This course is an introduction to the major religions of the world. Throughout history, religion
has been one of the primary ways that people have answered the big questions of life: What
is the meaning of my existence? Is there more to the world than what is readily observable?
Is there anything permanent beyond our ever-changing circumstances? What happens after
death? Is there a god or gods? How then should we live? We will examine and compare not
only the beliefs of various faiths, but also other elements of religion such as scripture, ritual,
ethics, art and architecture, life cycle stages, sacredness, community cohesion, social boundaries,
and identity formation in individuals. By its nature, religious studies is multi-disciplinary and
multi-faceted. In fact, even the definition of the term “religion” is debated. In this course, book-
learning will be supplemented by site visits to East Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa—all
places where religious structures and customs will be immediately evident. Through a semester
of study, experience, and reflection on diverse faith traditions such as Hinduism, Judaism,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Christianity, Shinto, and Islam, students will come to better
understand the lives and perspectives of people around the globe.
Field WorkCountry: India
Day: 1 - Cochin - 9 March
We will visit the Guruvayur Temple dedicated to Krishna (visited by nearly 10 million pilgrims each year), the Paradesi Synagogue (the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth), St. Francis Church (India’s oldest European-built church), the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (a Sikh temple), the Dharmanath Jain Temple, and the Cheraman mosque (believed to be the first mosque in India). Academic Objectives:
- Experience the results of several centuries of religious diversity in India.
- Tour several places of worship representing major religious traditions.
- Compare different modes of religiosity.