Department of ReligionKenyon College homepage

Mary Suydam 

Religion 101: Introduction to the Study of Religion: Fall 2005

Prof. Mary Suydam

Merriam Webster Online Dictionary
  The Bible Unbound

Class: MWF 1:10 - 2 PM

LBIS Consort: Course Reserves and E-RES
  The Bible on the Web

Phone PBX 5067

McGraw-Hill Power Web


Ten Commandments for Essay Writing

Office: Ascension 309

Twenty Rules Not to Follow


Film Viewing Guidelines

Office Hours: T- W - TH 10 - 12

The Academic Study of Religion
  Defining Religion


The Seven Dimensions of Religion

Timelines and Glossaries

Chronology of Hinduism: Literature Glossary of Terms: Islam
Background for the Bhagavad Gita Glossary of Terms: Hinduism
Christianity: Timeline Glossary of Terms: Buddhism
Ancient and Early Rabbinic Judaism: Timeline Glossary of Terms: Christianity

Goals of the Course

The aim of this course is to enable you to think clearly and critically, from an academic rather than a devotional perspective, about the various human phenomena that we call "religious". The academic study of religion takes a global and pluralistic approach, looking at religion critically while attempting to understand religious phenomena from the perspectives of participants. Learning the ways in which scholars attempt this "double stance" - critical yet empathetic - is a major goal of this course.

A second major goal of this course is to introduce you to some of the basic concepts and categories that are used by scholars in the academic study of religion. The major categories that we will study this semester are: IDENTITY, , MYTH, MORALITY (or ethics), in terms of both INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETY, RITUAL, and the SACRED.

These concepts do not exist in an abstract vacuum but were created as tools to understand specific religious phenomena. Therefore, a third major goal of the course is to introduce you to some of the major religious traditions and to see how these concepts help us to understand these traditions better. The traditions that we will survey this semester are Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In our study, we will learn 1) some of the basic worldviews of each tradition, 2) how the traditions have developed historically, and 3) how religion shapes and is shaped by cultures.

Course Requirements

This course is structured as a collaborative exchange of information between students and professor. The format of the class is a combination of lecture and discussion. Active discussion of the topics is a critical component of this class. Missing more than two classes or two weekly assignments will lower your final grade by one full point (B becomes C, for example). Grades will be based upon:

There will be weekly writing assignments each week to aid in preparing for discussions of the texts. Because critical reading of the texts is so important, you will be assigned a study partner for this class. Reading and assignments will be done as a partnership. Some writing will be in-class; some will be done outside of class and brought to the class. Assignments will be posted below. For Power Web codes, click here.

Refer to Guidelines for Short Papers



Margaret Huff and Ann K. Wetherilt, Religion: A Search for Meaning. Boston: McGraw Hill 2005.

Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. NY: Ballantine Books.

Barbara Miller, trans., The Bhagavad Gita.

John S. Strong, The Experience of Buddhism. 2nd Edition. (Belmont, California, Wadsworth Publishing: 2001

The Bible: New Advent Library (Note: You may use your own copy of the Bible, or download sections you need from the Online Bible listed on the course website)

Course Outline


Week 1: Aug. 29, 31, Sept. 2: Intro to class; the academic study of religion.


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 1

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, selected chapters

Film: Inside Mecca

Power Web #10: E.S.C. Handy, Religion and Education in Ancient Hawaiian Civilization

Power Web #11: John Charlot, The Hula in Hawaiian Life and Thought

Assignment 1

Week 2: Sept. 5, 7, 9: Identity and Community: Symbols


The Autobiography of Malcolm X, selected chapters

Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 2

Film: Inside Mecca

Qur'an Excerpts

Power Web: #9, Veve: The Sacred Symbol of Vodoun

Click here to see some Veve images

Assignment 2

Class Insights: Symbols

Week 3: Sept. 12, 14, 16: Identity and Community: Ritual


Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 16-17

Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 3

Film: Malcolm X

Tom Driver, "Transformation: The Magic of Ritual" (E-Res)

Power Web #3: The Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual

Studying Ritual

Test 1: Islam


Week 4: Sept. 19, 21, 23: Myth; Hinduism

Film: 330 Million Gods


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 7

Cunningham, "The Language of the Sacred", Sacred Quest, (E-Res)

Power Web #5: "Sun Mother Wakes the World"

