Secularism (JS 3890 Special Topics)
Special Topics Course: Secularism is a cultural phenomenon commonly associated with the contemporary world, especially the modern Western world. Its precise character, though, is quite elusive, pointing to attitudes and cultural forms that vary widely from each other. Secularism poses fundamental questions about the role of belief and the efficacy of religious practice, and it espouses instead the option of living life in terms of mainly human, this-worldly influences. In particular secularism is not mere atheism or anti-religion; rather, it advocates a separation of government, education, and various social functions and institutions from religious authority. The course aims to survey the complexities of secularism from a variety of angles: history (ancient roots, developments since the Enlightenment and the rise of science), geography (variations from North America to South America to Europe to Asia to Africa to Australia), philosophy, religion (dominant traditions, popular movements, theism vis-à-vis atheism), ethics, law, sociology, economics, psychology, education, literature and art. By engaging these multiple facets we hope to gain an appreciation for the conflicting forces within our own communities and in the global context. Guest lectures by several specialists from other university departments are planned. Students will explore a specific area of personal interest with a critical research paper.
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