Academic Programs 

Comparative Religious Ethics    (ET-660)
Fall 2006

This course explores the ethics of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam.  The intent is to develop the ability to recognize distinctive elements of the moral consciousness that have arisen in each tradition.  This will be accompanied by a more general inquiry into the relation between religious convictions and religious ethics, as well as the extent to which these religions might find common ground in specific areas of moral concern (human rights, violence, respect for life).


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., beginning on September 14

Kelton Cobb
Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus



• to reflect on the role of religion in forming the ethos out of which arise moral commitments and perceptions of what is right and good
• to become acquainted with frameworks for comparing the ethical orientations of religious traditions
• to gain basic exposure to worldviews found in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism
• to examine how religions exist in relation to the politics, sense of justice, family life and the treatment of nature in a society
• to consider specific case studies of moral dilemmas related to human rights, family life, violence, and respect for life from different religious worldviews
• to assist the student in developing a religiously informed approach to moral deliberation
• to assist the student in appreciating religious factors that influence cultural differences

Laurence Cossé, A Corner of the Veil
Charles L. Kammer, III, Ethics and Liberation: An Introduction
Charles Le Gai Eaton, Islam and the Destiny of Man
Byron L. Sherwin, Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century
William R. LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan
Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Christine Gudorf, eds., Ethics and World Religions

1) One 1-page reflection paper 15 points 9/21
2) Four 1-page profiles 60 (15 points each) 10/5, 10/19, 11/9, 12/7
3) Research paper (12 pages) 100 1/18/07
4) Attendance and participation 25
200 points


1) Write a 1-page (typed, single-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins) reflection on the novel A Corner of the Veil by Laurence Cossé. To organize and concentrate your thoughts, structure your reflection around this question: Which major character in the story seem to be the most reliable guide in anticipating how the proof of God’s existence will be received by most people? In short, which character gets it most right? Why? Give reasons, make an argument for this character’s view. For the title of the reflection, put at the top of the page the name of the character you select. This is due at the beginning of class on September 21.

2) Write four 1 page (typed, single-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins) profiles in which you identify a single concept, a symbol, a law, or a story that has caught your attention in readings assigned in the course (Kammer, Sherwin, Eaton, LaFleur). Select a concept, symbol, law, or story that guides, or can guide, that religious tradition’s ethical view of the natural world and how human beings should behave in relation to the natural world. These papers will be due in class on the following dates:

From Kammer: October 5
Eaton: October 19
Sherwin: November 9
LaFleur: December 7

After identifying the concept, symbol, law, or story, describe how it illuminates that tradition’s understanding of nature and what meaning it gives to nature. Finally, suggest how this concept/symbol/law/story sheds light on a particular strain that human activity has placed on the environment. For these papers, don’t write a fully-formed essay, but aim for a profile with 3 well-formed paragraphs. The paragraphs should be numbered and follow this sequence:

1. Identify and describe a single concept, symbol, law, or story.
2. Explain how it interprets the meaning of the natural world.
3. Apply it to a concrete instance of environmental degradation.

3) For your final paper (12 pages, typed and double-spaced) you are to write a paper in which you identify a particular ethical issue and assess it in light of the religious ethos which is found in either Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Buddhism. It is recommended that you work with a single religious tradition, to keep the paper from becoming too ambitious. In order to ensure that you are stretching into a religious world unfamiliar to you, it is expected that you will choose a religious tradition to examine which is not your own.

Ethical issues you may consider concentrating on: immigration, the environment, the media, women’s rights, global sex trade, human rights, treatment of animals, economic justice, urban poverty, welfare reform, affluence, civil society, race relations, education, medicine, terrorism, war, revolution, the developing world, third-world debt, a particular business or industry (e.g., WalMart, tobacco, alcohol, meatpacking), politics and religion, global trade, etc. It is expected that you will use materials we have read in the course, and materials you have found through your own research. It is also expected that you will include articles from recent (this fall) newspapers, periodicals, and websites (make sure it is not exclusively websites) in your research, and that the influence of this will be found in your paper.

More will be said about the structure of the paper later in the term.

Scrupulously follow the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for Research Papers handout that is available on this web site. This means using sources, citing them properly, proofreading what you’ve written, using very few quotations, 12 point font, double-space, proper margins, footnotes, bibliography—everything. On form, follow the letter of the law. I’m picky about this. This paper is due by January 18.

A one page (no longer than this, typed, single-spaced) preview of the paper, including a working bibliography, is due no later than December 7.

4) Students are expected to be present at each class, to read the assigned texts by the scheduled dates, and to participate actively in class discussions. It is expected that each student will participate in one case study role play, based on the readings assigned in the Wolfe/Gudorf book. We will be doing role plays on 10/26, 11/16, and 12/14. A sign-up sheet will be circulated in class.


