Religion in

REL 100.002
Introduction to Religious Studies

REL 100.001
Class Time: TR 11:00-12:15
Location: Gordon Palmer 208

Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon
Office Hour: by appointment
Office: Manly Hall 211

Grad Teaching Assistant
Lynn Funkhouser
Office Hour: TBA
Manly 200-A

REL Peer Mentors Program


Who was Rudolf Otto?

Who was Paul Tillich?

Who was Mircea Eliade?

Who is Karen Armstrong?

Who was Karl Marx?

Who was Emile Durkheim?

Who was Sigmund Freud?

Who was Ludwig Wittgenstein?

Who was Mary Douglas?

Who is Jonathan Z. Smith?


The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed by Congress 1789/ratified by Congress 1791)

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (proposed on June 13, 1866, and ratified by Congress onJuly 9, 1868

The Lemon Test (1971); the court decision from which this legal test is derived can be found here.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (watch this episode from PBS's Nova)

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, PA, Case No. 04cv2688 (PDF)

Abington School District, PA v. Schempp (1963)

Related Test Cases:
Is it Religion?

The same but different?
If so, why?




This Core Humanities course examines the practical implications of classification by studying how we define religion and the effects of those definitions. It asks whether classifications tells us more about the classifier than the thing being classified. It applies these skills to US Supreme Court cases on religion as well as how origins tales may be more self-implicating than we first imagined. This course is an ideal introduction to the academic study of religion as carried out in a public university as well as an introduction to the wide relevance of the Humanities. HU INB

Spring 2017 Syllabus (PDF)

Required Books

Studying Religion: An Introduction

What counts as "news"?
Who gets to decide -- and how?


Read the Dec. 23, 2015 article here.

"Religious liberty" in the news
(NPR August 23, 2016)

"When we try to parse out what is religion..."

Get more info here.

"Religion" in the News:
Two Case Studies

Watch the full video
(Beware of coarse language)


Hear/Read the full story

Although this course is not on Islam (REL 236 is on that topic), the above two examples (one from 2014 and the other from the summer of 2016) will set the stage for the course, inasmuch as they both make evident that what gets to be defined as religion in the US today -- and thus, what secures the benefits of being classified as a religion (in terms of exemptions, such as from vaccinations, military service, or as itemized in the IRS tax code) -- is highly contestable. Studying this contest itself may shed light on issues far larger than what we traditionally conceive as the domain of the academic study of religion.

Online Resources

The following resources and readings
may be used in the course.

Nix v. Hedden, 149 US 304 (1893)

Horace Miner, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" (PDF)

Learn more about Horace Miner...

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An example of the
insider/outsider problem

Learn more about
family resemblance