Genesis, chapters 1-2

Assignment 3

Week 5: Sept. 26, 28, 30: Myth in Hinduism


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 4

Bhagavad Gita, chapters 1-4, 5-9

Eliade, "The Structure of Myth" (E-Res)

The Parade of Ants (E-Res)

Assignment 4


Week 6: Oct. 3, 5, 7: Hinduism


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 5

Bhagavad Gita, chapters 10-14

Film: Puja

Test 2: Hinduism

Class Insights: Myth and the Parade of Ants

----------- OCTOBER BREAK ------------

Week 7: October 12, 14: Buddhism

Film: Footprint of the Buddha-


Strong, The Experience of Buddhism, chapter 1 and pages 88-102

Power Web #16: The Beginnings of Buddhism

Strong, The Experience of Buddhism, pages 76-83

Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 6

Assignment 5

Paper Topics Due

Week 8: October 17, 19, 21: Mahayana Buddhism


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 9

Strong, The Experience of Buddhism, pages 146-151, 161-175

Power Web #17: The Sacred is Complete Emptiness

Test 3: Buddhism

Sign Up Sheet: Paper Bibliographies


Week 9: Oct. 24, 26, 28: Christianity


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 10

Otto, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 1, pages 1-40 (Course Reserve)

Matthew 1:18 - 2:23; chapters 5 - 7; 24:29-35; 25: 31-46; 27:11 - 28: 20 John, chapter 1; Mark 14-16

The Death of Joseph (E-Res)

Film: Protestant Spirit USA

Assignment 6

Paper Bibliographies Due

Week 10: Oct. 31, Nov. 2, 4: Christianity and the Afterlife


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning, chapter 12

Romans chapters 5-7; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4-5

Power Web #63: Resuscitating Passion

Martin Luther, The Three Walls of the Romanists (The Second Wall)

Irenaeus of Lyons on the Apostolic Tradition

Assignment 7

Test 4: Christianity

Week 11: Nov. 7, 9, 11: The Sacred: Judaism


Huff, Religion: A Search for Meaning: review pages 248-260, 267-8; chapter 11

Genesis 28: 10-22; Deuteronomy 28: 1-25; 30: 1-30

Roman Arch of Titus (81 C.E.)

Mishnah Sample 1

Mishnah Avot

Talmud Sample

Sacred Text Insights

Papers Due Friday, November 11


Week 12: Nov. 14, 16, 18: Putting it Together: Holiness, Community, and Society: Judaism and Islam


Exodus 2-20

Psalm 137

Passover and the Exodus

America the Beautiful
Go Down Moses

For the Strength of the Hills

Go Down Moses, another version
Exodus clip


The Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross: Catholic Encyclopedia Online

Stations of the Cross: Some Observations


Power Web #29: The Politics of Holiness in Jerusalem

Power Web #44: The Dome of the Rock: Jerusalem's Epicenter (use search engine to find)

Power Web #39: Politics at Prayer

Jerusalem: Where Heaven and Earth Meet

Assignment 8


Week 13: Nov. 28, 30, Dec. 2: Putting it Together: Holiness, Community, and Society: Hinduism

Monday: Film: Excerpts from the Mahabharata

Signup sheet to discuss papers


Power Web #13: "Seeing the Sacred"

For Wednesday: Assignment

Power Web #15: "The Sacred is the One True Reality of Brahman"

What is Puja? Smithsonian Guide

Some Observations on Brook's film

For Friday: Assignment 9

Week 14: Dec. 5, 7, 9 12: Putting it Together: Holiness, Community and Society: Buddhism

Monday, Dec. 5: Film: Mandala: the Sacred Circle of Vajrabhairava

Readings: (Wednesday, December 7)

Dalai Lama's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 10 December 1989
Dalai Lama: Words of Truth Poem
Strong, Experience of Buddhism, 251-266

Buddhist pilgrimage: the Bodhi Tree
Mt. Kailasa, Tibet
Reading: Strong, Experience of Buddhism, 219-223, 236-41 (Friday, Dec. 9)
Friday, Dec. 9: Assignment 10

Final Exam handed out in class Monday, Dec. 12.. Take-home portion will be due at the beginning of the in-class exam, December 18 or 20.

Exam dates: Alternate exam: Sunday, December 18, 12-2 PM . Regularly scheduled exam: Tuesday, December 20, 9:00 AM. Both exams will be held in the regular classroom, Ascension 201.