R S 373 • Intro to Comparative Religion
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
This course introduces and discusses major comparative approaches in the study of religion. The act of comparison is as old as religion is. Religious individuals and groups have often compared their beliefs and practices with those of their neighbors, sometimes with a sincere religious interest, sometimes merely to demonstrate the superiority of their own religion. Since the end of the 19th century, scholars of religion sought to develop methods of comparison that were not religiously biased. They asked: What are the differences and the similarites in the religions of the world? Why do religions have the same - or completely different - answers to the same existential questions? Why do they express their beliefs by developing very different - or strikingly similar - practices? This course surveys classical and current approaches to the comparison of religions. The guiding questions are: What are the respective goals of the comparative enterprises? What specific methods are advocated and actually carried out? Should we adopt those goals and methods for our own reflections on religion? The introduction to these issues will be illustrated by numerous examples from the history of religions. Many examples will be taken from Asian religions, but depending on the interests of students in class, we may extend our scope into any direction. In the course of the semester, students will develop individual comparative projects in study groups.
Attendance/participation 20% Oral presentation 20% Project development 30% Final exam 30%