WR-130: Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion

Liberal Arts
Religious Studies
Academic Level
Course Subject
World Religions
Course Number
Course Title
Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion
Credit Hours
Instructor Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Student Contact Hours Per Semester
47.00 (for 15-week classes)
Grading Method
Eligible to take ENG courses at HFC
Catalog Course Description

WR-130 is an introduction to the academic study of religion. In this context, "academic" refers both to an objective approach to course material and to the emphasis on scholars whose writings have helped shape the field of religious studies. Through the works of Kant, Otto, Feuerbach, Marx and others, students examine various ways that "religion," as a category of academic inquiry, has been defined. In addition, through the lens of critical theory, they explore the thought of contemporary scholars as it pertains to definitions of religion and the role of religion in promoting or reducing the power of given social groups.

Goals, Topics, and Objectives

Core Course Topics
  1. Differences Between Theology and Religious Studies
    1. Describe the primary characteristics of religious studies and theology.
    2. Differentiate between religious studies and theology.
  2. The Enlightenment
    1. Identify the main intellectual themes associated with The Enlightenment.
    2. Examine challenges presented to traditional religion by various Enlightenment thinkers.
  3. Immanuel Kant and the Separation of Phenomena and Noumena
    1. Describe Kant's epistemological emphasis on reason.
    2. Compare Kant's definitions of phenomena and noumena.
    3. Discuss his justification for claiming that religious knowledge is uncertain.
  4. Rudolf Otto and Religion as The Numinous
    1. Discuss Otto's definition of religion as "feeling".
    2. Describe Otto's idea of The Numinous (The Holy).
    3. Appraise the meanings Otto intended for the terms used in the phrase "mysterium tremendum et fascinans".
  5. Ludwig Feuerbach and Religion as Illusion
    1. Explain Feuerbach's resistance to Hegelian idealism.
    2. Describe Feuerbach's definition of religion.
    3. Discuss what Feuerbach means by the phrase "theology is anthropology".
  6. Karl Marx and Religion as Deception
    1. Describe relationships between the definitions of religion offered by Feuerbach and Marx.
    2. Discuss the four types of alienation identified by Marx.
    3. Critique the proposal that Marx was opposed to religion.
  7. Introduction to Critical Theory
    1. Identify primary ways that Marx's ideas serve as the foundation for Critical Theory.
    2. Describe why critical theorists focus on studies of culture.
    3. Compare the concepts "ideology" and "hegemony" as proposed by Antonio Gramsci.
  8. Postcolonialism and Religion
    1. Define what Edward Said is referring to through his use of the term "Orientalism".
    2. Discuss how Christian perspectives of Islam as a threat served as a precursor to "Orientalism".
    3. Describe ways that ideology and hegemony function within Orientalist discourse.
  9. Religion in America
    1. Identify several ways that Protestant Christianity in particular has shaped widely-held American values.
    2. Critique the claim that sexism in America is founded in and supported by Biblical scriptures.
    3. Describe how racism in America might be connected, at least in part, to traditional Christian ideas of supremacy over other religions and their related cultures.
  10. Feminism and Religion
    1. Investigate the idea that what feminists refer to as patriarchy is rooted in Biblical concepts of relationships between men and women.
    2. Explain what bell hooks means when she says that feminism is for everybody.
  11. Race and Religion
    1. Discuss what scholar Charles Long means when he says that the way most scholars think about religion in America is biased.
    2. Describe how, according to Long, colonists first arriving in what came to be called America viewed and treated the religious beliefs and practices of non-European people that they met.
    3. Explain how, according to Long, colonists' use of Enlightenment categories such as "civilized" were not innocent, but rather served as ideological expressions that served hegemonic interests.

Assessment and Requirements

Assessment of Academic Achievement

Assessment of student learning will be accomplished through a combination of quizzes, response papers, and projects.


Required course materials are on file with the department.


General Education Categories
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities and Fine Arts
Institutional Outcomes
  • Civil Society and Culture - U.S. and Global
  • Humanities
MTA Categories
  • Category 4: Social Sciences
  • Category 5: Humanities and Fine Arts
Satisfies Wellness Requirement

Credit for Prior College-Level Learning

Options for Credit for Prior College-Level Learning
Other Details

Determined by department

Approval Dates

Effective Term
Fall 2022
ILT Approval Date
AALC Approval Date
Curriculum Committee Approval Date
Review Semester
Fall 2022