The grading formula used in this class follows an unconventional pattern. The interval between letter grades is 20%. This scale allows for more room to move within each grade level, and thus more careful distinctions within each level. Within letter grades, there will be +’s and -’s. Every assignment and the course grade will follow this scale:

200pts 100pts 60pts 25pts 15pts
A= 200-160 100-80 60-48 25-20 15-12
B= 159-120 79-60 47-36 19-15 11-9
C= 119-80 59-40 35-24 14-10 8-6
F= 79-0 39-0 23-0 9-0 5-0

In all assignments it is assumed that what is submitted is the student’s own original work. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden. As described in the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper, plagiarism occurs when students “submit another person’s work, lift paragraphs, sentences, or even a choice phrase from another writer, or make use of another person’s ideas (even if the student puts these ideas in his/her own words) without acknowledging the source. A related kind of dishonesty is to resubmit a paper which was done for a different course, even if it is the student’s own work. These practices are not permitted at Hartford Seminary. They will be reported to the Dean’s Office and may result in disciplinary action.” If a paper is found to contain plagiarism, even in a single sentence, the minimum penalty will be failing that assignment, with no opportunity to rewrite. If you are unsure of the line between plagiarism and legitimate uses of sources (e.g., quotation, paraphrase), see one of the Seminary’s Writing Consultants.



Note: The readings indicated for each class date are to be read for that class.


September 14: Religion, Ethos and the Formation of Moralscapes

September 21: God and Morality
Laurence Cossé, A Corner of the Veil, pp.11-267
Assignment due: 1 page reflection paper: Who got it right?

September 28: A Christian Moralscape I
Charles Kammer, Ethics and Liberation, 1-90

October 5: A Christian Moralscape II
Charles Kammer, Ethics and Liberation, 91-188
Assignment due: 1 page profile: A Christian concept/symbol/law/story

October 12: An Islamic Moralscape I
Gai Eaton, Islam and the Destiny of Man, pp.1-17, 87-174, 195-216

October 19: An Islamic Moralscape II
Gai Eaton, Islam and the Destiny of Man, pp.21-84, 177-194, 217-256
Assignment due: 1 page profile: An Islamic concept/symbol/law/story

October 26: Reflecting on Case Studies
Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Christine Gudorf, eds., Ethics and World Religions, pp.23-41, 148-171, 218-238, 298-320

November 2: A Jewish Moralscape I
Byron L. Sherwin, Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century, pp.1-87

November 9: A Jewish Moralscape II
Byron L. Sherwin, Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-first Century, pp.88-165
Assignment due: 1 page profile: A Jewish concept/symbol/law/story

November 16: Reflecting on Case Studies
Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Christine Gudorf, eds., Ethics and World Religions, pp.42-85, 127-147

November 23:
Reading Week—NO CLASS

November 30: A Buddhist Moralscape I
LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, pp.3-118

December 7: A Buddhist Moralscape II
LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, pp.119-220
Assignment due: 1 page profile: A Buddhist concept/symbol/law/story
Assignment due: Typed preview of final paper, with bibliography (1p)

December 14: Reflecting on Case Studies
Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Christine Gudorf, eds., Ethics and World Religions, pp.172-198, 260-298, 321-339

January 18: Assignment due: Final paper due


Comparative Approaches to Religious Ethics
Carmody, Denise and John Carmody. How to Live Well: Ethics in the World Religions. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1988.
Fasching, Darrell, and Dell deChant. Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
Fasching, Darrell. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia? Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993.
Green, Ronald. Religion and Moral Reason: A New Method for Comparative Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Kelsay, John. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993.
Küng, Hans. A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Little, David, and Sumner Twiss. Comparative Religious Ethics: A New Method. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978.
Lovin, Robin, and Frank Reynolds, eds. Cosmogony and Ethical Order: New Studies in Comparative Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
Maguire, Daniel, ed. Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Neusner, Jacob, and Bruce Chilton, eds. Altruism in World Religions. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2005.
Neville, Robert, ed. The Human Condition. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.
Outka, Gene and John P. Reeder, Jr., eds. Prospects for a Common Morality. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Rouner, Leroy, ed. Human Rights and the World’s Religions. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1988.
Schweiker, William, ed. Humanity before God: Contemporary Faces of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Ethics. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.
Stackhouse, Max. Creeds, Society, and Human Rights: A Study in Three Cultures. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984.
Twiss, Sumner and Bruce Grelle, Explorations in Global Ethics: Comparative Religious Ethics and Interreligious Dialogue. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.
White, C. Dale. Making a Just Peace: Human Rights and Domination Systems. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

