REL 221(F) New Religions in North America

This course explores contemporary North America religion from a historical, sociological, and philosophical perspective. We will examine the historical and contemporary experiences of America's ever-expanding religious diversity, prominently featuring the voices of those traditionally excluded from older, Protestant-informed accounts of American religion. The focus of the course will be the exploration of the ever-expanding variety of new religions in North America, challenging students to engage the numerous cultural, philosophical, and methodological issues involved with the study of marginal religions. New religions often highlight cultural anxieties, e.g. loss of identity in contemporary secular societies, responses to new technologies, changing gender roles, globalization, etc. The study of new religions becomes, then, a closer, reflexive examination of contemporary American culture and its underlying tensions. For example, the Raelian Movement claims to have cloned the first human. Wicca, on the other hand, offers critiques of environmental depredation and traditional gender roles. In sum, we will explore the historical roots of the current boom in new religions, detail contemporary issues, and outline the possible forms new and emerging religions may assume in the coming years. This course will also have a website dedicated to the exploration of new religions, providing links to interesting sites, basic resources, and student essays/projects. Lecture/discussion. Students will be evaluated on the basis of their writing and presentation projects, three 5- to 7- page essays, along with their thoughtful discussion of the key issues raised in the course. Open to all classes without prerequisite. Enrollment limit: 30 (expected 15).

Hour: SHUCK