Syllabus for REL-405



World Religions: Exploring Diversity examines the complexity of religion as a multidimensional phenomenon characterized by heightened experience, ritual practice, powerful myths, ethical teaching, social organization, and theological doctrine. The course explores religious traditions that are alive today and that involve the lives of the majority of people worldwide from the indigenous religions of Africa and North America to the major world religions of the East such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto, as well as the western religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The course is interdisciplinary in that it includes material from historical and social studies, literary and artistic expressions, and philosophical and theological insights into the world's religions. In a world increasingly aware of its cultural diversity and richness, exploring the religious life and consciousness of a people is one way of gaining access to that diversity.


The basic goals of World Religions: Exploring Diversity are to explore the meaning of religion, examine its broad characteristics, and explore religious consciousness, practice, and expression exemplified in the history and religions of the world. After studying this course, you should be able to:

  1. Discuss and discriminate between the basic dimensions that constitute the phenomena of religion throughout the world, including the experiential, mythic, ritual, doctrinal, social and ethical dimensions.
  2. Analyze the different forms and implications of religious experience.
  3. Discuss and evaluate the power of myth in world religions.
  4. Assess how the religious beliefs and practices of others relate to their own worldviews.
  5. Compare the key doctrines of the world's major religions.
  6. Compare and contrast the different forms of social organization of the various world religions.
  7. Compare and contrast features of the ethical systems from the world's religions.
  8. Analyze the relationship between doctrine and truth (that is, revealed theology and natural theology).
  9. Evaluate current trends and developments in the intersection of religion and society.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

ISBN-10: 0195118359

ISBN-10: 0130209805


World Religions: Exploring Diversity is a 3-credit online course consisting of nine modules. Modules include learning objectives, study materials, and activities.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to read the texts as assigned, participate in online discussion forums, complete and submit written assignments, take a proctored online midterm examination, and complete a final project. See below for more details.

Consult the Course Calendar for due dates.

Promoting Originality

One or more of your course activities may utilize a tool designed to promote original work and evaluate your submissions for plagiarism. More information about this tool is available in this document.

Discussion Forums

In addition to posting an introduction to the class in module 1, you are required to participate in seven graded online discussions, each focusing on an issue relating to world religions.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a discussion question and at least two subsequent comments on classmates' responses. Meaningful participation is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement. You will be evaluated on the quality and quantity of your participation. Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Your initial responses and subsequent comments on classmates' responses are due on the days specified by the Course Calendar.

Written Assignments

World Religions: Exploring Diversity has nine written assignments. These assignments consist of sometimes specific and sometimes general problems or questions connected with a particular religion or the interconnections between and among religions. Check the course Calendar for when you are to submit these assignments to your mentor.

Responses to written assignment questions are expected to be well developed and reasonably detailed. Each essay should be at least three double-spaced, typed pages (at least 750 words). Assignments should clearly demonstrate your understanding of the course materials. Do not merely copy answers from your reading materials, but when you make use of material from your readings, be sure you cite it properly (i.e., with footnotes or endnotes).

Midterm Examination

For a list of key concepts that may appear on your exam(s), refer to the study guide(s) available in the Examinations section of the course Web site.

You are required to take a proctored online midterm examination. See the Course Calendar for the official dates for your midterm exam week.

The midterm is a closed-book, proctored online exam. It is two hours long and covers all material assigned through Module 5 of the course. The exam consists of four essay questions.

For the midterm, you are required to use the University's Online Proctor Service (OPS). Please refer to the "Examinations and Proctors" section of the Online Student Handbook (see General Information area of the course Web site) for further information about scheduling and taking online exams and for all exam policies and procedures. You are strongly advised to schedule your exam within the first week of the semester.

Online exams are administered through the course Web site. Consult the Course Calendar for the official dates of exam weeks.

Statement about Cheating

You are on your honor not to cheat during an exam. Cheating means:

If there is evidence that you have cheated or plagiarized in an exam, the exam will be declared invalid, and you will fail the course.

Final Project

This course includes a final project that requires you to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate course content in a final paper. You will choose a topic of interest to you, obtain approval for your choice from your mentor, and apply insights from your course work to your topic. You will need to do further research on the topic in order to complete the paper. A full description of the paper appears in the Final Project area of the course.

This project is worth 25 percent of your grade; 1 percent of that total consists of your obtaining approval for your topic.

Consult your Course Calendar for due dates.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a course not in your area of study), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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