Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

Theo 107 Introduction to Religious Studies

Spring 2014

Introduction to Religious Studies

THEO 107| Spring 2014


Instructor information


Fr. Philipp G. Renczes, SJ


Office: JFRC, 103

Office Hours:  M 15:00-16:00  


Phone:  (0039) 06 6701 5378

Email: pgrencze@luc.edu



Please email to arrange appointments outside office hours.


Course description

This course is an introduction to the academic study of religion. Based on the examination of the multifaceted phenomenon “religion” in personal and communal behavior, a special attention will be given to specific related theory and methodological approaches to evaluate this complex reality in the field of the comparative study of religion.

Offering a global perspective on themes such as ritual, religious language, doctrine  and mysticism, the course will introduce examples drawn from world religions.

Furthermore the course will engage theological expressions of religion that principally originate in the monotheistic traditions, in particular Catholic Christianity.

Classes will be a combination of reading assignments, lecture and discussion, papers and exams.

This course has no prerequisites.


Course objectives

Students should come to appreciate the quite complex nature of "religion" and the various lenses that can be applied to its study.

Students will be encouraged to perceive a world full of diverse religious expression and to engage in critical and reflective thinking on their behalf.

In the spirit of traditional humanities curriculum, we will ask what it means to be "human" and where meaning and significance of life might therein be found students will gain insights into similarities across religions as well.



Course required text and materials

Nancy C. Ring, Kathleen S. Nash, Mary N. Macdonald & F. Glennon, Introduction to the Study of Religion (New York, 2012)

All additional material (required readings) will be made available through Loyola SAKAI (https://sakai.luc.edu).

Note: Loyola University's Core knowledge Area requirement in Theological and Religious Studies Knowledge, the Value Areas of Understanding Diversity in the U.S. or the World and Understanding Spirituality or faith in Action in the World, and the skill area of Critical Thinking.

Requirements for the course and evaluation

In accordance with the JFRC’s Academic Policies, it is expected that students will attend and participate actively in all class meetings. Absences require prior permission from the instructor or the JFRC direction, or medical certification. Absences beyond two classes will mean an automatic reduction of the final grade.  Late arrivals and early departures will also be noted. 

Class will consist of an introductory lecture and the discussion of the primary texts and secondary literature assigned for that day. All lectures, except for the textbook references, will be found on Blackboard, most of them in the Rome Center Library. Students must bring the textbook and (digital) copies of the assigned secondary sources to each meeting in order to facilitate class discussion.

The mid-termand final examinations, covering material in the lectures and assigned reading, will each count for one third of the final grade, leaving the last third for a term paper of 4-6 pages plus bibliography. Paper topics must be approved in advance by the instructor. Extra consideration in the final grade will be given to students who demonstrate consistent participation in class discussion.

Grading Scale

A                 93-100                                                    C          71-74.5

A-                89-92                                                      C-         68-70.5

B+               86-89                                                       D+       63-67.5

B                 81-85                                                       D         60-62.5

B-                78-80                                                       D-        57-59.5

C+               75-77                                                       F          below 57


Academic Integrity

Plagiarism in academic work or dishonest examination behavior will result in the instructor’s assigning the grade of “F” for the assignment or examination. Moreover, all instances of academic dishonesty must be reported to the Rome Center’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the consideration of additional sanctions.





1.                    Introduction to the course

I. Human Experience and Religion

2.                     Creating Order and Meaning

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 5-39

3.                      Religious Understanding of Life

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 41--65

4.                     The Study of Religion

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion, pp. 67-94


II. Religious Action

5.                      Ritual Action / Catholic Christianity

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 95-122


6.                      Ethical Action / Orthodox-Protestant Christianity

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 123-168


7.                      MID-TERM EXAMINATION


III. Religious Language


8.                      Talking about the Sacred /Judaism

                Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 169-207








9.                      Scriptures, Canons, and Creeds / The parting of the Ways of Judaism and Christianity


Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 209-244



IV.  Religious Change


10.                   Personal Religious Change / Islam

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 245-273


11. Communal Religious Change /Hinduism and Buddhism

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 275-309


V  Religious Authenticity

12. Alienation

               Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 311-347



13. Reconciling Religion

Required Readings:

Introduction to the Study of Religion,  pp. 349-380



14.                   FINAL EXAMINATION (as scheduled by the JFRC)





Examples of paper topics

The Religious Phenomena in cultural expressions as poetry, novels or film.

An analysis of Sacred Architecture

The interaction of public and private in the religious sector

A working definition of “religion”

Is morality without religion possible, is morality with religion “stronger”?