World Religions – Introduction to Religion

Module Introduction

This module will provide students with an introduction to religion as an academic discipline. The module Learning Unit will familiarize students with the difficulties of defining religion as an academic category, explore academic theories for understanding individual religious impetus, and provide a definitional criteria for the term ‘World Religion.’ From there, the student will analyze the views of four religious scholars to argue for which they regard as being most convincing on the Discussion Board for this module. Finally, the student will demonstrate proficiency of this Learning Unit through the module assessments. (1)

Understanding Era Designations

Historians divide time in two eras. The era before year one is identified as BCE (Before the Common Era) or previously BC (Before Christ). The era after year is identified as CE (Common Era) or previously AD (Anno Domini — Latin for the ‘In the Year of Our Lord’). While the Christianized delineations of history sufficed in previous decades, scholars now prefer the more generic BCE and CE as they take into account that different religions have different starting points in history. Jewish tradition, for example, has seen the beginning of Creation as their first year. Muslims, on the other hand, identify Muhammad flight from Mecca as their first year (622 CE in the common calendar). Thus BCE and CE allow historians to speak about events in the past through a secular rather than religious lens.

Even so, the designations BCE/BC and CE/AD work the same. In the era of BCE/BC, time counts down backwards. Once you reach year one, however, time begins to march forward in the AD/CE era. Thus, Augustus comes to power in Rome in the year 27 BCE. He dies, however, in 14 CE. So, in essence, he ruled for 41 years. In terms of Jesus, many scholars now place his birth earlier than turn of the first millennia, sometime around 4 BCE. (1)

Learning Outcomes

This module aligns with Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Explain the factors that make defining religion a difficult task.
  • Distinguish the views of religious scholars within the functionalist school of thought.
  • Differentiate the substantive approach to religion from the functionalist approach.
  • Distinguish between the various ‘isms’ that characterize religious belief (i.e. animism, monotheism, polytheism, etc.).
  • Recognize what differentiates a world religion from an everyday religion. (1)

Required Reading

Learning Unit 1

Assignments and Learning Activities

  • Complete Module 1 Discussion
  • Complete Module 1 Quiz

Discussion: Greetings and Introductions

Please introduce yourself to the class. In your response please include, your name, your major, and your general career goals. Once you have submitted your post, please read through your classmates’ posts and respond to at least two. Be honest but keep in mind your own privacy. Responses should expand upon a thought and be meaningful.