Religion in Today's World

After teaching for a few years at Columbia, I updated the traditional 'world religions' paradigm with the goal of 'religious literacy' in mind. Religion in Today's World starts with primers on several major religious traditions that cover aspects of the traditions that are particularly important for understanding religious phenomena that we see today (say, for instance, the fallout from the Protestant Reformation, or the conflict between Sunni and Shi'a Islam). After this working vocabulary has been established, we turn to categories often used in the study of religion--text, tradition, practice, ritual, authority, etc. We look at examples from different traditions for each category. (Thus, for instance, in thinking about "tradition," my students read Elizabeth Castelli on the martyrdom discourse used to frame the murders at Columbine and Jean Améry's meditation on the meaning of Judaism for atheist Jews after the Holocaust.) Corresponding to each category is a short assignment that asks the students to think about the category in relation to a religious phenomenon in the contemporary moment.