Religion in

REL 100.002
Introduction to Religious Studies

"Fragments of Incantation" by Mario de Rivera*

Course: TR 9:30-10:45
Location: TH 30

Dr. Merinda Simmons

Office: 300 Manly Hall
Office Phone: 348-9911
Office Hour: T 2-3 pm

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Rachel Briggs

Office: 200 Manly
Office Hours: 12:30-2:00 pm

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.



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


Studying Religion in the University

The study of religion in the university is conducted along the same lines and for the same purposes as are all other forms of disciplined, methodical inquiry. The core premise of the academic study of religion is that religion, whatever else it may be, is a human activity, and is one element of the larger cultural creations of human beings. Within the context of the university, scholars of religion hold themselves to the same principles of reasoned argument from evidence as do all other scholars. We do not seek to teach people how to be religious, but to study religion as a human phenomenon which is commensurate with all other human phenomena. Our task is descriptive and analytical, not normative. We seek to explicate and understand a religious position, not interpret one religious position in terms of another.


Fall 2016 (PDF)

Books (required)

McCutcheon, Russell
Studying Religion: An Introduction
Equinox Publishing, 2007
ISBN: 9781845530129

Online Readings

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

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

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

Freud, Sigmund, "Obsessive Acts and Religious Practices" (PDF)

O'Connor, Flannery, "Good Country People" (PDF)

Berendt, John, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (PDF)

Sartre, Jean-Paul, "Religion is an Attempt to Escape Responsibility" (PDF)

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

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

Wallace, Daniel, "Big Fish" (PDF)

Hurston, Zora Neal, "Tell My Horse" (PDF)

Land, Brad, "Goat" (PDF)