Dr. Jim Ford                                                                                 Comparative Religion Honors

jford@rsu.edu                                                                               HUM-3633 H

Office: Health Sciences 244                                                           Fall 2009

Office Phone: (918) 343-7749                                                       TR 9:30-10:45 pm

Office Hours: 8:45-9:30 TR;                                                          Classroom: TL 303

11-1:45 W; 12:15-2 R; 8-noon F.                                                  No prerequisites.











           “A comparative study of traditions, scriptures, theologies, major figures, and practices of world religions through an investigation of cross-themes and contrasts” (RSU Bulletin 2009-10, p. 170).





The course begins with an introduction to the academic study of religion, an overview of what religion involves and how to approach religious traditions in a classroom context. After that introduction to studying religion, most of the first half of the course is a comparative study of several of the world's major religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The second half of the course is devoted to analyzing how individual believers in three of those traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the “People of the Book”) deal with a single problem- belief in a single, all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God given the existence and prevalence of human suffering. Given the kinds of suffering we see every day in the world, from the ravages of AIDS and cancer to the horrors of 9/11, how can believers make sense of this problem? Are those approaches rational?




 Ehrman, Bart. God’s Problem. Harper Collins, 2008.

Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed. Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1976.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. Harcourt, 2004.

Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World’s Religions. Mayfield/McGraw-Hill, 2008. 4th Edition.

Van Voorst, Robert. Anthology of World Scriptures. Cengage, 2008.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. MPS, 2006.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Lament for a Son. Eerdmans, 1987.

Available at the RSU Bookstore in Claremore. Please have all the books before the class begins.



This course will emphasize discussion and writing. I will regularly suggest questions pertaining to the material we will be discussing in the following class. Students should come to class prepared to address these questions. Always bring the books we are discussing to class.

There will be three three-page critical essays (approximately 1000 words each), a comprehensive project, a midterm, and a final exam. Each paper is worth 10% of your final grade. All papers must be typed and double-spaced, with margins of 1.25 inches. Three pages means three full pages. Unexcused late work will be penalized 20% per day. All essays are due at the beginning of the class period. Due dates for the essays are listed in the course schedule, below. Further details on the nature of these essays, as well as of the midterm and final exams, will be given in class.



Every student will be complete a project during the semester and present that project to the class the last week of the semester. This project is 15% of your grade, and the presentation another 5% of your grade. For this project, you have three basic options. Option one is to create a new religion, complete with its own scriptures, rituals, beliefs, and practices. Option two is to attend a religious service different from the tradition in which you were raised (if any) and compare that service to the one with which you are familiar (students with no religious background may attend two different services and compare them). Option three is to interview a number of people of varying religious faiths on a particular topic and then analyze their responses. You may also devise another project of your own choosing, but all choices must be approved by the professor. Your project will include a 5-6 page essay describing your project, why you chose it, and what you learned. Your presentation should be a 5-7 minute summary of the project. Feel free to include any photographs, artwork, or music with your project- be creative. Further information on these projects will be given in class.



Every student’s final grade will be earned via the following:

Papers                                      20% (each paper=10%)

Exams                                      30% (each exam=15%)

Participation                             25%

Project                                     20%

Presentation                              5%


All student work will be judged according to the following academic criteria:



            As discussion is a major portion of your grade (25%) as well as the heart of this class, your attendance is required. More than two unexcused absences will adversely affect your grade; five or more unexcused absences are grounds for failure of the course as a whole. Only serious illness, family crises, or official functions will count as excusable absences or extensions.





Students are expected to follow university policies as put forth in the institution’s Student Code of Responsibilities and Conduct. In accordance with Title 12 of The Student Code (page 11), instances of alleged academic misconduct will follow the policies and procedures as described in Title 12. As a general rule, Faculty at Rogers State University have the responsibility of enforcing the academic code. Therefore, if academic misconduct is suspected I will submit a letter of alleged academic misconduct to the Office of Student Affairs.


            Note especially RSU’s official plagiarism statement: “Plagiarism is representing someone else’s ideas or work as your own ideas or work. To avoid plagiarism when using someone else’s data, arguments, designs, words, ideas, projects, etc., you must make it clear that the work originated with someone else by citing the source.” Deliberate plagiarism and/or other forms of cheating are grounds for failure in the course as a whole.




In order to maintain an effective learning environment, students are expected to fully comply with The Student Code. Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. It is the responsibility of each student to read and become familiar with the policies of The Student Code.




          Rogers State University is committed to providing students with disabilities equal access to educational programs and services.  Any student who has a disability that he or she believes will require some form of academic accommodation must inform the professor of such need during or immediately following the first class attended.  Before any educational accommodation can be provided, it is the responsibility of each student to prove eligibility for assistance by registering for services through Student Affairs.





My office hours are listed above. Please feel free to come by, call, etc., during those hours. If that doesn’t work, I would be happy to schedule an appointment at another time. Communication by email is especially welcome (moderation in this, as in all things...).


Finally, realize that it is not unusual for a course like this one to raise challenges to and doubts about some of our most cherished beliefs. It is important that each of us is sensitive to the views of those around us. At the same time, each of us should also be aware that controversial issues, arguments, and positions will be discussed in this course. If something bothers or offends you, let me know and I will do what I can. We are not trying to convert each other to any particular religious tradition, but to study each of these traditions so that we may learn together about the faiths that continue to have such significance in the modern world.



Course Schedule





Aug 13 Th        Introduction


Aug 18 T          Studying Religion: Molloy, Experiencing the World’s Religions, Chapter 1


Aug 20 Th        Indigenous Religions: Molloy, Chapter 2


Aug 25 T          Hinduism: Molloy, Chapter 3                 First Paper Due: Spiritual Autobiography


Aug 27 Th        Hindu scriptures                        


Sep 1   T          Buddhism: Molloy, Chapter 4                       


Sep 3   Th        Buddhist scriptures


Sep 8   T          Taoism & Confucianism: Molloy, Chapter 6


Sep 10 Th        Shinto: Molloy, Chapter 7


Sep 15 T          Judaism: Molloy, Chapter 8    


Sep 17 Th        Jewish scriptures                    


Sep 22 T          Christianity: Molloy, Chapter 9


Sep 24 Th        Christian scriptures


Sep 29 T          Islam: Molloy, Chapter 10


Oct 1   Th        Islamic scriptures       


Oct 6   T          Martel, Life of Pi                                Second Paper Due: Comparing Religions


Oct 8   Th        MIDTERM EXAM                         






Oct 13 T          Job


Oct 15 Th        NO CLASS—FALL BREAK


Oct 20 T          Job


Oct 22 Th        Ecclesiastes; Lamentations


Oct 27 T          Ehrman, God’s Problem


Oct 29 Th        Ehrman, God’s Problem


Nov 3  T          Wiesel, Night


Nov 5  Th        Wiesel, Night


Nov 10 T          Lewis, A Grief Observed


Nov 12 Th       Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son


Nov 17 T          New Religions: Molloy, Chapter 11; NRM Scriptures


Nov 19 Th        Religion in the Modern World: Molloy, Chapter 12


Nov 24 T          Project Presentations




Dec 1   T          Project Presentations


Dec 3   Th        Project Presentations


Dec 10 Th       FINAL EXAM  (9:30-11:30 am)


Additional selections from the Anthology of World Scriptures will be announced in class.

This schedule may be revised as necessary during the course of the semester.




“If you read the Qur’an, you must read it with the eye of the Muslim; if you read the Bible, you must read it with the eye of the Christian; if you read the Gita you must read it with the eye of a Hindu.” -Mahatma Gandhi