Welcome to RELI 2: Comparative World Religions, Fall 2017, with Professor Richard S. Cohen.

The class meets on Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. in Warren Lecture Hall 2112.

Please consult the upper tabs for information that normally would appear on a printed syllabus: a course description, schedule of readings, information on class policies, grading, and assignments, as well as my office hours and email. I strongly recommend that you read through all these pages at the beginning of the quarter.


Religion begins with the acceptance that there is more to the world, and more to life, than meets the eye. For religion, a more-than-human world — the abode of gods and goddesses, spirit guides, ancestors, demons, and so on — exists right alongside our own human world. This course will use readings from Judaism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism, and African Shamanism to consider how these traditions conceive that more-than-human world, focussing especially on two questions: (1) How do these traditions look to the natural world as a place in which to encounter that which is more-than nature? (2) How is death seen as part of the natural order and yet, simultaneously, as a breach of the natural order?

Please be forewarned, this course is not aimed at giving students a set of facts about the religious traditions we study. You will not be asked to memorize lists of arcane terminologies or explanations for the religions’ major tenets, rituals, ideals, and so on. In other words, this is not a comprehensive introduction to the religious traditions in terms of their doctrinal and institutional histories. Instead, the course is very selective. It gives a limited perspective on each religious tradition in service of its central theme: the diverse ways in which human beings seek meaning in relation to their larger natural and social environments.