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

Religious Existentialism

REL 237-002Spring 2018 | 3 Credit Hours


Dr. Nathan Loewen

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

There are no prerequisites for this course, aside from your interest in the topics!

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

A survey of psychological and social theories used to study religion, drawing on different cultural and historical data of relevance to the approaches surveyed.

This course surveys the influential school of modern, Western religious thought called religious existentialism. We will review the major texts, authors, and themes of this eclectic movement, such as texts by Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Buber, Heidegger, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Fanon, Derrida, Cixous and Zizek.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

Further readings will be provided to the class through Blackboard.

Please see the SupeStore for the exact editions suggested for this course.

FEAR AND TREMBLING, Soren Kierkegaard.



Course Objectives

In this course, we will:

  • Create a safe space for learning and sharing ideas.

  • Familiarize ourselves with the existentialist approach to philosophy.

  • Closely read the texts in the existentialist genre of philosophy.

  • Formulate the key questions that may be used for existentialist inquiries.

  • Closely read contemporary texts from an existentialist perspective.

  • Apply existentialist questions to current issues in the study of religion.

Student Learning Outcomes

As a result of taking this course, students will be able to:

1. Acquire a new intellectual vocabulary which enables them to see the world in a new way.

2. Recognize key concepts in the literature of a major school of thought.

3. Perform an “existential analysis” of a given phenomenon.

4. Read texts using exegetical skills.

5. Write compositions that develop complex ideas.

Other Course Materials

This course surveys the history of a very influential school of modern, Western religious thought called religious existentialism. We will review the major texts, authors, and themes of this eclectic movement. Existentialists ask questions such as: What is the meaning and value of existence? What is the meaning and value of my existence? How is that related to religion and faith? What does it mean to exist authentically? Does authentic existence necessarily entail some kind of absolute foundation? Is faith singularly religious? If so, is such faith authentic or inauthentic? What kind of relationships can humans form between each other? What demands does the Other make upon me just by being other? The scope of this course is broad and includes many points of view. We will study and discuss texts by Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Buber, Heidegger, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Fanon, Derrida, Cixous and Zizek.

Outline of Topics

• Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Truth

• The objectifying tendency and mass society

• The Master-Slave Dialectic

• Death, Anxiety, and Courage

• Being-itself

• Post-colonial critiques of existentialism

• Post-modern critiques of existentialism

• Feminist critiques of existentialism

Exams and Assignments

For the schedule of assignments please review the proposed course schedule in the final section of this syllabus. Note : Any changes will be posted as Blackboard announcements as well as updated in the course schedule posted on Blackboard.


Participation in the course takes the form of attending class sessions, participating in class activities during scheduled class sessions or on Blackboard and adding content or comments to course readings (using Hypothesis ; specific instructions will be given in class and on Blackboard). Your participation in online activities will be announced in-class and on Blackboard. Participation in the course is cumulatively worth 20% of your final grade. Missing three class sessions results in a 5% reduction of this score.


There are three written tests during the term. Their dates are listed on the course schedule posted on Blackboard. The tests consists of multiple choice or short answer questions as well as one question distributed the week before the test. Your answers will be evaluated on how substantially and accurately they present your understand the course content. The three tests are worth a total of 40% of your final grade.

Final essay

The final essay will ask you to write on a topic subject to the approval of the professor. The entire set of assignments is worth a total of 40% of your final grade. The grade will be composed of several assignments:

• Topic proposal.

• Annotated bibliography.

• Rough draft.

• Peer review.

• Final draft.

• 60-second presentation.

Extra Credit

There will be several events that present opportunities to earn extra credit during the term. All extra credit opportunities will be made available to the entire class. The typical requirement for extra credit will include proof of attendance and a short writing assignment evaluated on how substantially and accurately the event may be related to the course content. Successfully completed extra credit assignments will add 1% to a final course grade. Students are welcome to propose such opportunities at least two weeks in advance.

Grading Policy

Grading will be a key issue for discussion in our initial class sessions.

Final grade: Your final grade will be based on a straight percentage of the point total. 90% = A; 80% = B; 70% = C; 60% = D; 59%- = F. I do give +/- grades. Also, the instructor reserves the right to use some degree of discretion, factoring in things such as attendance, conduct in class (see below), tardiness, effort, etc., in calculating each student’s final grade.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Technology problems

Technology problems are not considered emergencies and do not excuse late assignments, absences or missed tests, quizzes and exams. Please take precautions to protect your grade in this course by managing your time and backing up your work.

Missed Assignments

Unless noted otherwise, late assignments will be marked off one letter grade for each day that they are late (including weekends and holidays). Extensions will be granted only with the prior approval of the instructor only in cases of extraordinary circumstances. The late penalty will be waived if you are unable to submit an assignment due to legitimate circumstances beyond your control such as a documented illness, a serious family emergencies, or severe weather.

Missed tests, quizzes and exams

An excused absence from tests, quizzes and exams will require evidence of your legitimate absence, such as a documented illness, a serious family emergencies, or severe weather, to be presented to the professor in a timely fashion if you wish not to lose marks on your grade. If you miss a test, quiz or exam you must contact the professor immediately to explain your absence; make‐up tests and quizzes are not an option in this course; instead, for such absences that the professor deems legitimate, the portion of the grade dedicated to the missed test or quiz will be completely transferred to the next test or quiz.

Attendance Policy

Attendance of all class sessions is likely the key to succeeding in this course. We will discuss this issue in the first class sessions of the term.

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.