PHIL1304PCM: World Religions

Matthew Daude Laurents, Ph.D.

Synonym: 30683

Fall, 2005

Contact Information and Office Hours

Course Description

The ACC catalogue describes this course as "A study of religious consciousness and the major religions of the world including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam."

There are no course prerequisites for World Religions. A passing score or the equivalent on the reading portion of the TASP is required.

Please note that you must complete the online Orientation prior to beginning work on this course.

Course Materials


Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions, 6th edition (ISBN 0131933159)


The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions, 2nd edition (ISBN 0140514805)

There will be additional reading assignments linked to the course calendar.

Instructional Methodology

This is an online course, so internet access, including an email account, is required. All written work and other course business will take place by means of email and the web pages for these sections. (To find the main page for your section, go back to the top of this page and click on your section number.) The major form of individual assessment will be writing assignments (essays) and quizzes; there will be no major exams. I will also use online forms to gather information about your progress in the coursework.

Course Rationale

Religion has been and continues to be one of the principal forces that have shaped human societies and history. For this reason, a basic understanding of the major religions of the world affords both a deeper appreciation of other cultures and traditions and a richer understanding of ourselves.

Course Objectives

Departmental Objectives/Outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate understanding of the central beliefs and concepts of major living religious traditions of the world, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  2. Students will demonstrate familiarity with the structure and ritual life of religious communities, including significant holidays and rituals.
  3. Students will demonstrate a basic grasp of the methodology of the study of religion.

Coursework and Grading Policy

Coursework includes reading assignments, online discussion, quizzes, and essays. Review the Coursework Guide for a more detailed discussion of the coursework.

Your grade for this course will be based on written work demonstrating the pursuit of the goals of the course. There are two types of written assignments: (1) online quizzes on the reading assignments and (2) essays on religious events. The final grade is determined by the grades on these four elements, weighted according to the following chart:

Quizzes 25%
Exams 20%
Two Descriptive Essays 30%
Analytical Essay 15%
Participation 10%

Please review the Grading and Evaluation System for a detailed exposition of my approach to evaluation. You will find additional guidelines for each assignment in the online classroom. You may hand in assignments earlier than the due date, but assignments must follow the stated sequence. (For instance, you may not take exam 2 before exam 1, etc.)

Course Policies

Class Atmosphere

I favor an informal and open atmosphere in my classes, but I expect a level of civility conducive to inquiry. Consequently, we will adopt some basic conventions of respect and responsibility. Everyone must respect the views of others. "Respect" does not mean "agree with"; rather, it means that everyone gets a fair hearing. However, I also expect people to take responsibility for their contributions to discussion. Opinions offered in all forms of class discussion (including email discussion!) should be informed, thoughtful, and grounded; hence, all views will be subject to closer inspection and questioning (including my own).

We will use the Blackboard bulletin board and a virtual classroom for class discussion. I encourage you to post questions and comments about the course material, but I will remove material that is not substantially relevant to the coursework.

Security and Privacy

The online classroom is a secure area, and you must follow some basic policies in order to help preserve security and to protect the privacy of your classmates.

  1. Do not share the password to the classroom or links to URLs inside the secure area.
  2. You may occasionally see the email addresses of classmates. You may use these email addresses only for course-related communication, unless the recipient specifically gives you permission for non-course-related communication. Report violations of this policy to me immediately.
  3. I will return your assignments, including your grades, by email only to the email address that you provide. If you are concerned about the privacy of your grades, you may want to discuss the matter with me.

In submitting your First Assignment, you agree to abide by these policies and procedures. I will pursue all allegations of abuse of the website, email addresses, course materials, and other material posted in conjunction with this course. Violation of these security policies constitute grounds for disciplinary action (which will include at least a failing grade in the course), and may involve criminal or civil penalties as well.

Please note that, except as specified above, I do not send student information (such as student ID numbers) by email.

Announcements and Deadlines

I hold you responsible for information and announcements sent by email or posted on the web pages for your class. This policy applies specifically to course assignments and deadlines, including essay due dates. Unless otherwise stipulated, all course materials (including readings, handouts, essay topics, and other assignments) will be posted on the web site for your class.

