Schedule of Presentation Topics

See the Presentation Rubric for more on expectations and grading standards.

The Life of the Buddha, Monday, January 22, 2024

As we are considering the story and historical context of the origin of Israelites, Judaism, and Old Testament, this presentation will focus on the story and historical context of the origin of Buddhism. Note that there are other presentation topics on course Buddhist ideas (Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path). You can mention those things, but focus on the origin story.

Pantheism, Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Israelites and their ancient neighbors thought of gods as personal beings. Gods are more or less like people in that they can thought of as being in a particular place and relating to others like people do (talking, seeing, hearing). However, that is not the only way of thinking about God.

Hesiod’s Theogony,

The Greeks also thought of gods as personal beings, but with much more family drama.

The Four Noble Truths, Monday, January 29, 2024

As we learn about Israelite ideas about the explanation and solution to suffering, we can also learn about the Buddha’s response to the same question.

Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Monday, January 29, 2024

We can think about destruction as evil or in opposition to the work of the creator. Alternatively, we can think of creation, sustaining, and destroying as existing in a balanced natural cycle.

The Eightfold Path, Wednesday, January 31, 2024

As we learn about how the Israelites answer the question, “How should we live our lives?” we can also learn about Buddhism’s response to the same question.

Plato, Gorgias 523-527,

As we learn about Plato’s ideas about the afterlife and their influence on Christianity, let’s take a closer look at the story the way Plato told it.

Reincarnation and Cyclical Views of Time, Monday, February 5, 2024

Western thought tends to assume we have one life, followed by the afterlife. Eastern thought does not assume that. More broadly, we think of not just our lives as having a beginning, middle, and end, but also the world itself as having a beginning, middle, and end. We think of time as a time line. What if it is not a line, but a circle, or a squiggle? Besides Buddhism, this is raised in contemporary culture (Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life made into the movie “Arrival,” and Jeremy Bearimy in the series “The Good Place.”)

Islamic Eschatology, Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Along with Christian understanding of second coming of Christ, judgment day, and the end of the world, let’s learn about Islam on similar questions.

Life of Muhammed, Monday, February 12, 2024

As we consider the historical story of the central figure of Christianity, let’s also consider the story of the seal of the prophets of Islam. Note there are other presentations on Islamic beliefs and practices, so focus on the story of the person.

Homer, Odyssey Book 11, Wednesday, February 14, 2024

As we consider the story of Jesus’ journey to the underworld, consider also this earlier story from Greek culture.

Major Jewish Holidays, Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Also on the question of how to practice religious faith, let’s look at Judaism today (not to be mistaken for Judaism 2000 years ago or the Bible). Don’t get bogged down (for now) on the question of degree or manner of practice, which varies across Judaism. The liturgical year (major holidays) serve as a good introduction to contemporary Jewish practice.

Five Pillars of Islam, Wednesday, February 21, 2024

As we conclude the unit on early Judaism and Christianity with a chapter on the question of how faith should be lived out, let’s also learn about the central Islamic teaching about religious practice.

Exogamy/Intermarriage in Judaism,

The Hebrew Bible reflects different attitudes towards marriage with people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds. What do Jews today argue about intermarriage?

Cesar Chavez and/or Dolores Huerta, Wednesday, October 4, 2023

As we look at these more recent figures in American History, let’s look especially at the role of faith and Mary in their lives.

Early Caliphates, Monday, March 4, 2024

As we learn about how Christianity went from an underground movement with no political power to Christendom, let’s also learn some of the history of early Islam as it took on the role of governing society in a political sense.

Maimonides, Wednesday, March 6, 2024

For most of its history, Judaism had nothing resembling a Pope as central leader, much less a political empire. However, some teachers were especially persuasive and influential. Let’s learn about the most famous Jewish teacher of the middle ages.


Christianity uses the word “mystery” for something beyond human comprehension, something to be contemplated rather than simply understood before moving on. Compare the role of mantras in eastern religions.

Muhammed and the Jews of Mecca and Medina, Monday, March 18, 2024

Much as Christianity has a complex relationship with Judaism from its origin and subsequent histry, so too Islam.

Sufism and/or Kaballah, Wednesday, March 20, 2024

As we learn about mysticism in Christianity, let’s also learn about mysticism in Islam and/or Judaism.

Sunni and Shi'i, Monday, March 25, 2024

As we begin to learn about the major division in Christianity, let’s also learn about the two major groups within Islam.

Hadith and Fiqh, Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Let’s learn how Muslims answer the question, “Whom do you trust with big decisions” (when the Bible/Qur‘an is not clear on the answer)?

Christopher Columbus and the Jews of Spain, April 9, 2021

This presentation relates to the historical context of the beginning of the reformation and the flourishing of new ideas, events, and a changing world. People say that history moves faster in modern times, but there was a lot going on around 1500. On the very day that Christopher Columbus was to set sail (and discover the New World, changing world history dramatically), he was delayed. The reason? The harbor was too crowded with boats of Jews being driven out of Spain, finally ending centuries of convivencia, a period in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians mostly co-existed in Spain.

Mary in Islam, Wednesday, April 3, 2024

While Islam differs substantially from Christianity on the divinity of Jesus and consequently whether Mary is the mother of God, Mary is quite significant in the Qur’an and Islam.

Nirvana, Monday, April 8, 2024

As we learn about different ideas in Christianity about how individuals can achieve salvation, they mostly agree on what salvation is. Namely, existing for eternity (as an individual) with God in heaven or some sort of blessed existence. Buddhism and Hinduism do not have the same understanding of what the goal is, or how to get there. References to the final season of “The Good Place” are also welcome here.

One or more of the founders of the Marianist family, Wednesday, April 10, 2024

As we learn about monasticism and religious orders in Christianity, let’s learn especially about the founders of St. Mary’s University (William Joseph Chaminade, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, Marie Thérèse Charlotte de Lamourous). (This is the exception to the pattern than presentations look at non-Christian ideas.)

René Descartes, Friday, October 27, 2023

René Descartes personally had a complex relationship with religion during his lifetime. His legacy is associated with the age of reason, individualism, and enlightenment ideas that would ultimately reject the authority of communal religion.

Karl Marx, Monday, April 15, 2024

Karl Marx ties together several themes near the end of the course. He advocates an economic system that advocates collective responsibility over individualism. He concludes that faith cannot be reconciled with reason, and that religion is an impediment to social progress. His ideas significantly influenced the politics of the twentieth century. It will be helpful to read ahead to the end of the textbook before giving this presentation.

New Age Movement, Wednesday, April 17, 2024

While most of them avoid the term “religion” or much organizational structure, there are substantial ideas about spirituality and the spiritual realm that have developed and flourished in recent decades. Especially with this one, be in contact the instructor more than once to pick a focus and develop it.

Richard Dawkins, Wednesday, April 17, 2024

As we consider the question, is religion irrelevant or even detrimental to society, let’s learn about one of the major voices in recent times arguing “yes.” The responsibility to respectfully and fairly describe ideas even when you disagree with them applies equally to atheism as with all the traditions we have been exploring.

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Monday, April 22, 2024

You likely know more about Martin Luther King Jr. than you do about Malcolm X. They responded to the same injustice and saw religious faith as part of the solution, but differed on their views of Christianity. Although it is not short or required, I very highly recommend the 1992 film by Spike Lee, “X.”

Jews in the Civil Rights Movement, Friday, November 18, 2022

Many Jews also found their faith to be relevant to the struggle for justice.

Views of Abortion in Religions Other Than Christianity, Wednesday, April 24, 2024

How do other religions answer the question of how faith is relevant to moral practice, particularly the question of abortion?