Introduction to religion

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REL 100 (Revised Syllabus)

Spring 2006

Section 4: MWF 11-11:50, Strong 200

Section 5: MWF 12-12:50, Strong 200

Instructor: Dr. Austra Reinis

OFFICE: Strong Hall 259

PHONE: 836-8524 (office); 836-5514 (department)


OFFICE HOURS: Monday 10-11 am; 1-4 pm

Wednesday 10-11 am

OR by appointment

WELCOME to Religion 100 – Introduction to Religion! I hope that you will enjoy this course and that it will broaden and deepen your outlook on religion and life. I see learning as a two-way street. I hope that as the semester progresses we will become a team of learners helping each other to excel. I see my job as helping you to excel in this course. I would like to invite you to help each other -- and to help me to make this a good course. Each of you – each of us – can contribute to the success of this course by coming prepared to participate in class discussion and by sharing the unique experiences and knowledge that each of us brings to the classroom.

Throughout history, in all cultures, so far as we know, humans have been concerned with questions concerning religion. In this course we will ask and examine some of those important questions. Our approach in this course will be primarily philosophical and comparative, as opposed to theological. Our goal is both to increase our knowledge and to heighten our ability to analyze and evaluate different religious perspectives.


REL 100 investigates what religion is, compares religious ideas and practices, and explores how religion influences the relationship between individual and community. Like general education, the overall aim of REL 100 is to help students with life-long decision-making that will lead to a satisfying and purposeful life and responsible participation in society. As part of the “Self-Understanding” section of the General Education Program, REL 100 also contributes to the aim of that section: “to make informed choices, one must understand the natural and social context in which one lives and must heed the ancient injunction: know thyself.” Thus, the goals of the course are:

  1. To become aware of the relevance of religion in human life, both private and public.

  2. To become acquainted with the essential meaning of religion by looking at different ways to approach and define religion.

  3. To become acquainted with the essential questions of religious inquiry, e.g., what is the nature of human beings and why is there suffering?

  4. To become familiar with some of the classical beliefs of the major religious traditions and their contributions to the individual and society.

  5. To understand more completely how religion influences individual and group decisions.

  6. To recognize the importance of sacred literature in shaping beliefs and actions, and in contributing to societal harmony as well as conflict.

  7. To become familiar with some of the unique ways in which religion has functioned in the modern world.

*Please visit to see the full text of the SMSU General Education Program. To see the direct link between the seven course objectives and the General Education-Self-understanding goals, go to the addendum “Matching Course Goals with General Education Goals” at the end of the syllabus. Because of the importance of General Education to one’s life-long learning, near the end of the semester you will be asked to assess how well the General Education goals have been met in this class.

Required Texts: ` 1. Huston Smith, The Illustrated World’s Religions (San Francisco, CA:

Harper, 1995).

2. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (New York, NY: Pocket Books, n.d.).

Reserve Texts: 1. John Lyden, ed., Enduring Issues in Religion (San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1995).

(Reserve Desk in Meyer Library; also available on e-reserve.)

2. Michael Molloy, Experiencing the world's religions: tradition, challenge, and change (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub. Co., c1999).

3. Wilson, John F., Religion: A Preface (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, c1989).


Exam One 100 points

Exam Two 100 points

Final Exam 150 points

Assignments /

Short papers 210 points

Quizzes 70 points

Regular and positive


in class 10 points

TOTAL 640 points
The final grade will be determined as follows:

576-640 points = A (90%)

512-575 points = B (80%)

448-511 points = C (70%)

384-447 points = D (60%)

0 - 383 points = F (below 60%)

Grading criteria for essays

A = answers the question in a well-written coherent essay with an intelligent main idea and convincing examples to back it up.

B = answers the question in a coherent essay with a plausible main idea and some examples.
C = answers the question with some defensible notion and one decent piece of evidence.
D = barely answers the question with poor evidence.
F = does not answer the question or offer any evidence.
Contesting a grade – No one is infallible, not even the course instructor. Mathematical errors in the computation of grades are to be brought to the instructor’s attention immediately. If a student believes that an essay or a presentation has been graded unfairly, then he / she is to make a case for a higher (or lower!) grade in writing. The argument, together with the essay / presentation notes in question, is to be handed in for consideration by the instructor within a week from the day on which the grade was received.

1.MAJOR EXAMS: The major exam dates are noted in the course outline. An exam will follow each of the first two units. Approximately two-thirds of the final will be comprehensive, and the other one-third will cover the material since the second exam. Each exam will cover materials which have been assigned in the course outline for that particular unit of study. This includes lectures, discussions, readings, and audio-visual presentations. MAJOR EXAMS MAY NOT BE MADE UP UNLESS ARRANGEMENTS ARE MADE PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED EXAM. In such cases an extensive essay exam will be given in lieu of the missed exam.


a) Unit One: (120 total points)

Essay on your personal definition and experience of religion (10)

Essay responding to questions on p.8 of Huston Smith, The Illustrated World’s Religions (15)

Enduring Issues study questions (60) ( = 15 points each set of questions)

“Comparison / Contrast of Definitions” essay (35)

  1. Unit Two: (75 total points)

“Religion in the Real World” article (5)

Terms Quiz 1: Hinduism & Buddhism (40)

Terms Quiz 2: Judaism & Christianity (30)

  1. Unit Three: (85 total points)

Project presentations (35)

Essay on Frankl, Meaning (40)

Wrap-Up Essay (10)
Policy on late work: You will benefit most from class if you come prepared, having done the assigned readings and completed the written assignments. If a prior commitment prevents you from attending a class, I expect that you will e-mail me your assignment before class time. In considering whether or not to accept late work, I will take into account attendance and participation. Points may be taken off for late work.
3.CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION AND ATTENDANCE (10 points): You are expected to be in class on time and prepared for any questions or discussion. You are also expected to stay until the end of the teaching period. Attendance will be taken throughout the semester; you must be in class ON TIME to be marked present. Obviously, frequent absences will adversely affect your ability to participate in class discussion. You will receive a maximum of 5 points for making a regular and positive contribution to our class discussions. Later in the semester, we will have a “field trip,” (most likely) to Temple Israel. Another 5 points will be given to those who go on the field trip. Thus, total points possible for participation is 10 points. This is approximately 1 ½ % of your grade; therefore, at the end of the semester, participation in class will influence borderline grades.
4.EXTRA CREDIT (5 points): You may earn a maximum of 5 points of extra credit for the semester by choosing ONE of the following options. These options include:

a) attend a get-acquainted dessert-potluck (!!!) at your instructor’s home on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7pm or Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7 pm. Team up with two others to bring a dessert and walk from campus or carpool. Soft drinks will be provided. The address is 1166 S. Clay Ave., at E. Catalpa, 4 blocks south of campus.


b) arrange to meet with your instructor at her office or at Churchill’s for a 10 min. get-acquainted chat.


c) attend a special on-campus lecture or read articles announced in class and type a 2 page response.


d) type a 2-3 page essay based on Chapter IV (Confucianism) or Chapter V (Taoism). The first 1/2 should be a summary of the chapter; the second 1/2 should be a report of aspects of this religion that are particularly interesting to you – and why.

NOTE that any extra-credit work must be completed by the date designated in the course outline.
5. SMSU is a community of scholars committed to developing educated persons who accept the responsibility to practice personal and academic integrity. You are responsible for knowing and following SMSU’s student honor code, Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures, available at Integrity.html and also available at the Reserves Desk in Meyer Library. Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in this policy.
6.To request accommodations for disability, contact Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, Director, Disability Services, Plaster Student Union, Suite 405, (417) 836-4192 or (417) 836-6792 (TTY), Students are required to provide documentation of disability to Disability Services prior to receiving accommodations. Disability Services refers some types of accommodation requests to the Learning Diagnostic Clinic, which also provides diagnostic testing for learning and psychological disabilities. For information about testing, contact Dr. Steve Capps, Director, Learning Diagnostic Clinic, (417) 836-4787,
7.SMSU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution, and maintains a grievance procedure available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries or concerns about possible discrimination to Jana Estergard, Equal Opportunity Officer, Siceluff Hall 296, (417) 836-4252. Other types of concerns (i.e., concerns of an academic nature) should be addressed directly with your instructor and can also be brought to the attention of your instructor’s Department Head.
8.Cell phone policy: As a member of the learning community, each student has a responsibility to other students who are members of the community. When cell phones or pagers ring and students respond in class or leave class to respond, it disrupts the class. Therefore, the Office of Academic Affairs prohibits the use by students of cell phones, pagers, or similar communication devices during scheduled classes. All such devices must be turned off or put in a silent mode and cannot be taken out during class. At the discretion of the instructor, exception to this policy is possible in special circumstances. For the text of the full policy see
9.It is your responsibility to understand the University’s procedure for dropping a class. If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping a class, you will receive a failing grade and will also be financially obligated to pay for the class. To drop a class anytime after the first week of classes, you must complete and turn in a drop slip at an authorized registration center (see chnsched.html). You do not need to obtain any signatures on the drop slip. It does not need to be signed by your instructor, your advisor, or a department head. If you wish to withdraw from the University (i.e., drop all your classes), contact the Registration Center, Carrington 320, 836-5522.


W, Jan 18 Introduction: Who’s here?

What’s happenin’?

Assign “Religion is . . ..” essay
F, Jan 20 Why study religion? OR “Religion is . . ..” essay due

The Relevance of studying religion. (10p) My score: _____

Discuss “Religion is . . ..” essay.