I expect all work to be turned in by the deadlines, and I do not accept late work except by prior arrangement or for compelling reasons. "Prior" means before the due date and time. "Compelling reasons" means circumstances beyond your control that were also unforeseeable.

For specific deadlines and other announcements, check the main page for your course (frequently). If I issue a due date without a specific time, you should have the assignment in before midnight.


Plagiarism involves passing off someone else's work as if it were your own. The term "plagiarism" does not imply intent: one may commit plagiarism with or without the intention of passing off someone else's work as your own. If someone else's words or sequence of ideas appears in your writing without proper documentation, then you have engaged in plagiarism irrespective of whether you meant to do so.

If you are unclear about which uses of material are and are not permissible, you should familiarize yourself with the notion of plagiarism. A good start is the guide, "Documentation and Plagiarism," published by ACC's Library Services. Reference librarians are also a valuable source of help. If you have further questions, you are welcome to contact me.

Students will receive no credit for any assignment in which there is evidence of plagiarism, and such assignments may not be resubmitted for additional credit. Students who plagiarize or engage in other forms of academic dishonesty may also be subject to disciplinary action by the College. (See the "Academic Dishonesty" section below.)


I do not "automatically" withdraw students. If you intend to drop this course you must do the paperwork yourself. Anyone who remains enrolled in the course will receive a performance grade derived according to the criteria for work and grading set forth in the syllabus. For the drop date (and other important college dates), refer to ACC's Academic Calendar.


I give incompletes only in extenuating circumstances, which must be documented. If you find that you need to request an incomplete, you must arrange a completion plan with me in advance and document that plan on an incomplete form. I will make exceptions to this condition only for compelling reasons, as defined above. Please note that I do not grant "routine" incompletes. I will award a performance grade derived according to the criteria for work and grading stipulated in the syllabus to everyone enrolled, based on whatever work I have received and recorded during the semester.

Final grades

In accordance with ACC policy, final grades will not be posted, nor do I notify students of final course grades by telephone or email. If you have questions regarding the computation of your grade, etc., see the Grading and Evaluation System or contact me.

Course Materials

Respect my rights! Most of the materials and the structure of this course are my work and thus are protected by copyright law. You may make printouts of course materials for your own use. Reproduction of course materials (including email communications) for public distribution or commercial use violates copyright law. For further details on ACC's policy regarding Copyright and course materials, see the "Copyright Policy Notice" found in the Student Handbook.

Academic Freedom

Students have the right to believe whatever they happen to believe and, within the appropriate constraints that follow from the organization of a course and its class meetings, to express those beliefs. Grades will never be based on the beliefs that a student maintains, but only on the quality of the philosophical work performed by a student in conjunction with the course.

Scholastic Dishonesty

"Acts prohibited by the college for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work. Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, research, or self-expression. Academic work is defined as, but not limited to tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper; projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations, and homework." (Student Handbook, 2002-2003, p. 32)

Cases of scholastic dishonesty will be pursued according to the procedure set forth in the Student Handbook, “Student Rights and Responsibilities,” Section J, “Academic Dishonesty."

Office of Students with Disabilities

"Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities. Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes. Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester." (Student Handbook, 2002-2003, p. 14)

Course Outline

This is a broad outline of the major topics we will cover in the course:

  1. Introduction to the Study of Religion
  2. Eastern Religious Traditions
    1. Hinduism
    2. Jainism
    3. Buddhism
    4. Taoism
    5. Confucianism
    6. Shinto
  3. Western Religious Traditions
    1. Zoroastrianism
    2. Judaism
    3. Christianity
    4. Islam
    5. Sikhism
  4. Recent Religious Movements
  5. Conclusion: Contemporary Religious Experience

The Course Calendar available in the online classroom (Blackboard) includes a complete outline for the course. Check the Course Calendar frequently for due dates, announcements, and important links.

Proceed to the Orientation

Return to top or Back

This page was last updated 03/01/2009 07:09:29 PM by drdaude.