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. 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.

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

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

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 draft their essay this week.

Week 9

Topics: Religious Pluralism and the Perennial Philosophy. Wrap-up and summary.

Students will complete their essay this week and submit it on Saturday of this week

Week 10

Wrap-up and summary.

(Note: Lectures for this week will be posted at a later date.)

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 exam for each week will be available to students 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 the problem of religious pluralism in the 21st century.  Essays will be assessed according to the following rubric (modified from AAC&U’s “Intercultural Knowledge” rubric):

Note that students are not assessed on their ability to resolve the problem of religious pluralism in the 21st century, but rather on their ability to demonstrate some level of understanding of the religious values, politics, beliefs and practices of a plurality of religious cultures whose final truths about the human spiritual condition differ from each other.

More specific information about the essay and the essay topic are available on the "Course Information" page on the course Blackboard site.  The essay will be due by the end of the 9th week at the latest, but students may submit a draft of the essay at any time during the term (and are encouraged to submit a draft as early as is practical). The draft will be assessed upon submission and either given a final grade or returned for editing if there are problems with grammar, syntax, formatting or so forth. Late papers will be accepted only under extraordinary circumstances and the grade may be reduced at the instructor’s discretion.


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.  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 9th week in both formats.


Syllabus prepared by David Komito, March 24, 2014