Topics in Comparative Religions [CRN 77164]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Avrahami
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1040
End: 1200
Field Work: Day 1 - Tuesday, 1 November | Brazil
Prerequisites: One (1) upper-division religion course. Per the instructor: Students can take PHIL 270, 370 or 372 concurrently with 479. Prerequisite waived for students who have studied religion in another department (e.g. history, Middle Eastern Studies). Download Syllabus

The main purpose of the course is to bring students to a deeper understanding of religious phenomena through the comparative method. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism will be considered, as well as some indigenous religions that have encountered these three. The comparative exploration in this course will focus on the topics of creation and apocalypse. The first part of the course will include close reading of primary texts that touch upon creation and apocalypse. We will discuss the conceptual link between the two themes; the origins and reception of these texts; and the question of universalism vs. relativism.  The second part of the course will look at religious rituals that are linked to the themes of creation and apocalypse. The intertwining of religious thought and practice will be the main theoretical angle of the discussion. The third and last part of the course will look at the representation of the themes of creation and apocalypse in popular media. The endurance and influence of religious themes and ideology in different cultures will be examined comparatively.

Field Work

Country: Brazil
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 1 November

We will open our day with a visit to the Museu Afro-Brasileiro, where students will learn about African religious influence on Catholicism in Brazil. We will then visit Igreja de São Francisco. Besides being an impressive example of baroque architecture and ornamentation, the history of its construction is a fine example of religious battle over symbols. After lunch we will participate in a Candomble dancing workshop. Finally we will visit Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. This church is a central location for worship of the syncretized deity Our Lord of Bonfirm, This church demonstrates the centrality of purification and healing rites to religious worship. Learning objectives:

  1. Students will understand the contribution of Yoruba religion and Christianity to the syncretic practice of Candomble.
  2. Students will understand the power of pilgrimage and healing rites.
  3. Students should recognize and analyze local examples of themes and symbols that were discussed in the classroom.