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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Spring 2009

R S 383 • Psychology & Religion

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43815 W
9:00 AM-12:00 PM
szb 444

Course Description

Throughout modern times, it has been confidently argued that advances in the rational and/or scientific understanding of the world will greatly diminish or even eliminate the influence of religion as a force in human culture. Plainly, things have turned out very different than expected. It is true that mainstream Christian churches in the US have declined significantly in membership over the last 50 years, and that a thoroughly or even militantly secular attitude prevails in many cultural quarters today. But it is also the case that there has been tremendous growth among broadly conservative, sometimes fundamentalist, churches in the US in recent decades, and that the non-Western world is awash in new conservative Muslim, Christian, and an astounding variety of vital syncretistic religious movements. In addition, a large number of well-educated, thoughtful individuals everywhere regard themselves as earnest spiritual seekers who are uncertain about how to pursue their religious interests. Thus, the author of the lead article in the October 2002 issue of the Atlantic Monthly magazine opines, "The twenty-first century will be regarded by future historians as a century in which religion replaced ideology as the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs."
In this seminar, we will consider some of the writings of a handful of influential, contemporary thinkers from a variety of religious or what are sometimes termed "wisdom" traditions, both Western and Eastern, who, interestingly, endeavor to respond creatively to our present situation in a generally similar way. Namely, they seek to reconnect with and remain faithful to the heart of their traditions but also to reinterpret what they really are all about (they would say authentically) in a way that radically dispenses with claims to exclusive, final, or certain truth. We will read them both for an appreciation of their particular insights and to consider the distinctive approach they share to cultivating the religious dimension of life in a modern context--one that neither denigrates nor dogmatically absolutizes religious tradition or belief.
Seminar is open to interested graduate students from any department.


Reading assignments will likely include:
(1) Jesus: A New Vision, by Marcus Borg
(2) The Dignity of Difference, by Jonathan Sacks
(3) The Healing Wisdom of Africa, by Malidoma Somé
(4) Reverence, by Paul Woodruff
(5) No Boundary: Eastern Approaches to Personal Growth, by Ken Wilbur
(6) The World's Religions, by Huston Smith
(7) Buddha, by Karen Armstrong
(8) Bhagavad Gita, by Stephen Mitchell (Trans)
(9) Forgivenness: Theory, Research, and Practice, by McCullough, Pargament, and Thoreson (Eds.).


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