Relg 120 F15: Schedule and Syllabus

Please note the new date for the first exam.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES 120: World Religions
Fall 2015
Section 5493  TR 2:00-3:15    Location: F-716
INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Ian Duckles
                          When emailing, be sure to identify your name and which section you are in.
         Office Hours: By Appointment.

TEXTBOOK: There is one text required for this class:
  • Smith, Huston, The World's Religions. HarperOne, 1991. ISBN: 9780061660184
COURSE DESCRIPTIONAn introduction to the teachings, major figures, attitudes, and practices of world religions. 

COURSE OBJECTIVE: Students will learn the about the major religious traditions that currently exist in the world today. They will be able to identify the essential characteristics of these religions as well as use and explain the major philosophical and technical terms that are used to discuss religions. Lastly, students will compare and contrasts the world views espoused by these different traditions. 

STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: Students will be able to:
  1. Identify and explain the essential characteristics of the respective religions. 
  2. Correctly apply and explain the philosophical concepts and language that are typically employed to discuss comparative religion. 
  3. Compare and contrast the worldviews espoused by the various religious traditions.
COURSE CALENDAR (topics and important dates included): Homework will be due daily and assignments will be announced in class. Do not be concerned if we fall ahead or behind on this schedule. The most important goal is that everyone understand the concepts and problems. This schedule is subject to change. All changes will be announced in class and posted on the course website. All readings come from Huston Smith'sThe World's Religions, and should be completed by the day they are listed in the schedule. The homework assignments are due by the next class period after they are assigned.

Week 1: Introduction
Tuesday, August 18: Introduction to the Course
Homework: According to Huston Smith in the "Point of Departure" (pp. 1-11), what are four things this text is not? What are three things this text is?

Thursday, August 20: Introduction to Huston Smith and the Text (pp. 1-11)
Homework: What are the four things we truly want in life? What are the advantages and problems with each of these four things?

Week 2: Hinduism

August 25: Hinduism (pp. 12-36)
Homework: Explain the four "Paths to God." What differentiates each of them? For whom is each path appropriate?

August 27: Hinduism (pp. 37-59)
Homework: What are the four castes that make up the caste system? What is the fifth "caste" outside the system? Identify some of the major features or characteristics of the caste system.

Week 3: Hinduism and Buddhism

September 1: Hinduism (pp. 59-78)
Homework: Write 1-2 pages describing some of the advantages and disadvantage of the caste system. 

September 3: Buddhism (pp. 82-103)
Homework: What were the "Four Passing Sites" that led to Siddhartha's discontentment with his life? What lives did Siddhartha try on once he left his home to seek enlightenment and understanding?

Week 4: Buddhism

September 8: Buddhism (pp. 103-127)
Homework: Briefly explain the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path. 

September 10: Buddhism (pp. 128-149)
Homework: Explain the three strands or "Rafts" of Buddhism. What are some of the major differences that characterize each of them?

Week 5: Buddhism

September 15: Buddhism Continued

September 17: NO CLASS!!

Week 6: Buddhism

September 22: Buddhism Continued

September 24: Watch Film in Class

Week 7: Exam

September 29: Review for Exam

October 1: Exam 1

Week 8: Confucianism

October 6: Confucianism (pp. 154-172)

October 8: Confucianism (pp. 172-193), Site Visit Activity Report 1 Due
Homework: On pages 183-187 Huston Smith looks at the question of whether Confucianism is a religion or merely an ethical system. What do you think of Huston Simth's answer to this question? How would you answer this question. Your homework should be 1-2 pages long. 

Week 9: Taoism

October 13: Taoism (pp. 196-207)

October 15: Taoism (pp. 207-218)

Week 10: Islam

October 20: Islam (pp. 221-242)
Homework: Try and summarize the life of Mohammed. Focus on the key events in his life as they relate to Islam.

October 22: Islam (pp. 242-257)
Homework: Briefly explain the Five Pillars of Islam. 

Week 11: Islam and Judaism

October 27: Islam (pp. 257-268)

October 29: Judaism (pp. 271-293)

Week 12: Judaism

November 3: Judaism (pp. 293-315)
Homework: Briefly describe the eight areas that, according to Huston Smith, the Jews sought and found meaning.

