Meaning and Truth in Religion* [CRN 77168]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Bratt
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1240
End: 1400
Field Work: Day 2 | November 11, 2019 | Brazil
Prerequisites: One (1) lower division religion or philosophy course OR one (1) introductory level course in the humanities, be it philosophy, religious studies, or literature, as approved by the instructor. Download Syllabus

This course takes a phenomenological approach to understand how people find meaning and truth for their lives via interaction with a wide range of religious materials. The different religious traditions we encounter along the Fall 2019 itinerary of the Semester at Sea will provide the case studies for our analysis. Circumnavigating the north and west of Europe, and beginning something of a pilgrimage of our own, we will consider accounts of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Around the Mediterranean Sea, we will compare the principles and examples of Muslim, Jewish, and Roman Catholic religious architecture. On our crossing from Ghana to Brazil, we will study the phenomenon of spirit possession in Candomblé, pioneered in Bahia as a creolization of West African practices. In the Caribbean, the music of Bob Marley will provide a case study of how religious innovation forged under the cloud of colonialism could provide hope and inspiration to a vast audience around the world. Finally, on the way to and from Ecuador, we will read of mystical journeys that combine Western psychology with Incan medicinal tradition. This exposure to a variety of religious experiences will give students deeper insights into (1) scholarly methods of analyzing religion, (2) the lands and cultures they are visiting, and (3) their own quest for meaning.


*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.

Field Work

Country: Brazil
Day: 2
Date: November 11, 2019

We will explore sacred sites in Salvador—Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim and Igreja de São Francisco—as informed by an opening visit to the Museu Afro-Brasileiro and enhanced by a Candomblé dancing workshop, to see how distinct African and European strains of ritual and architecture have persisted and sometimes combined to define the highly diversified local religious landscape.

Learning Objectives:

Students will get first-hand exposure to:

1. the representation of religious ideas and history in art and architecture
2. the power of pilgrimage and healing rites in religious experience
3. the contribution of Yoruba religion and Christianity to the recombinant practices of Candomblé
4. local examples of themes and symbols discussed in the classroom