In this course, the study of religion is undertaken from the perspective of the existence of a spiritual heritage common to all humanity. It postulates that recognition and understanding of this heritage is required to realize the goals of unity, cooperation, and peace. Therefore, an ecumenical approach towards the world’s religions is essential as is identifying their common denominators and mapping the shared terrain among them. From the resulting codification of the truths common to all religions, efforts can be undertaken towards evolving a global code of ethics that incorporates all that is best in humanity’s shared spiritual heritage.
A unified and integrated vision of the world and of human history cannot, of course, be only political, social, or economic in scope. There also has to be an accompanying unity of conscience, outlook, and belief. A fundamental spiritual reorientation towards unity is necessary if an establishment of a global society is to succeed. The ability to bring peace and tranquility to the troubled world depends on the engendering in the mass of humankind a profound and all-embracing aspiration towards unity. Without such a world view, the renaissance of true humanistic spirit and the subsequent oneness of humanity will be impossible.
This course will offer students the opportunity to study religious experience from a multi-cultural and global perspective. It will deal with attempts on the part of human beings throughout the centuries to know “the unknowable.” The progressive development of humankind’s spiritual awareness and understanding will be studied by: tracing the history of world religions chronologically through related cultural/geographical regions; exploring the cultural influences that shaped and articulated those traditions; identifying common themes and expressions in religious development; relating historical data to the contemporary Western situation; and engaging students in both field research and seminar preparation, using the scriptures which are at the root of each faith. The course will include a close reading of original texts as well as specially edited materials, notes, and commentary by the instructor.