November 5: Continue Judaism

Week 13: Exam

November 10: Review for Exam

November 12: Exam 2

Week 14: Christianity

November 17: Christianity (pp. 317-339)

November 19: Christianity (pp. 339-362)

Week 15: Thanksgiving

November 24: Christianity Continued

November 26: Happy Thanksgiving! No Class.

Week 16: Primal Religions

December 1: Primal Religions (pp. 365-382)

December 3: Review for Final; Site Visit Activity Report 2 Due

The Final Exam will be on Tuesday, December 8 from 2:00-4:00 in F-716.


  • 15% Midterm Examination 1
  • 15% Midterm Examination 2
  • 20% Final Examination
  • 20% Pop Quizzes: These will be given at the start of class and they cannot be made up if missed. I will drop at least one quiz.
  • 10% Homework: This will be assigned in class. I will not accept late assignments.
  • 20% Activity Reports: Encountering the worship, activities, and leaders of "unfamiliar" religious traditions can be rewarding ways to experience first-hand what has been studied in the course. Two reports on such activities will be required, one from an Eastern tradition and one from a Western tradition. They will each count for 10% of your grade. You will find guidelines for these reports elsewhere on the course website, and a discussion about these reports will take place during the early weeks of the semester. 
Grade Scale:
A: 93-100 %

A-: 90-92 %

B+: 88-89 %

B: 83-87 %
B-: 80-82 %
C+: 78-79 %

C: 70-77 %
D: 60-69 %
F:  <60 %


Student Responsibility to Drop/Withdraw: It is the student’s responsibility to officially add, drop, or withdraw from the course stated in the class schedule. Failure to do so can result in a failing grade.

Class Attendance: During the first two weeks of the semester, you will be dropped for missing any class. After that, a student may be disenrolled from the course after two absences; however, a student will be disenrolled from the course after eight absences without exception. ATTENDANCE IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THIS PARTICULAR COURSE.

Tardiness/Early Departure: If a student arrives unreasonably late or leaves early without notifying the instructor before the event, then that student will be considered absent for that class session.

Professionalism: It is assumed that students will conduct themselves in a professional manner with a positive attitude. An open mind is one of the most important tools required for success in academia. If a student is negative and feels as is there is nothing of value to be gained by the college experience or this course, he or she will not do well in this course.

Student Code of Ethics and Conduct: Students must abide by the Student Code of Conduct. Students who obstruct the instructor’s ability to convey knowledge, or disrupt their fellow students’ ability to learn, will be dealt with under the terms delineated in the Grossmont College Student Code of Conduct. Such dealings may include, but are not limited to, warnings, written reprimands, disciplinary probations, instructor-initiated suspensions, terminations of financial aid, short or long-term suspensions from campus, and temporary or permanent expulsions. These consequences are serious and can easily be avoided.

Examples of disruptive activities that will not be tolerated are: repeated cell phone ringing, repeatedly falling asleep in class, excessive talking, texting, passing of notes, entering and leaving class several times during a session, verbal rudeness directed towards the instructor and/or other students, and non-verbal rudeness directed towards the instructor and/or other students. Finally, ACADEMIC DISHONESTY IS GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL FROM THE COURSE. If you are unsure of what academic dishonesty is, ask the instructor.

This instructor is charged with maintaining a positive learning experience for all students in this course, and that responsibility is a serious one. Disruptive behaviors will not be tolerated in this course.

Academic Integrity: Cheating and plagiarism (using as one’s own ideas, writings or materials of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can result in any one of a variety of sanctions.  Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment to a failing grade in the course.  The instructor may also summarily suspend the student for the class meeting when the infraction occurs, as well as the following class meeting.  For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact DSPS in person in room A-113 or by phone at (619) 660-4239 (voice) or (619) 660-4386 (TTY for deaf) or online at

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TIPS FOR SUCCESS IN THIS COURSE (Thanks to Professor June Yang):
  1. Be optimistic about your ability to learn from the textbook, the instructor, and each other.
  2. Do all homework and all the readings. The homework will be collected every time, and spot-checked, and the readings will help you understand the course material.
  3. Be prepared to spend time outside of class working on class material, doing readings, homework, preparing for quizzes and exams, etc.
  4. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  5. Remember that you are gifted with more education and intelligence than many persons on this planet. If you try, you are sure to get it, or at least most of it!