This Course is Expired

Introduction to World Religions

This course will give you the tools to study world religions in a balanced and sensitive way.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Dr Jim Robinson

Starts on : 29th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

Introduction to World Religions provides an overview of the key religions of the world and the way they have come to be studied and understood today. The course is designed to give you the tools to embark on a study of world religions through contemporary cases studies. It challenges you to look at both the ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives and why even the title ‘world religions’ might be controversial.

It looks at the way religions adapt and change from their historical roots into the dynamic and fascinating forms we see today and how they interact with each other and the modern, secular world. It takes into account the views of leading academics and practitioners in the field who themselves had attempted to provide an overview that helps to make sense of diverse sets of beliefs and practices moulding the lives of millions of people in the world.

Course Aim

This course aims to help to develop a clearer framework for understanding different approaches to the study of religion and to consider in particular what the term ‘world religion’ might mean. It does not assume prior knowledge of religion, the study of religion or world religions. It will allow examination of ‘what’ each religion teaches as well as ‘how’ each religion developed historically and functions in the world today.

It does not aim to provide an in-depth study of each religion, but rather to help to make the first steps in such a study. Nor does it aim to make judgements about the validity or otherwise of truth statements made by religions, but rather to allow the religions to speak for themselves and approach their study with an open mind and an awareness that no perspective will be unbiased. In particular it will examine how religions can be studied from within (the insider perspective) as well from outside it (the outsider perspective) and how the interplay between these two is often what is involved in the study of religion.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

There will be guided reading of texts and students will be directed to various online resources, including some interactive ones. 

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be expected to understand:

  • What is meant by Abrahamic and Asian religious traditions
  • The beliefs and practices of key world religions
  • How religions have adapted and changed in the modern world
  • Different approaches to the study of religion e.g. the insider-outsider approach

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • Be able to apply understanding of different approaches to at least one Case Study of a world religion
  • Use key terms (e.g. diaspora, hierophany) connected with religions in their context
  • Be able to critically engage with issues surrounding the study of religions

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following textbook: Urubshurow, V. K., Introducing World Religions (Abingdon, Routledge, 2008)

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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are:

  • What is a world religion?
  • Contemporary approaches to the study of religion
  • The Abrahamic traditions
  • The Asian traditions
  • Precept and practice
  • Spiritual paths
  • Key figures and organisations
  • How religions adapt and change
  • Conflict and cooperation between religions
  • World religions in a secular world


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