University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

First-Year Experience


REL 021 A - D2: Religions in Asia

Instructor: Thomas Borchert

We often assume that religions have essential cores that persist through time, which would mean that the religions of Asia have been around for millennia. At the same time, the category of religion was only imported into Asian countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of a response to European colonialism, nationalism and desires to modernize. This course is a survey of some of the important religions practiced in South and East Asia, primarily Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Shinto, with a particular emphasis on the contexts in which they are practiced. It is also an examination of how these religions have been transformed as they have been recast in the context of a secular world into being "religions."

Requirements Satisfied: Humanities, Writing and Information Literacy, and (D2) Non-European Cultures

REL 023 A - What Is the Bible?

Instructor: Anne Clark

It’s one of the most influential books in human history, but what is it? We will explore how the the Jewish and Christian Bibles were produced in the communities of ancient Israel and the Christian movement, as those people grappled with the deepest problems of existence. This course will serve as an introduction to the study of religion through an examination of selected biblical and related texts and the cultures that produced and preserved these texts. Throughout the course, we will ask questions about the nature of religion and about understanding the religious expressions of people of other cultures and historical periods. We will examine the religious beliefs of the peoples of the ancient Babylon, then turn to our major focus on the development of ancient Israel and the emergence of the Christian movement. In looking at each of these closely related yet strikingly diverse religious cultures, we will try to understand how the evidence of their beliefs and practices allows us to construct a picture of what we call religion. In investigating these religious traditions, we will examine how the identity of each community was articulated, especially in terms of boundaries defining insiders and outsiders. We will consider how people engaged religious symbols to organize their societies including aspects of personal identity and social hierarchies. Our investigations will begin with the problem of defining religion and the ways in which our own position in the 21st-century West must be examined so that we can both see very different ways of formulating the nature of reality and refrain from assuming an inherent bias against the past (e.g., as “backward”) or religion (e.g., “as irrational or superstitious”).

Requirements Satisfied: Humanities and Writing and Information Literacy