World Religions and the Wilderness

World Religions and the Wilderness* (H) 

Elective, Prerequisite: none (can be taken for English or Social Science credit)

This course is an introduction to World Religions that explores the role that wilderness plays in various faith traditions and our lives. The course begins by investigating basic theological and religious frameworks and by exploring the concept of wilderness as a construct. Lessons from this introductory unit guide students through the rest of the class as they explore the world’s major religious traditions and the ways they relate to the natural world.

This course integrates three strands of engagement with class material: academic, experiential, and reflective. As these three strands intertwine, students obtain a lens through which to understand their own and others’ belief systems, a capacity to communicate comfortably and fluently about religion and spirituality, and a layered experience of the wilderness.

This class will be taught as a seminar and will emphasize the analysis and reflection of readings and experiences using discussion, analytical essays, written reflections, and group projects.

Texts Include: 

  • The Illustrated World’s Religions, Huston Smith
  • World Religions, Warren Matthews
  • Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
  • Quest For the Living God, Elizabeth Johnson
  • “The Trouble with Wilderness,” William Cronon
  • Other central voices include: Karen Armstrong, Paul Williams, Marcus Borg, Sallie McFague, Rabbi Jamie Korngold, Donald S. Lopez Jr., and Robert Frazer.

* This course uses the word “wilderness” to refer to unknown territory that exists both inside and outside of ourselves. We work to problematize the word “wilderness” and the way it has been and is used to support and further colonialist agendas in the Americas. We include the word in the title of this course because of the central role it plays in multiple religious traditions as reference to and symbol of mystery, and place of revelation.

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