Religion in

REL 101.001
Violence and the Sacred

Course: TR 9:30-10:45
Location: 253 ten Hoor

Dr. Steven Jacobs

Office: 201 Manly Hall
Office Hours: TBA
Office Phone: 348-0743

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 new course first explores how we study what we commonly call religion within the boundaries of the public university. Then we apply this method of study to investigate the problem of human suffering by looking at such topics as theories of evil, violence, and hate; and terrorism and genocide--drawing on examples from various traditions and historical periods.

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 2016 (PDF)

Books (required)

Cockburn, Patrick
The Rise of the Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution
ISBN: 1784780405
Verso, 2015

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

Lankford, Adam
The Myth of Martyrdom
ISBN: 0230342132
St. Martin's Press, 2013

Law, Randall
Terrorism: A History
ISBN: 0745640389
Polity, 2009

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.