Christian Ethics
Al-Faruqi, Ismail Ragi. Christian Ethics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis of Its Dominant Ideas. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1967.
Andolsen, Barbara Hilkert, et al., eds. Women’s Consciousness, Women’s Conscience: A Reader in Feminist Ethics. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
Connors, Russell and Patrick McCormick. Character, Choices and Community: The Three Faces of Christian Ethics. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1998.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Who Are We?: Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Gustafson, James. Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Kammer, Fred. Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.
Harrison, Beverly Wildung. Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1985.
Himes, Michael and Kenneth Himes. Fullness of Faith: The Public Significance of Theology. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.
Lovin, Robin. Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.
Maguire, Daniel. The Moral Core of Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.
McFague, Sallie. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.
Niebuhr, Reinhold. An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. New York: Harper and Bros., 1935.
Shriver, Donald. An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Stackhouse, Max. Public Theology and Political Economy: Christian Stewardship in Modern Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987.
Stone, Ronald. The Ultimate Imperative: An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1999.
Wogaman, J. Philip. Christian Moral Judgment. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989.
------------. Christian Perspectives on Politics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Islamic Ethics
Abdo, Geneive. No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Aslan, Reza. No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. New York: Random House, 2005.
Al-Faruqi, Ismail Ragi. Al Tawhīd: Its Implications for Thought and Life. Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1992.
Bowker, John. What Muslims Believe. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1998.
Cook, David. Understanding Jihad. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
Davis, Joyce. Between Jihad and Salaam: Profiles in Islam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.
Eaton, Gai (Charles Le). King of the Castle: Choices and Responsibility in the Modern World. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1990.
Esack, Farid. Qur’an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity against Oppression. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997.
Gülen, Fethullah. Love and the Essence of Being Human. Istanbul: Journalists and Writers Foundation Publications, 2004.
Haneef, Muhammad Abdel. Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001.
Lawrence, Bruce. Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Murata, Sachiko and William C. Chittick. The Vision of Islam. New York: Paragon House, 1994.
Mutahhari, Murtaza. Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God, Man and the Universe. Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1985.
Nursi, Said. The Damascus Sermon. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 1996.
Qutb, Sayyid. Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview. North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2006.
Ruthven, Malise. Islam in the World. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Viorst, Milton. In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.

Jewish Ethics
Adler, Rachel. Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.
Berkovits, Eliezer. God, Man and History. Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2004.
Cohon, Samuel. Judaism: A Way of Life. New York: Schocken Books, 1962
Dorff, Elliot and Louis Newman. Contemporary Jewish Ethics and Morality: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Dorff, Elliot. Love Your Neighbor and Yourself: A Jewish Approach to Modern Personal Ethics. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 2003.
------------. To Do the Right and the Good: A Jewish Approach to Modern Social Ethics. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 2002.
------------. The Way into Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005.
Fishbane, Michael. Judaism: Revelation and Traditions. New York: HarperCollins, 1987.
Greenberg, Irving. The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays. New York: Touchstone, 1993.
Heschel, Abraham Joshua. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1955.
Kadushin, Max. Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism. Binghamton, NY: Global Publications, 2001 (1963).
Neusner, Jacob. Performing Israel’s Faith: Narrative and Law in Rabbinic Theology. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005.
Plaskow, Judith. Standing again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. San Francisco: Harper, 1990.
Sacks, Jonathan. To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility. New York: Schocken, 2005.
Soloveitchik, Joseph. The Emergence of Ethical Man. Jersey City: The Toras Horav Foundation, 2005.
------------. Halakhic Man. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983.
Steinberg, Milton. Basic Judaism. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
Telushkin, Joseph. A Code of Jewish Ethics: Volume I: You Shall Be Holy. New York: Random House, 2006.
Walzer, Michael, ed.. Law, Politics, and Morality in Judaism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Buddhist Ethics
Conze, Edward. Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1975.
Corless, Roger J. The Vision of Buddhism. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1989.
de Bary, William Theodore. The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan. New York: Vintage Books, 1969.
Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Harvey, Peter. Buddhist Ethics in Theory and Practice. Oxford: Routledge, 2006.
Keown, Damien. Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
------------, ed. Contemporary Buddhist Ethics. Oxford: Routledge, 2000.
------------. The Nature of Buddhist Ethics. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001.
King, Winston L. In the Hope of Nibbana: The Ethics of Theravada Buddhism. LaSalle, IL: Open Court Press, 1964.
Prebish, Charles, ed. Buddhist Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Approach. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1992
Queen, Christopher, and Sallie Queen. Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996.
Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove Press, 1974.
Saddhatissa, Hammalawa. Buddhist Ethics: Essence of Buddhism. New York: George Brazillier, 1970.
Sivaraksa, Sulak. Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1992.
Unno, Taitetsu. River of Fire, River of Water: An Introduction to the Pure Land Tradition of Shin Buddhism. New York: Doubleday, 1998.
Wray, Elizabeth. Ten Lives of the Buddha: Siamese Temple Painting and Jataka Tales. New York: Weatherhill, 1996.

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