Course Syllabus

HUMI 9 – Comparative Religion


De Anza College Winter ‘18 -- 4 units                  

Instructor: Lori Bhumi Clinchard, Ph.D.;

Office Hours: F2 building; M/T/W/Th: 12:30-1:20 

De Anza Disability Support Services 

De Anza Plagiarism Policy: 

“God has no religion.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” -Dalai Lama 

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” – George Bernard Shaw

 “All religions are true, but none are literal.” – Joseph Campbell

 Course Description:

This course examines the religious dimension of human life and experience, focusing on the religious language, attitudes, images, myths, metaphors, symbols, and rituals relating to the history and practice of religion. We will study how women and men throughout history and across cultures have lived and expressed a religious faith based on their sense of the sacred.


Course Objectives:

The student will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the variety of ways in which the religious dimension of human existence is expressed and lived from pre-modern times through the present;
  • Examine, analyze, and compare different types of religious consciousness;
  • Examine, analyze, and compare religious faiths from several cultures and time periods;
  • Identify and evaluate similar modern and contemporary patterns in different religions;
  • Open and expand both mind and heart to the diversity that exists among human beings.


Required Reading:

  1. Smith, Huston. (1994).   The Illustrated World’s Religions: A guide to our wisdom traditions. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN: 0-06-067440-7
  2. Walsh, Roger. (1999). Essential Spirituality: Exercises from the world’s religions to cultivate kindness, love, joy, peace, vision, wisdom, and generosity. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ince. ISBN: 978-0-471-39216-3


*Note: important class announcements are often made in the first 5 minutes of class. If you are late, you are still responsible for this information, so please make sure you are on time.

Course Requirements:  

  1. Class Participation: Daily attendance, engagement, and participation in class discussions is required.
  2. On-line Discussions: By Friday, every other week, you will have responded to discussion questions online related to the two previous weeks’ reading assignments and in-class topics. Then you’ll have two additional days to respond to your classmates (due Sunday evening).
  3. Practice Journal: You will use the book as a guide to create a personal practice journal, writing about your experiences of each exercise. Follow the course outline to know which practices to work with each week. We will do some of the exercises in class, so bring your journals to class. Every other Thursday, you will turn in your journal, with the required exercises completed.
  4. Final project: Interview at least three people of different religions (not your own, if you have one). Describe what you learned about each person’s experience, and also what you learned as a whole - about spirituality, religion, human nature, family, tradition, yourself, etc. - through these interviews. Written report should be at least 5 full pages (typed, 12 font, double-spaced, normal margins). 

Grading: Total points possible         = 600 pts.

Class Participation - 10 weeks x 4 pts = 40 points

Online Discussions = 5 discussions x 50 pts. each = 250 points

Practice Journal = 5 check-ins x 50 pts. each = 250 points

Final Project= 60 points

Grading Scale

A-=90%; A=93%; A+=98%   / B-=80%; B=83%; B+=88%     /   C=70%; C+=78%
D-=60%; D=63%; D+=68%     /   F=<60%


Late work: Late work is NOT accepted, except with advance permission of instructor.

Absences: You may miss 3 classes in the quarter. Any absences beyond 3 need to be discussed with instructor during office hours. You may be dropped after 4 absences. You are responsible for material covered in class while you are absent.

Plagiarism: Any instances of copying and pasting from Internet sources, books, articles, or other students’ papers will be immediately reported to De Anza Administration. 



* Read each week for reading assignments & homework due dates

 * Bring Walsh & Journal to class


Week 1 – Spirituality, Religion, Agnosticism & Atheism

     Read Walsh – Practice 1: Transform Your Motivation, pp. 29-68

                 HOMEWORK: just read Walsh (nothing due)


Week 2 – Indigenous Spirituality

                 Read Walsh – Practice 2: Cultivate Emotional Wisdom, pp. 69-114

                Read Smith – Ch. IX: Primal Religions

                 HOMEWORK: Online Discussion by Fri. night (responses by Sun. night)


Week 3 – Hinduism & Sikhism

                 Read Smith Ch. II: Hinduism

                HOMEWORK: Journal due in-class Thursday (Practice 2 exercises)


Week 4 – Buddhism

     Read Smith Ch. III - Buddhism

     Read Walsh – Practice 3: Live Ethically, pp. 115-144

       HOMEWORK: Online Discussion by Fri. night (responses by Sun. night)


Week 5 – Confucianism & Taoism

     Read Smith Ch. Ch. IV & V - Confucianism; Taoism

     HOMEWORK: Journal due in-class Thursday (Practice 3 exercises)


Week 6 – Meditation

     Read Walsh – Practice 4: Concentrate and Calm Your Mind, pp. 145-171

               HOMEWORK: Online Discussion by Fri. night (responses by Sun. night)\


Week 7 – Consciousness

     Read Walsh – Practice 5: Awaken Your Spiritual Vision, pp. 173-210

     HOMEWORK: Journal due in-class Thursday (Practice 4 & 5 exercises)


Week 8 – Judaism

     Read Smith Ch. VI - Judaism

                 Read Walsh – Practice 6: Cultivate Spiritual Intelligence, pp. 211-248

                 HOMEWORK: Online Discussion by Fri. night (responses by Sun. night)


Week 9 – Christianity

     Read Smith Ch.VII - Christianity

   HOMEWORK: Journal due in-class Thursday (Practice 6 exercises)




Week 10 – Islam

                   Read Smith Ch.VIII – Islam

                  Read Walsh – Practice 7: Express Spirit in Action, pp. 249-285

                   HOMEWORK: Online Discussion by Fri. night (responses by Sun. night)


Week 11 – Compassionate Listening

                 HOMEWORK: Journal due in-class Thursday (Practice 7 exercises)


Week 12 – Finals week



Two extra credit options: Due anytime; last date is March 16th (no exceptions)

  • Visit a place of worship (temple, gurdwara, mosque, church, synagogue, Zen garden, etc.). Write a 1 page response paper (single-spaced, 12 font, typed); attach some physical evidence of your visit – 10 points


  • Watch the online documentary “What the Bleep do we know”, and analyze the film in relation to the religions we have studied (1 page response paper; single-spaced, 12 font, typed) – 5 points



Honors Option:

An Honors cohort is being offered in this section.  Eligibility requirements can be found at If you are interested, please contact Mehrdad Khosravi, Honors Program Coordinator at or at 408-864-8833 for approval. The cohort entails additional work: an informal research paper on an agreed-upon topic. You must commit to participating in the Honors cohort by the end of the first week of the quarter by dropping the current section of this course and adding the Honors section with a separate add code. You must also sign a written contract with me. Once you commit to the Honors portion, you will be expected to complete the extra work.  Failure to complete the Honors work will result in a lowering of your class grade by 2/3 of a grade (ex: A- to B; B+ to B-; B to C+; etc.).  






Course Summary:

Date Details