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Engaging Religions

Engaging Religions: An Introduction to Religion and Global Affairs

KGSA 30600 / ASIA 30600 / IIPS 30434

Alexander Hsu

MW 2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

3 credits

In a religiously diverse and vastly troubled world, how do religious traditions motivate believers to work toward the common good? “Engaging Religions,” the course title, refers to three things we will examine. First, it describes how religions are intrinsically engaging: they draw in adherents by fulfilling their material, intellectual, and spiritual needs. Second, it specifies what various secular institutions like governments and development organizations must do in pursuing the common good across our planet—most of whose inhabitants are religious. Finally, it characterizes our work in this class: exploring how various religious traditions conceptualize and work toward the common good in a global context. We will engage how religious traditions from the East and West—from Asian and Abrahamic “world” religions, to a variety of indigenous “local” religions—complicate or complement modern Catholicism’s emphasis on Integral Human Development.

Credit hours contribute to the:

Global Affairs Major — Keough School of Global Affairs

Peace Studies Supplementary Major or Peace Studies Minor — Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Asian Studies Supplementary Major or Asian Studies Minor — Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies


Cosmic Stories

Our Cosmic Stories

STV 20257 / KSGA 30602 / STV 40258 / HPS 60258

T Th 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. 

Mahan Mirza

3 Credits

Since the dawn of history, human beings have been telling stories about their origin and destiny. From the Dreamtime of Aboriginals to the gods of the Hellenes, Norse tales to Abrahamic revelations, our ability to weave imagination and reason, tradition and experience, has underpinned our collective identity and shaped our history. Today, we are increasingly turning to science to tell these stories of origin and destiny. Concepts like entropy and evolution are giving us cosmic and biological arrows of history, one inexorably tending to disorder, the other to ever-increasing complexity. Unfolding across a series of identifiable thresholds, the budding field of Big History combines our nature as storytellers with our skill as scientists to provide a coherent narrative of life and the universe from the big bang to the present, offering what has been called a new creation story for our time. What tale does Big History tell, what sources of knowledge does it draw on, in what ways does it challenge traditional beliefs, and what futures does it imagine? Bridging the chasm between C.P. Snow's Two Cultures of the sciences and humanities, this interdisciplinary course engages big questions about religion, nature, science, culture, and meaning through great books in popular science with the help of theoretical contributions from science and technology studies. The class welcomes non-scientists who are interested in acquiring scientific literacy as well as scientists seeking to acquire religious and social science literacy. We will look for the best descriptions of nature available to us today (the "is") to draw inspiration for unique insights on how to be (the "ought"). The readings and discussions of this class will provide global citizens in the twenty-first century of diverse religious, theological, or philosophical persuasions a common framework of the past, a sense of presence in the Anthropocene, and conceptual tools to imagine a shared future.

Credit hours contribute to the:

Global Affairs Major — Keough School of Global Affairs

History and Philosophy of Science Program


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Rome Summer Seminars on Religion and Global Politics

June 4-17, 2023

The Rome Summer Seminars is a two-week program for graduate students, scholars and practitioners working at the crossroads of religion and global politics which is designed to draw on the unique religious and geopolitical resources of the city of Rome. The Seminars will begin with a 10-day writing workshop for students and culminate in a 2-day symposium for senior scholars and practitioners. Students attending the workshop will have the possibility to participate in the symposium.

The Seminars aspire to become a hub for innovative reflection on religion and politics and to form a new network of scholars and leaders equipped with the religious knowledge, academic training and policy expertise to effectively engage major policy debates on religion and global affairs. Students will explore key themes emerging in the field of religion and global politics and meet with religious leaders, scholars and policy-markers from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The program will include daily seminars with members of the steering committee and confirmed keynote lectures by Olivier Roy (European University Institute), Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck), Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame), and Anna Rowlands (Durham University).

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