Bader International Study Centre


at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

site header

RELS 131/6.0 Religions of the World

Instructor: Dr. Theodore Gabriel

Course Description

What is religion?  What are the salient features of a religion?  What is the reason for its centrality in many aspects of life, not only in personal individual matters but also in wider society in cultural, ethical, social, and political matters?  How can religion be a force for conflict and violence, as well as for peace and compassion?  These are stimulating questions and this course will hopefully illuminate us with answers to some of these questions.  

Each semester, the students will discuss theories of religion and also study three major religions and one or two smaller ones.  Throughout the first semester students will study Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. In the second semester, students will study Hinduism, and some of the newer religions such as Mormonism, Scientology, Unificationism, ISKCON, and Neopaganism.   In each religion its origins, key figures and beliefs and practice will be introduced and attention will be paid to its evolution over the course of time and interaction with modernity.   In the case of the major religions, aspects such as sacred texts, mysticism, pilgrimage and gender issues will also be discussed.   

The approach will be multidisciplinary, objective and non-partisan.  Students of all faiths and none are welcome.  The teaching and learning process will be exploratory and interactive.  Visual aids such as power point and videos will be used.  Workshops for discussion will be held in every session

Expected Learning Outcomes

The expected learning outcomes for students enrolled in RELS 131 are as follows:

  • gain an understanding of the nature of religion and its importance in personal, social and political contexts; 
  • be able to discuss definitions of religion; and
  • gain familiarity with the beliefs, rituals, and texts of the major religious traditions of the world and the beliefs and practices of some religions of recent origin.  
Field Studies

Students will have the opportunity to explore at least three places of worship from different religions. The locations may be churches, mosques, temples, and viharas. These field studies will allow students to explore how religion is practiced. 

Through field studies, students will be able to supplement the information gained in class through the real visual and auditory experiences gained on visits to places of worship. Students will have the opportunity to interact with worshippers and religious leaders/scholars on field visits and gain specific, practical knowledge about modes of worship, religious artefacts, and attitudes of devotees and worshippers.

Primary Research Expectations

Students will make first-hand observations at the places of worship visited on the field studies trips. They will be required to produce one report each term based on these observations.


Students will be evaluated on the following assignments over the two terms of the course:

  • two reports on the field studies visits (one each term) with a length of 1500 words and worth 20% of the student's final grade
  • two essays (one each term) with a length of 2500 words and worth 40% of the student's final grade
  • two fifteen minute presentations (one each term) delivered in class and worth 30% of the student's final grade
  • attendance and participation will be worth 10% of the student's final grade