REL 102 Introduction to World Religions (5 units)

Instructor: David Komito, Ph.D.

Office: Ackerman 202 E
Phone: 541-962-3381

This course meets all the following requirements:

·         Gen Ed - Aesthetics & Humanities
·         Difference, Power & Discrimination (DPD)
·         University Writing Requirement (UWR)

Course Description:

This course is designed to introduce the student to the various religions and religious practices of the world’s religions. The course will emphasize the historical development of religions, their basic beliefs and world views and the aesthetic dimension of religious phenomena.

About REL 101 and REL 102:

REL 102 Introduction to World Religions and REL 101 Introduction to Religion are helpful companion courses but each can also be taken independently of the other.  REL 102 Introduction to World Religions surveys the belief systems and world views of the major religions which have influenced humans from prehistoric times to the 21st century.  In reflecting on this multiplicity of religions, especially in the 21st century, we must confront the problem that each of these religions claims to have the final truth about the human spiritual condition, irrespective of the fact that other religions make the same claim, even though they propose differing final truths! REL 102 Introduction to World Religions, concludes by proposing several contemporary solutions to this problem, often referred to as the problem of religious pluralism.  REL 101 Introduction to Religion explores these solutions in some depth, asking the student to develop their own position on the problem of religious pluralism through the course essay assignments.

About your instructor:

David Komito trained as a scholar of world religions at Indiana University, from which he received M.A., M.S.Ed. and Ph.D. degrees. His primary interests are in the religions of India and Tibet and the Psychology of Religion.  He is the author of three books on Buddhism and was a member of the translating team for a fourth book, which is a meditation manual used in the Dalai Lama’s monastery. Though he is an accomplished scholar and teacher, in David’s view the more you know the simpler you will sound.  This means that you can expect to be challenged and to learn a lot in this course which (hopefully) you will find personally useful; that all instruction will be respectful of your religious views, will be straight forward, will be addressed to the curiosity of the students in this course, and (hopefully) will be easy to understand.

Textbooks and Readings:

There will be a number of free articles for you to download from the course Blackboard site, whether the course is offered on campus or online.  In addition, you will be reading the following textbooks, which you are required to purchase (note that both books will cost you less than $25 in total if you buy new paperbacks):

·         The World’s Religions; Huston Smith; Pub: HarperOne; 2009; ISBN: 0061660183
·         The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions; Philip Novak; Pub: HarperOne; 1995; ISBN: 0060663421

Recommended resource: The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley, 1944: ISBN: 0061724947. Students have no assignments in this book, nor do they need to buy it, but may find sections of the book useful when they are writing their final essay. The book is readily available in most libraries, and very inexpensive used copies are available for purchase should students wish to do so..

Conference with the instructor:

I am available for telephone conferences during the work week, but not on weekends. You may arrange a telephone conference with me to discuss anything about the course by emailing me in advance so we can find a mutually convenient time to talk. Additional details about setting up a conference can be found in the course Blackboard site.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: A password is required to open all hyperlinks on this page. This password is posted in the course Blackboard site, and is available for students beginning on the first day of the term for which they have registered.

Video recorded greetings and introduction to the course.

Weekly topics and readings:

Week 1

Topics: Why should we study religions? Sociology and Psychology of Religion, the Perennial Philosophy.

Read: Selections from Robert Bellah: Religion in Human Evolution

Read: Metaphoric Thinking

Discussion topic: Pew Research Project - Public's Views on Human Evolution

Topic: Prehistoric, primal and shamanistic religions.

Textbook readings:
Smith: Chapter 1 and 9
Novak: Chapter 8

Week 2

Topics: Matriarchal religions; the Great Goddess and her suppression.

Week 3

Topic: Hinduism.

Textbook readings:
Smith: Chapter 2
Novak: Chapter 1, only the following sections are required reading: parts 8, 11d, 15, and all of the selections from the Bhagavad Gita.

Week 4

Topic: Buddhism.

Textbook readings:
Smith: Chapter 3
Novak: Chapter 2, only the following sections are required reading: parts 1 - 37.

Topic: The communist suppression of Buddhism in Asia.

Week 5

Topics: Taoism and Confucianism

Textbook readings
Smith: Read chapter 5 and then read chapter 4
Novak: Read chapter 4 and then read chapter 3

Week 6

Topics: Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

Textbook readings
Smith: Chapter 7
Novak: Chapter 5

Students will complete their essay this week and submit it on Saturday of this week. See "Methods of Assessment" below for further information.

Week 7

Topic: Christianity

Textbook readings
Smith: Chapter 8
Novak: Chapter 6

Week 8

Topic: Islam

Textbook readings
Smith: Chapter 6
Novak: Chapter 7

Students will resubmit edited essays by Saturday of this week. See "Methods of Assessment" below for further information.

Week 9

Topics: Religious Pluralism and the Perennial Philosophy.

Week 10

Topic: Wrap-up and summary.

Methods of Assessment (exams and an essay):

1) 70 points total.  Students will take short weekly multiple choice exams (of 7 to 10 questions each) which will assess their objective, factual knowledge about the major world religions. In the on-campus format weekly exams must be taken at the EOU Testing Center during its open hours on Fridays. In the online format students will take exams via Blackboard. The Blackboard exams for online students will be available throughout the 48 hours of Friday and Saturday at the end of each week. Illness, work or family obligations will sometimes impact students’ ability to take an exam during the required time period.  Thus, upon approval of the instructor, students may take one exam late.

2) 30 points total.  Students will write a final essay of 1500 words (approximately 3 pages) which will give them an opportunity to reflect on and discuss their views on two Asian religions: Hinduism and Buddhism.  Essays will be assessed according to the following rubric (modified from AAC&U’s “Intercultural Knowledge” rubric):

More specific information about the essay and the essay topic is available on the "Course Information" page on the course Blackboard site.  The essay will be due by the end of the 6th week. The essay will be assessed upon submission and either given a final grade if content and grammar are of a high quality or returned for editing if there are problems with content, grammar, syntax, formatting or so forth. If an essay is returned graded it cannot be resubmitted for a higher grade. Do not assume that you are submitting a draft during the 6th week -- you are to submit a final and polished product. Only essays which are inadequate in some way are returned for editing and these will be graded upon resubmission. Edited and resubmitted essays will be due by the end of the 8th week. Late papers will have their grade reduced a full grade for every 48 hours the essay is late. If students are granted permission in advance to submit a late essay the grade on that essay will not be reduced.


A = 90% or a minimum of 90 points total
B = 80% or a minimum of 80 points total
C = 70% or a minimum of 70 points total
D = 60% or a minimum of 60 points total
F = Less than 60% or a minimum of 60 points total


In this course a “week” runs from Sunday through Saturday at 11:59 PM Pacific time.  In online format weekly exams are available on the course Blackboard site during the 48 hours of Friday and Saturday of each week. In on-campus format weekly exams must be taken at the EOU Testing Center during its open hours on Fridays.  The final essay will be submitted on the course Blackboard site, whether the course if offered on campus or online, and is due by 11:59 PM on Saturday of the relevant week..


Syllabus prepared by David Komito, December 1, 2014