History of World Religions
3 units; 3 hours
Recommended Preparation: eligibility for English 1A
Credit, degree applicable Transfer CSU, UC
M. and W. 11:15-12:40
Room: SOCS 117
Instructor: Dr. Florence M. Baker
Office: SOCS 116
Phone: (310) 532-3670 x3750
Office Hours: M. and W. 1:00-3:00 PM; T. and TH.
8:45-9:15 AM and by appointment
Course web site: http://www.elcamino.edu/faculty/fbaker/History%2037/Index.htm
1. Course Description
The History of World Religions is a survey of the
origins, essential doctrines and historical
development of the world’s major religious
traditions from prehistory to today and their impact
on the societies in which they appear. The course is
divided into two parts: religions originating in the
Middle East (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and
religions originating in India (Hinduism, Jainism,
Buddhism and Sikhism).
2. Course Overview
The purpose of this course is to assist you in
acquiring the resources and analytical skills
necessary to better understand, appreciate and
evaluate the development of the major religions of
the world and their impact in shaping contemporary
life. Class materials include lectures,
presentations, videos and assigned readings that
will provide you with a basic framework of
information. We will analyze these secondary sources
as well as primary sources such as documents and
cultural artifacts through class and group
discussion and the writing of essay exams. In
examining the past we will strive to identify and
understand the broad patterns of religious thought
and development as well as the role of religion in
the history of global societies.
3. Required Text
William G. Oxtoby. A Concise Introduction to
World Religions. 3rd Ed. Oxford University
A study guide for this text is available at:
4. Course Objectives
Upon completion of the course, students will be able
1. Define and analyze the basic characteristics and
functions of religion, theories of the origins of
religion, and the historical method utilized to
study world religions.
2. Assess the evidence of prehistoric religions and
their major characteristics.
3. Identify and analyze the major characteristics of
Native American religions and the influence of
Christianity and non-native cultures in their
4. Identify the major characteristics of Native
African religions and assess the impact of
Christianity and Islam as well as the experience of
colonialism and independence on Africa's religious
5. Evaluate the pre-Aryan and Aryan contributions to
the development of Hinduism in India and the basic
beliefs of Hinduism as expressed in the early Vedic
6. Analyze the challenges posed to Hindu traditions
by the teachings of Jainism and Buddhism and the
relations between Hindus and Muslims in India, and
the practice of Hinduism in India today.
7. Explain the basic teachings of Mahavira and the
major contribution of Jainism to world religious
8. Discuss the life of Gautama, analyze his
teachings and the development of Theravada and
Mahayana Buddhism, and identify various Buddhist
beliefs and practices today.
9. Explain the origins of Sikhism, analyze its
historical development from a pacifist movement to a
more militant one, and discuss the divisions found
in Sikhism today.
10. Analyze the traditional religious beliefs of
China and how the decline of the feudal system
contributed to the development of Confucianism and
11. Explain and assess the basic teachings of
Confucius and Lao-tzu, and the extent to which they
developed into religions.
12. Analyze the impact of the Communist revolution
and regime on religious development in China.
13. Examine and analyze the mythological basis of
Shinto and its development in Japan, and the impact
of Buddhism and Christianity on Shinto and its
revival in the 17th century as a patriotic
14. Identify and evaluate the basic beliefs and
practices of Zoroastrianism, its contributions to
Middle Eastern religious traditions, and its present
15. Discuss and analyze the origins, beliefs and
values of Judaism as expressed in the Old Testament,
and the impact of the Babylonian exile, diaspora and
Holocaust on the development of Judaism.
16. Identify and explain the major divisions within
17. Analyze the origins of Christianity in the
context of first century Judaism and the Graeco-Roman
World, and the early teachings and rituals of
Christianity as indicated in the New Testament.
18. Discuss and evaluate the development of the
Christian Church, differences between Eastern
Orthodox and Western Christianity, and the impact of
the Protestant Reformation.
19. Explain the significance of Vatican II and the
ecumenical movement, and analyze Liberation Theology
and fundamentalism as modern Christian movements.
20. Analyze the origins of Islam and its roots in
Arab, Jewish and Christian religious traditions, as
well as the major issues within Islam and the Muslim
21. Analyze the Shi'ite origins of Baha'i and its
major teachings and practices, and assess the
significance of Baha'i in the modern world.
22. Identify and discuss contemporary religious
trends and issues.
5. Student Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of History of World Religions,
students will be able to develop and persuasively
argue a historical thesis in a written assignment
that identifies and explains major social, economic,
political and/or cultural historical themes or
patterns in the history of world religions and apply
appropriate historical methods to analyze and use
primary and/or secondary sources as evidence to
support the thesis.
6. ADA Statement
El Camino College is committed to providing
educational accommodations for students with
disabilities upon the timely request by the student
to the instructor. A student with a disability, who
would like to request an academic accommodation, is
responsible for identifying herself/himself to the
instructor and to the Special Resources Center. To
make arrangements for academic accommodations,
contact the Special Resources Center.
