Religion in

REL 100.002
Introduction to the Study of Religion

Course: TR 11:00-12:15
Location: 30 ten Hoor

Dr. Steven Jacobs

Office: 201 Manly Hall
Office Hours: M: 1:00-3:00
TR: 9:00-10:45
F: 1:00-4:00
Office Phone: 348-0743

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Becky Read-Wahidi (email)

Office: 206 Manly
Office Phone: 348-7534
Office Hours: TBA

About Online Readings

Some of the course's online readings are placed in a "secure" folder; you can only access these PDF files (Portable Document Format, that can be opened with the free Adobe Reader) by clicking each link and then entering the username/password given to you in class.

If you have difficulty accessing these readings, contact the instructor by email.




As a general introduction to the academic study of religion, REL 100 examines the function of religion in relation to human beliefs, social practices, and culture in general. The course surveys a broad number of important debates in the history of religious studies, such as the definition of religion, the insider/outsider problem, theories on the origins of religion, the comparison of religions, religion's psychological, sociological, and political functions, and the manner in which human communities authorize systems of behavior.

Note: Although we will examine some of the world's religious traditions, this course is not simply an introduction to world religions; rather, it is an introduction to the study of religion and its tools, in which religion is conceived as an observable aspect of human culture and history.


Spring 2014 (PDF)


Tests in this course are multiple choice, using "bubble" scoring sheets. To fill in the answer sheet during the test you will need to use a pencil and you will need to know your new Campus-Wide ID (CWID) number.

Once the tests are graded, you will be able to obtain your test results over the web by visiting and selecting "Student Grades," and then entering your CWID number and password. Note: If you incorrectly entered your CWID on the scoring sheet you will not be able to access your test grade online, since your test score will not be matched correctly to your login.

Books (required)

Jacoby, Russell
Bloodlust: On The Roots Of Violence From Cain And Abel To The Present
Free Press, 2011

Juergensmeyer, Mark
Princeton Readings In Religion & Violence
ISBN: 0691129142
Princeton, 2011

Nye, Malory
Religion: The Basics
ISBN: 0415263794
NY:Routledge, 2008 2nd Ed

Renard, John
Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, And The Interpretation Of Sacred Texts
ISBN: 0520274199
University of California Press, 2012

Readings Part I

Why study religion?

"What is the Academic Study of Religion?" by Russell T. McCutcheon (PDF)

"Insides, Outsides, and the Scholar of Religion" by Russell T. McCutcheon

"Theses on Method" by Bruce Lincoln

Misunderstood Concepts, by Mark Taylor

(Don't) Give Me That Old Time Religion, by Don Troop

One University, Under God, by Stanley Fish

Scholars Infuse Religion With Cultural Light, by Alan Wolfe

Religion and Culture: Views of Ten Scholars

What is Religion?, by Thomas Idinopulos

Why Religion Still Matters, by James Carroll

Toward Open Definitions of Religion, by W. Richard Comstock

Religious Studies: A Part of the Human Sciences (PDF)

The Provocations of Mark Taylor (PDF)

A Canterbury Tale (PDF)

Soul Talk (PDF)

Egypt Announces Plan to Revise Religious Studies Curricula, Removing Extremist Content and Promoting Tolerance (PDF)

The New War between Science and Religion (PDF)

God, Science, and Philanthropy (PDF)

Wrestling With One God or Another (PDF)

Religion as Something Absolutely Ordinary (PDF)

Limitations of Religious Freedom to Conform to the Standards of an Open and Democratic Society (PDF)

The Complexity of Religion and the Definition of "Religion" in International Law (PDF)

Religion in World Affairs (PDF)

God and the 21st Century (PDF)

"Covenant" The New Yorker (PDF)


Readings Part II are found on the Course Page in Blackbaord.