Academic Programs 

  Introduction to World Religions  (WR-530-4)
Winter/Spring 2003

This course introduces students to some alternative ways of being religious, historically and in the contemporary world, in the context of historical and theological development of several of the major world religions.  Readings will be in religious biography and autobiography, with background materials provided in class sessions.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Wednesdays from 4:30 - 6:50 p.m.

Location: Room 205 

Professor Jane Smith

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus
Class web site


  1. To excite students about the study of religion and to let them see that what we term religious experience can be both engaging and challenging.
  2. To instill an understanding that there is a wide range of phenomena that can be called religious, and that people have known the divine/supernatural/ “wholly other” in a great variety of ways in different ages, cultures and religious traditions.
  3. To introduce students to the lives of some real people, living in the 20th-21st centuries, who have experienced the transcendent/immanent reality [of God] and/or who both describe and attest to the power of the spiritual dimension of life.
  4. To examine the relationship of men and women to the texts and traditions of the belief systems of which they understand themselves to be a part.


  1. Attendance at and participation in weekly class sessions. Discussion will be primarily on the readings and will focus on students’ responses to specific questions posed about the respective biographies and autobiographies assigned. Students will be responsible for sharing with the class the major points of their responses.
  1. Written essays prepared ahead of each class discussion and submitted at the conclusion of the relevant discussion. These essays, which should be 3-4 pages in length, are intended to allow the student to demonstrate familiarity with the assigned texts as well as to reflect on and respond to the material. One essay is required on each of the 5 major texts of the course.

: (available in the Seminary bookstore)

  1. Chacour, Elias. Blood Brothers. [Christian]
  2. Fernea, Elizabeth. Guests of the Sheik. An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village. [Muslim]
  3. Pogrebin, Letty Cottin. Deborah, Golda and Me. Being Female and Jewish in America. [Jewish]
  4. Purani, A. B. The Life of Sri Aurobindo. [Hindu]
  5. Willis, Jan. Dreaming Me. An African American Woman’s Spiritual Journey. [Buddhist]
  6. Supplementary readings to help explain the history and development of the five major religious traditions covered in the course will be available on library reserve and on-line. These materials are for your interest and information, and are not required.

Course Outline:

2-5      Introduction to the course 

2-12     Introduction to the study of religion

2-19     Hinduism

2-26     Hinduism: discussion of Sri Aurobindo

3-5       Buddhism

3-12      Buddhism: discussion of Dreaming Me

3-19      Judaism

3-26      Judaism: discussion of Deborah, Golda and Me

4-2        Christianity

4-9        Christianity: discussion of Blood Brothers

4-23       Islam

4-30       Islam: discussion of Guests of the Sheik

5-7         Conclusion


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500