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World Religions: Occidental

Course Code: HUMS 1172
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Humanities
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

An introduction to the prominent religious traditions of the western world, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and African and North American aboriginal religious forms. Emphasis will be on these religions as living cultural, political, and philosophical institutions and systems helping to shape our world. Each religion will be studied with regard to such issues as the human attempt to understand the cosmos and shape social life, together with the need for mutual understanding and toleration.

Course Content

Instruction in this course will include the following six areas:

  1. An introduction to religion in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world - including the possibly of a matriarchal phase of western history; the Hammurabi code and Mesopotamian religion; Egyptian religion; Greek and Roman religion; and Celtic religion.
  2. An introduction to the development of Judaism (up to the 20th Century) - including the development of ancient Judaism, the nature of monotheism and polytheism; God, history and the Covenant in Judaism; the contents of the Hebrew Bible (Tanach); the two exiles, and the development of rabbinic Judaism; main elements of Jewish life, ritual and law, and the Jewish diffusion and life in exile.
  3. An introduction to the development of Christianity (up to the 20th Century) - including second temple Judaism and the messianic hope; the career of Jesus, the Gospels and Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments); the early Christian communities; the development of Christian dogmatics; church and empire; monasticism; Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy; the reformation & protestantism; Quakers, and other sects.
  4. An introduction to the development of Islam (up to the 20th Century) - including the life and time of Mohammed; the contents of the Qu’uran; the five pillars of Islam; Hadith and shari’a; the expansion of Islam; the Shi’a and Sunna division, the development of Sufism.
  5. An introduction to the development of African and North American tribal religions - including recurrent motifs and myths; sacred dancing, chanting, and healing; the sacredness of nature; the totem and the tribe; individualism, community, and tribalism; and the encounter with the western empires (slavery, disease, war, and assimilation).
  6. The impact of modernity of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - including Jewish, Christian, and Islamic responses to the western enlightenment; in Judaism: Ultra-orthodox, modern, orthodox, reform, conservative, and reconstruction Judaism; in Christianity: literalist, authoritarian, non-theistic Christian movements; in Islam: the orthodox response, and reconstructive modernist responses (e.g.,  the thought of Mohammed Iqbal); and interfaith dialogue and the western monotheistic religions (theological, philosophical, and political issues).

Methods of Instruction

A combination of lecture and discussion (possibly including student presentations).  Some class sessions may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later class session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material.  Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. 

Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:

(No one evaluation component within each category may exceed 40%)


    Percent Range       Example
Tests, quizzes, short written assignments    20% - 50% Three 10% tests      30%
Written class presentations, essays, essay exams          30% - 60% Two 30% essays      60%
Instructor's general evaluation
(may include attendance, class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)
    0% - 20% Attendance/
participation            10%
Total                               100%


Learning Outcomes

The successful student should be able to:

  1. Explain the diversity of western religions, both as to doctrines concerning the nature of the cosmos, and the human position in it.
  2. Demonstrate an appreciation of the diversity of ways of life and social organization associated with the western religions.
  3. Explain the connection between the western religions and current global ecological, philosophical, and social concerns.
  4. Compare and contrast the fundamental doctrines associated with the occidental religions covered in this course, especially concerning the origins of the cosmos, the existence of God, the nature of Ultimate Reality, the destiny of the individual person upon the death of the body, and the foundations of social authority.
  5. Compare and contrast the ways of life prescribed by these religions, including the main ritual and calendrical systems associated with them.
  6. Compare and contrast the social political institutions associated with these religions.
  7. Describe the impact of science on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the variety of reconstructive interpretations of these religions currently being undertaken.
  8. Critically and reflectively discuss the relevance of some of the religious teachings on the cosmos and on moral and social life, especially as they pertain to the current ecological, social, philosophical, an political concerns we have today as members of a global community. 

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.