Religion in

REL 100.001
Introduction to Religious Studies

REL 100.001
Class Time: TR 11:00-12:15
Location: GP 208

Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon
Office Hour: by appointment
Office: Manly Hall 211


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 was Ludwig Wittgenstein?

Who was Mary Douglas?

Who is Jonathan Z. Smith?


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.

Interpreting the Constitution: Originalism vs. Living Document

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)

Related Test Cases:
Is it Religion?




This Core Humanities course examines the relationships between religion and human beliefs, practices, & culture and surveys a number of debates in the history of the field, e.g., definition of religion, insider/outsider problem, and theories about the origins and function of religion. This course is an ideal introduction to the academic study of religion as carried out in a public university.

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. HU INB

Fall 2016 Syllabus (PDF)

There is one book required for this course (available at the University Supply store, as well as other local bookstores), written specifically for the class: Studying Religion: An Introduction

What counts as "news"?

Religion in the News: CAse Study

Mobile County Commission won't hear on displays for atheists, Pagans, keeps 'In God We Trust'

Online Resources

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

If you have difficulty accessing the readings below then contact the instructor by email. The username and password will be given out in class for any reading on the Department's "secure" server.

The Story of the Blind Monks and the Elephant

Nix v. Hedden, 149 US 304 (1893)

Jeff Strickler, "Youths Don't Trust Religions"
John Blake, "Are There Dangers in Being '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 (p. xvii) (PDF)

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

Karen Armstrong, "The True Peaceful Face of Islam"

Learn more about

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

Emile Durkheim, to be posted

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

Learn more about

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

Horace Miner, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" (PDF)
Learn more about Horace Miner...

David MaCaulay, Motel of the Mysteries (PDF; click book cover, to the left)

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

An example of the
insider/outsider problem

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

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

Learn more about
family resemblance

Mary Douglas, "Ritual Uncleanness," from Purity and Danger (PDF)

Mary Douglas, "Secular Defilement," from Purity and Danger (PDF)

Mary Douglas, "The Abominations of Leviticus," from Purity and Danger (PDF)

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

Instructions for Final Definition Assignment (PDF)