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Jeremy will teach two classes at SUA: World Religions Today and The Religious History of California. In both courses, students will develop their abilities to think both critically and empathetically. Through course material and in dialogue with the instructor and with their peers, students will draw connections between, and ask questions of, the historical and social contexts in which religious ideas and practices are (or were) held and performed. At the same time, understanding relevant historical and social contexts will help students think empathetically about religious practices that might, at first glance, seem totally foreign to them.

World Religions Today

This course aims to fulfill seemingly contradictory goals. In the first place, it functions as an introductory course to world religions. Students will be introduced to various practices and beliefs traditionally categorized under the broad umbrellas of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Indigenous African traditions. At the same time, students will also be encouraged to think critically about the category of religion and how diverse practices and traditions came to be considered religions that are comparable to one another. To achieve this second goal, students will be introduced to research on the historical developments that led to each of these traditions being discussed and understood as “world religions.” To this end, students will also be required to critically engage popular “World Religions” textbooks and the ways that these traditions are presented and classified within educational settings and in popular news sources. In the end, students should leave with introductory knowledge of the religions discussed as well as the ability to think with high levels of dexterity about the term religion and its contemporary uses.

The Religious History of California

This course will introduce students to California’s religious past and to its contemporary religious diversity. Beginning with a discussion of the myths and rituals of the indigenous peoples of California, the course will discuss encounters with Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the blossoming of religious diversity in the 20th century. The course will cover Spanish occupation and the missions, immigrant religions from Asia that became established in California in the 19th century, Theosophical and occult traditions that flourished in the American West at the turn of the 20th century, Azusa street revivals and early Pentecostalism, and the religious developments introduced to California in the 1960s through the American counterculture. While students are being introduced to California’s religious past, they will also be introduced to basic theoretical questions about history and historiography, and they will be challenged to see how California’s religious past is still being felt in California today.

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