1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement

Honors Intro Relig Stdy

REL 105-002Spring 2018 | 3 Credit Hours

Recitation or Discussion

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

As the Honors/Core Humanities introduction to the academic study of religion, REL 105 examines the material in greater detail than REL 100, and in a smaller class setting. A minimum 3.3 GPA is required to register. HU IBA

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

Honors version of REL 100.

This course familiarizes students with examples of the sorts of phenomena studied by scholars of religion (at the University of Alabama and elsewhere) and with some of the concepts and theories they employ when studying them.  It attempts neither a comprehensive account of the world’s religions, nor an exhaustive survey of theoretical approaches.  Rather, the course especially dwells on puzzling or, in some cases, disturbing phenomena, deriving from a variety of historical and geographic settings, to display both the challenges and virtues of religious studies.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

The remaining readings (as well as some other readings of interest) are available on Blackboard.

Course Objectives

1) To gain familiarity with diverse religious phenomena.

2) To gain practice critiquing and applying theoretical concepts.

Student Learning Outcomes

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

  • Distinguish a humanistic orientation to the study of religion from a theoistic orientation.

  • Explain the roles of understanding and explanation in the study of religion.

  • Use comparison to illuminate social and cultural phenomena, both familiar and unfamiliar.

  • Reflect on the relative merits of different theoretical approaches to religion.

  • Analyze the political aspects of religious phenomena.

  • Speak intelligibly about a variety of topics in the history of religion.

Other Course Materials

Five very short exercises to help you improve your prose. I have put “Writing Well: An Incomplete Set of Guidelines” on Blackboard for you to use as a reference text.  I will announce the assignment in class.  They are due in my mailbox in 212 Manley Hall on Jan. 24, Feb. 7, Feb. 21, March 7, and March 28.  You will receive a check or check minus. (2% each)     

Outline of Topics

Reading Assignments

  1. Case Study # 1: Thuggee

  2. Wagner—Thuggee, pp. 91-102, 103-111, 173-182, 190-205, 205-218. (Jan. 16)

  3. Gupta—“A Critical Study of Thugs and Their Activities;” Bayly—Empire and Information, pp. 170-176. (Jan. 23)

  4. Humes—“Wrestling with Kali.” (Jan. 25)

  5. “Amir Ali” and Rappoport—“Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions.” (Jan. 30)


  1. Methodological Interlude

  2. Lincoln— “Theses on Method.” (Feb. 1)

  3. Case Study # 2: Vedic Sacrifice

  4. The Rig Veda, 10:90. (Feb. 6)

  5. Figueira—“Aryans and Others.” (Feb. 8)

  6. Lubin— “Veda on Parade: Revivalist Ritual as Civic Spectacle.” (Feb. 13, 15)

  7. Case Study # 5: Genesis

  8. Genesis 1:1-4:16, 6-9, 17. (Feb. 22, 27)

  9. Cartwright—“Unity of the Human Race Disproved By the Hebrew Bible” (Mar. 1)

  10. Case Study # 4: Jonestown

  11. J. Z. Smith— “Appendix 2” [transcript of final moments of “White Night” at Jonestown]. (March 6 at 6:30—Film: “Jonestown;” Mar. 8)

  12. Chidester— Salvation and Suicide. (Mar 20, 22, 27)

  13. Case Study # 3: Malcolm X on Hajj

  14. Denny—An Introduction to Islam, pp. 99-124. (Mar. 29)

  15. Muhammad—Message to the Blackman in America, chs. 55, 125, 132. (Apr. 3, 5)

  16. Malcolm X— “Mecca.” (Apr. 10)

  17. Case Study: # 6: Religion and 9/11

  18. Bruce Lincoln— Holy Terrors (Apr. 12, 17, 19, 24, 26)

Exams and Assignments

An in-class midterm exam (Feb. 20). You will be asked to “identify” five quotations out of twelve taken from the readings.  You should have no difficulty recognizing the sources of the quotations.  Prepare to explain the import, ideas, and circumstances pertinent to each quotation as fully as you can.  In grading your responses I will look to see how much information you convey (the more the better).  This exercise is your opportunity to display what you have learned from the readings and from class.  You must bring a bluebook to the exam.  If you must miss the exam for a legitimate reason, you may take the exam at a time of mutual convenience. (25%)

One 4-page paper, hard copy due 3:30 PM April 26 in my mailbox in 212 Manly Hall. No electronic submissions.  I penalize late submissions ½ letter grade per day. You must compose your own paper topic in consultation with me.  The papers are your opportunity to argue for a position and/or apply some of the theoretical concepts to a new case.  You should feel free to argue for a position with which (you believe) I disagree.  Disagreement with me will NOT affect your grade (as long as you take account of the ideas and arguments we have studied).  I will grade the papers on a) the quality of your argument, and b) the quality of your prose.  If you do not feel confident in your ability to write this kind of paper, you should seek help from me during office hours.  (40%)

A final exam scheduled by the registrar (May 1, 8:00-10:30 AM). I do not have authority to reschedule your exam in case of a conflict.  The final consists of two parts.  The first is identical to the midterm, except the quotations will be drawn (exclusively) from the texts that follow the midterm.  The second part will ask you to choose one essay topic from three choices.  These topics will force you to discuss texts and topics from the first half of the course in relation to texts and topics from the second half.  I grade the essays on two criteria: 1) how well-informed the response, and 2) how well-argued the response.  You must bring a bluebook to the exam. (25%)

Grading Policy

See Assignments Section.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Discuss in advance with Instructor if you should have a problem.

Attendance Policy

I have no attendance policy. From experience I know you will regret missing class come exam time.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.