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Religion 11
Introduction to Religion:
Buddhism, Christianity, and Society
Fall 2007
MW 12:30 – 1:50
Chapin 201
Robert Doran, Chapin 206
542-2338; [email protected]
Office hours: Wed. 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., or by appointment
Maria Heim, Chapin 207
542-8475; [email protected]
Office hours: Mon. 3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Wed. 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
or by appointment
Course Description
This course offers an initial exposure to the methods, aims, and results of the academic study of
religion. The course familiarizes students with the basic history and doctrines of two major
religious traditions (Buddhism and Christianity), and focuses on a theme that can be productively
explored in relation to both traditions: the relation between religion or religious communities and
the societies and cultures in which they find themselves.
Both Buddhism and Christianity contain, in their textual sources and early histories, rich and
sometimes conflicting resources for construing and constructing this relationship. Both
traditions began with charismatic founders who established small followings of committed
disciples. These early sectarian movements often found themselves at odds with the larger social
and political orders of which they were a part. But with time both traditions became the official
religions of empires, and eventually came to extend across national, cultural and historical
boundaries, taking on different forms in different locations.
This course explores ways in which both of these traditions have found themselves in various
and contrasting relationships with the social, economic, and political institutions of their
respective historical and cultural contexts. In particular, in what ways have Buddhist and
Christian communities defined themselves in opposition to the world, in harmony with it, as
transforming it, or as transcending it? How might these patterns be studied comparatively to
deepen our understanding of these traditions and, more generally, the role of religion in human
Course Materials
The following textbooks are required for the course and available at the Jeffrey Amherst
Bookstore. They are also available on reserve at Frost Library.
In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Christianity, by Brian Wilson
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, by Randall Baumer
When Time Shall Be No More, by Paul Boyer
Sacred Canopy, by Peter Berger
In addition to the textbooks, a required course reader will be available for purchase
at the Religion Department (Chapin 108).
• Students are expected to attend all class sessions and read all assigned readings prior to
class. Please print off the readings on blackboard and bring them to class. Class sessions
will supplement readings, not be a replacement for them.
• Students will be assigned: one short paper (3-4 pages) in the first weeks of class and
three slightly longer papers (4-5 pages). There will also be a final project. After
consultation with the professors, in the first three weeks of the semester, the students will
undertake to research some particular area where religion and the public sphere interact.
Over the course of the semester, the students will gather materials pertaining to this
focused topic, will make a brief (5 minute) report on their findings to the class, and write
it up in 10-12 pages.
Schedule of Class Meetings
Introduction and Origin
Wed. Sept. 5:
Course Overview
Mon. Sept. 10:
The Study of Religion
Berger, The Sacred Canopy, 3-53
Wed. Sept 12:
The Study of Religion
Bellah, “Civil Religion in America” (course reader)
Introduction and Historical Overview
Mon. Sept. 17
What is Buddhism?
“Buddhist Religion, Culture, and Civilization,” by Reynolds and
Hallisey (course reader)
“The Buddha,” Reynolds and Hallisey (course reader)
Wed. Sept. 19:
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
Bodhi, In the Buddha’s Words, 43-78
Mon. and Wed.
Sept. 24-26:
Fri. Sept. 28:
What is Christianity?
Wilson, Christianity, 18-81
First Paper Due
Out of This World
Mon. Oct. 1:
Buddhist Cosmology: the Cosmos, Samsara, and the Human Condition
Bodhi, 19-40
Gethin, 183-187 (course reader)
Wed. Oct. 3:
Buddhist Cosmogony: A Myth of Origins
Bodhi, 145-179, 218-220
“The Evolution of the World” (Agganna Sutta, handed out in class)
Oct. 6-9:
Mid-Semester Break
Wed. Oct. 10:
Time, the Future, and the Coming of the Buddha Maitreya
“The Lion’s Roar on the Turning of the Wheel” (course reader)
Mon. Oct. 15:
Christian Scriptural Readings
Daniel 7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Gospel of Mark 9:1; 13;
Revelation 17-22 (Blackboard)
Wed. Oct. 17:
Apocalypticism in History
Apocalypse! PBS Video
Fri. Oct. 19:
Second Paper Due
Mon. Oct. 22:
20th Century U.S.
Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 115-292
In and Out of This World
Wed. and Mon.
Oct. 24, 29:
Wed. Oct. 31:
Buddhist Monasticism
“The Bhikkhu’s Rules” (Blackboard)
Choice for a Chinese Woman (short in-class film)
Christian Monasticism
“Rule of St. Benedict” (Blackboard, external link)
Mon. Nov. 5:
Biography of Thomas Merton
Fri. Nov. 9:
Third Paper Due
In This World
Wed. and Mon.
Nov. 7, 12:
Early Christian Views
Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:11-3:7
Revelation 12-13 (Blackboard, course documents)
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo
Thomas Aquinas (Blackboard, course documents)
Wed. Nov. 14:
Baumer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
Nov. 17-25:
Thanksgiving Break
Mon. Nov. 26:
Buddhist Statecraft: The Paradigm of the Righteous Buddhist King
“A Bloodless Sacrifice” (course reader)
“Temiya, the Mute Prince” (course reader)
Bodhi, 107-142
Wed. Nov. 28:
King Ashoka, King Dutugamanu, and Modern Buddhist Political Orders
Asokan edicts (Blackboard)
“Buddhist Visions of Moral Authority and Modernity in
Burma,” Juliana Schober (course reader)
Mon. Dec. 3:
Buddhist Social and Political Movements Today: Soka Gakkai
The Soka Gakkai: Buddhism and the Creation of a Harmonious
and Peaceful Society,” Metraux (course reader)
“Earthly Desires are Enlightenment” (Blackboard)
Wed. Dec. 5:
Jesus Camp Video
Fri. Dec. 7:
Fourth Paper Due
Mon. and Wed.
Dec. 10-12:
Class Presentations