Sullivan, of the World (Fortress Press, 2013)

Introduction Teaching Tips

Approach to Teaching

The subject of infiltrates just about every area of human life; political beliefs, culture, relationships, academia, even one’s profession, are, to some extent, shaped by religion. To introduce this course and textbook, the instructor might want to appeal to such familiarities by using various projects such as a scavenger hunts. In a scavenger hunt, students might do a tour of a certain geographical area, listing all the different religious sites or houses of worship that they discovered. This should generate much discussion on the first day of class.

For this scavenger hunt students could use the web to identify religious places of worship in a given geographic region. Students might start with a general search on religions in the area, and then narrow down their search to houses of worship. Some possible online directories that might be helpful are the Pluralism Project Directory of Religion Center, American Religion Data Archive and American Church List. These can all be googled. Churches could be found from sites such as Church Angels or the common yellow pages.

It would be helpful to have a spread sheet prepared with columns for churches, religions, addresses, observations and reflection. Students would fill out information as they find their targets.

As an ice breaker, this class could also start with students writing a brief religious biography or time line. This can be woven into the discussions of the class. This timeline would plot the influence of religion on their lives. The goal of this assignment is to further raise student’s consciousness to the pervasive influence of religion on cultures and people.

Some reflective questions that could be asked to generate discussion about the biographies are the following:

1. What did you learn about yourself as you undertook this reflective exercise?

2. What did you learn about religion on a whole through this exercise?

3. What role does religion play in your life?

At the end of this introduction section, the teacher might want to have students reflect on how religion has shaped them and the society in which they live.

For reflection: Sullivan, Religions of the World (Fortress Press, 2013)

1. Now that you have been introduced to the field of religion what was one idea that you found most meaningful?

2. Was there an idea that you found most troubling? If so what was it and why?

3. What are some questions to which you hope to have answers as this class progresses?

The class could be approached from the perspective of discussions, videos, reflections, and lecture.



In Search for

Robert Winston is a professor, scientist and medical doctor. He did a fascinating world tour in search of God in different religions around the world. The above video is a historical and anthropological look at human beings’ to find God. It can serve as a good introduction to the field of world religions. Winston explored such religions as the ancient Druids, Hinduism, , Islam, Judaism, Christianity, the Aztecs and Mayans of South America in this documentary.

This is a basic introduction to world religions, summarizing key concepts, characteristics and beliefs, common to most religions. The video was produced by Jason Kuruzovich a professor of religion in Thailand. It looks at religion from a historical perspective, covering such concepts as , and the importance of religious monuments in the development of religions. It also addresses the important shift that took place in the where many religions started writing down their sacred beliefs and practices. It is a very good and simple overview for students. Sullivan, Religions of the World (Fortress Press, 2013)

Joseph Campbell was a well-known mythologist and lecturer in comparative religions. He authored such works as a with a Thousand Faces. He sees in religion, what he calls a Monomyth. The Monomyth is a description of a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world. The above video introduces the concept of the Monomyth.


Kwink essential is a site that gives a good overview of some of the major religions in the world. It summarizes basic facts about dominant geographical regions, essential and practices and even the approximate size of the religion itself.

This site provides a wealth of information on religions generally. It claims to be an interfaith group, comprising of agnostics and atheists. The preamble to their statement of faith reads “We are a multi-faith group. As of mid-2011, we consist of one Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. Thus, the OCRT staff lack agreement on almost all theological matters, such as belief in a supreme being, the nature of God, interpretation of the Bible and other holy texts, whether life after death exists, what form the afterlife may take, etc.” (

This site gives an overview of most religions, even some of the more obscure ones. The site covers such areas as basic demographic information, statistics, regional concentrations, important symbols, rituals, beliefs, a basic comparison between different religions and a glossary of key terms and definitions. The student will find important texts and articles from insiders and practitioners of the various religions. Those who might have interest in an opinionated view of certain religious issues will find a good digest of such topics on this site.