7. Student Resources
Your success is the number one priority at El Camino
College. College resources to help you succeed
include computer labs, tutoring centers, health
services, and services for designated groups, such
as veterans and students with disabilities. For a
comprehensive list of Student Success Transfer and
Retention Services (SSTARS) visit:
8. Student Success Act
New state regulations may affect your eligibility
for financial aid, your registration priority, and
your ability to repeat classes. Schedule an
appointment to see a counselor for an up-to-date
educational plan by visiting:
9. Title IX Employee Reporting Obligations
El Camino College is committed to protecting the
safety of our students. If you have been a victim of
misconduct/assault (including experiences of sexual
harassment, sexual assault, stalking and intimate
partner violence), help is available. You can:
1) Speak with an instructor. By law, faculty must
report to the Office of Staff and Student Diversity
any information about sexual or gender-based
misconduct shared by students in person, via
electronic communication and/or in classroom papers
or homework exercises. Once an incident has been
reported you can decide whether to cooperate with
2) Speak with a psychologist at Student Health. This
assistance is free and confidential – psychologists
are not required to report to the Office of Staff
and Student Diversity. To schedule an appointment,
call the Student Health Center at 310.660.3643 or
visit their website:
3) Contact the Office of Staff and Student Diversity
at 310.660.3813 or visit their website for more
information about resources on and off campus:
10. Course Requirements and Evaluations
You are required to complete all reading, writing
and exam assignments. Your course grade is
determined in the following ways:
1) Chapter Quizzes for Assigned Textbook Reading
When you have finished reading a chapter, complete
the Multiple Choice Quiz for the chapter and submit
it to the instructor by the due date. These quizzes
will be distributed in class.
2) A Midterm and Final Exam of about 4 to 5 pages
each, typed and double-spaced.
These exams will be completed at home and require an
analysis of course material including primary and
secondary sources. They are evaluated and graded
using the following criteria:
Answer ------ Did you answer the question assigned?
Evidence ---- Are your statements supported with
evidence from class materials such as readings and
Analysis ---- To what extent does your exam
demonstrate your use of critical thinking? Is there
depth to your analysis? Is your argument presented
logically and convincingly? Does it show your
ability to synthesize diverse material and concepts?
Expression - Is your exam coherent, well-organized
and written with clarity? Is your use of grammar and
3) A short research paper of about 10 pages in
length typed and double-spaced.
In addition to the above criteria, the quality and
use of your research materials and proper formatting
of notes and bibliography using the University of
Chicago Style are evaluated in determining your
Grades for assignments and the course are based on
the letter system as follows:
A - Excellent > assignment/course requirements have
been met and a mastery of assignment/course
B - Good > assignment/course requirements have been
met and an above average proficiency of
C - Satisfactory > assignment/course requirements
have been met and an average proficiency of
D - Less than satisfactory > not all
assignment/course requirements have been met and
partial proficiency of assignment/course objectives
F - Fail > few assignment/course requirements have
been met and little or no proficiency of
11. Distribution of Grades
Online Quizzes ------------------ 15%
Midterm Exam ------------------ 25%
Research Paper ------------------ 35%
Final Exam ----------------------- 25%
Extra Credit of 5% may be added to your
course grade. This extra credit may be earned by
attending two eligible ECC campus events and guest
lectures or maintaining excellent attendance.
> To earn extra credit for attending a campus event
or lecture you must write up two paragraphs: one
describing the event or lecture and the other
discussing your thoughts about it. Submit this to me
within a week of attending the event or lecture.
> To earn extra credit for maintaining excellent
attendance you must have no more than three (excused
or unexcused) absences from class during the term.
12. Course Policies
Attendance – In accordance with the college’s
policy on attendance you are expected to attend
class regularly, to arrive in class on time and to
remain for the duration of the class. Note that two
late arrivals for class will count as one absence.
You may be dropped from the class if you miss more
than four classes. If you intend to withdraw from a
class, it is your obligation to do so; otherwise you
will receive an “F” rather than “W” for the class.
Cell phones - Are to be turned off and put
off your desk during class meetings.
Distractions - Only course related materials
are to be on your desk during class meetings.
Disruptive behavior - Such as habitually
arriving to class late or leaving class early, or
talking during class will not be tolerated and will
result in being suspended from class.
Dishonest behavior - Such as cheating and
plagiarism will not be tolerated and will result in
being suspended from class. Please see the El Camino
College Catalog which gives examples of cheating and
plagiarism that include:
- Representing the words, ideas or work of another
as one’s own in any academic exercise
(plagiarism), including the use of commercial term
paper companies [and such study aids as Cliff Notes
and Spark Notes].
- Copying or allowing another student to copy from
one’s paper or answer sheet during an examination
[this includes for credit and graded assignments
completed outside of the classroom]
- Falsifying or attempting to falsify attendance
records and/or grade rosters.
Note – A student who persists in violating
course policies after a suspension may be dropped