's Hippolytos:
Background on Ancient Greece

Lecture 5


Jonathan Z. Smith, "The Introductory Course: Less is Better" (PDF on course web site)


Note: The class schedule, as listed in the syllabus, for March 30, April 1, 6, and 8, has been revised.

1. Test 3 (schedule for Apr 8) has been canceled.

2. New content (to be announced in class) will replace the previously listed readings for March 30 and April 1, 6, and 8.

3. The regular syllabus will resume on April 13 until the end of the course.

5. The final Quiz will still be held on April 1.

In place of Test 3 (in an attempt to assist those student who had difficulties on Test 1 and/or Test 2), students scoring at least 60% (or better) on the final cumulative exam will have their best test score (whether Test 1, 2, or the Final exam) count for all of their test/exam grades (i.e., 80% of the course) with your grade on the quizzes counting for the remaining 20% of the course grade.

Students not scoring 60% or higher on the final, cumulative exam, will have their tests count for the previously announced percentages of the course. The value of the canceled Test 3 (15% of the course) will then be transfered to the strongest of their three tests.

The final, cumulative exam will be based on a) new content on which students have not been previously tested and b) select questions (with possibly revised answers) drawn directly from Test 1 and Test 2. These two previous tests are therefore helpful study guides. Concerning the new content (representing material drawn from the course's final units), the lectures on Ancient Greece (which preapred us to read and comment on Euripides's tragedy, Hippolytos) are posted immediately above. The exam will, of course, emphasize previously untested material.