Assign Huston Smith essay, based on

___ questions on p. 8


M, Jan 23 Is studying religion at SMSU legal? – Huston essay due

First Amendment issues (15p) ____

W, Jan 25 Introduce Rudolf Otto

Discuss Huston questions

Assign Issues I:3: Otto reading and questions
F, Jan 27 Introduce Karl Marx Otto questions due

Discuss Otto questions (15p) _____

___ Assign Issues I:2: Marx reading and questions


M, Jan 30 Faith Development (I) Marx questions due

Discuss Marx questions (15p) _____

W, Feb 1 Introduce Sigmund Freud

Faith Development (II)

Assign Issues I:4: Freud reading and questions
F, Feb 3 What about the existence of God? (I) Freud questions due

Discuss Freud questions (15p) _____



M, Feb 6 What about the existence of God? (II)

Introduce Paul Tillich

Assign Issues I:6: Tillich reading and questions
W, Feb 8 Why do bad things happen to good people? (I) Tillich questions due

Discuss Tillich questions (15p) _____

Assign Compare / Contrast Essay

F, Feb 10 Why do bad things happen to good people? (II)

Work on Compare / Contrast Essay.

___ Begin reviewing for Exam One


M, Feb 13 What does religion do for people? OR

Religion and Human Needs

Receive study guide for Exam One;

continue reviewing for Exam One
W, Feb 15 Discuss Compare / Contrast essays Compare/Contrast essay due

Review for Exam One (35p) _____

Finish reviewing for Exam One
F, Feb 17 EXAM ONE TODAY! Review for Exam One

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 1 (100 p) _____

“Point of Departure”




W, Feb 22 Go over exam Huston Smith, Ch. 1

Discuss projects

Assign religion news article
F, Feb 24 Discuss religion news article Religion news article due

“Primal, Cultural and Supra-Cultural Religions” (5p) _____

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 9

___ “The Primal Religions”


M, Feb 27 “Primal religions” Huston Smith, Ch. 9

Hand out Terms list and Study Questions

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 2

W, Mar 1 Hinduism Video “330 Million Gods” Huston Smith, Ch. 2

Sign up presentation partners and topics (I)

F, Mar 3 Hinduism

Sign up presentation partners and topics (II)

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 3

___ “Buddhism”


M, Mar 6 Buddhism Video Huston Smith, Ch. 3

Sign up presentation dates Begin working on

Begin studying for Terms Quiz 1 presentations!

-- Review Hinduism

W, Mar 8 Buddhism Study for Terms Quiz 1

Sign up presentation dates -- Review Hinduism

Continue studying for Terms Quiz 1

-- Review Buddhism
F, Mar 10 Terms Quiz 1 Study for Terms Quiz 1

Video “Judaism” -- Review Primal religions,

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 7 Hinduism, & Buddhism

___ “Judaism” (40p) _____


M, Mar 13 Go over Terms Quiz 1 Huston Smith Ch. 7

Judaism Field trip to Temple to be

scheduled around this

Time (5p) ____

W, Mar 15 Judaism

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 8

F, Mar 17 Christianity – Eastern Orthodoxy Huston Smith Ch. 8

Video: The Romanian Solution




M, Mar 27 Christianity – Orthodoxy & Catholicism

Begin studying for Terms Quiz 2

-- Review Judaism
W, Mar 29 Christianity – Protestantism Study for Terms Quiz 2

Continue studying for Terms Quiz 2 -- Review Judaism

-- Review Christianity
F, Mar 31 Terms Quiz Two Study for Terms Quiz 2

Project presentations (I) -- Review Christianity and

Assign Huston Smith, Ch. 6 Judaism

___ “Islam” (30p) _____


M, Apr 3 Video “Islam” Huston Smith, Ch. 6

W, Apr 5 Islam

Begin reviewing for Exam Two

-- Hinduism and Buddhism
F, Apr 7 Islam

Continue reviewing for Exam Two

-- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam



M, Apr 10 EXAM TWO TODAY! Review for Exam Two

Assign reading: Frankl, Meaning (100p) _____
W, Apr 12 Project presentations (II) Begin reading Meaning…

Assign Meaning essay




M, Apr 17 Go over exam

Why do people choose as they do? OR Continue reading Meaning…

Ethics and Religion (I)

W, Apr 19 Ethics and Religion (II) Continue reading Meaning…

Last day to accept extra credit!!!
F, Apr 21 Project presentations (III) Begin working on Meaning

___ essay


M, Apr 24 Project presentations (IV)

W, Apr 26 Ethics and Religion (III)
F, Apr 28 NO CLASS (Dr. Reinis attending conference.)


M, May 1 Project presentations (V) Cont. working on Meaning…

W, May 3 Discuss Meaning…

Project presentations (VI) Meaning… essay due

Course evaluations (40p) _____

F, May 5 Religion in the United States Today (I)

Assign “Wrap-up” essay



M, May 8 Religion in the United States Today (II) Finish project presentations

(35p) _____

W, May 10 Project presentations (VII) OR “Wrap-up” essay due

Review for Final Exam (10p) _____

Total pts. before final exam (150 pts), class participation (5 pts), and extra credit (5pts):

(485) _____


Section 4 MWF 11-11:50 Final: Wednesday, May 17, 11am – 1pm

Section 5 MWF 12-12:50 Final: Monday, May 15, 11am – 1pm

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