|In this comparative religion course, we will survey 12 religious traditions from around the world.
Our primary focus will be the indigenous religions of North America and Africa, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Chinese Religions (in particular, Confucianism and Daoism), Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and a few of the New Religious Movements (NRM).
We will pay particular attention to the religious traditions’ ethical and moral dimensions (i.e., how they live their faith) opposed to a detail analyses of their histories and/or theologies.
Since I am a sociologist who specializes in sociological theory, the sociology of religion, and comparative religion, these disciplines will be the tools or, if you like, lenses we will use to examine and understand different religious traditions.
For those of you who have never heard of the discipline called comparative religion, allow me to enlighten you.
"Comparative religion is more than the comparing and contrasting of religious structures in different religions.
It is also a scientific, non-theological study of why individuals and groups of individuals are or are not religious and the impact that this has on a given society"
(Jensen, 2003, page 9).
In short, I am not a theologian trying to teach you a particular religious tradition and/or why you should believe in 'this' theological system opposed to 'that' theological system;
I am a social scientist who will attempt to teach you about religion (think, scientific investigation).
My hope for the students who take this course is two fold.
First, using a comparative framework, my students will gain a better understanding of the proverbial religious stranger in their so called strange land.
And, second, appreciate — even if they disagree with a particular group of Believers — the variety of, as Dr. Fromm put it, “frames of orientation” and “objects of devotion” there are in the world.
With understanding and appreciation, a student's capacity for tolerance, respect, and compassion increases, as well as their ability to learn.
Justice Clark (1899-1977; Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1949-1967) said it best when he argued, "that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization."