North Island College, Fall 2021

Meeting Times M, W 11:30 am - 12:50 pm

Meeting Place Tyee 204 (CVC)

Instructor: Dan Hinman-Smith

Office:  Village G6

Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30-4:30 pm (or by appointment)

Office Phone: 250-334-5000, Extension 4024



North Island College is honoured to acknowledge the traditional territories of the combined 35 First Nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish traditions, on whose traditional and unceded territories the college's campuses are situated.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's final report calls for 94 actions toward restoring a balanced relationship between indigenous peoples and settler communities in this country.

Course Description

This course is designed as an introduction to the world's major religions, with a heavy emphasis upon those of the Abrahamic tradition: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It combines an in-depth focus upon these three individual living faiths with study of the different scholarly approaches to understanding religion.  Instruction will combine intensive reading, seminar discussion and lecture presentation.


Crumb, Robert.  Book of Genesis.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

Feiler, Bruce.  Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.  New York: William Morrow, 2005.

Khalidi, Tarif, trans.  Qur'an.  New York: Penguin, 2009.

***It is important that you acquire these books.  They are fundamental to the course.  They are available for purchase through the NIC Bookstore for a total cost of $85.94.  One copy of both Crumb's Genesis and Feiler's Abraham are available on 3-day Reserve from the Comox Valley Branch of the NIC Library.  I also have included an e-text link to the Feiler volume above.

Optional Textbook:  I have decided not to have a required textbook in LIB 130.  We will be using basic introductory materials from the Learn Religions web-site as one substitute.  However, if you would like a textbook for your own reference, I would recommend either of the following as good options:

Oxtoby, Willard G. and Hussain, Amir, eds. World Religions: Western Traditions.  New York: Oxford, 2010.

Smith, Huston.  Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide To Our Wisdom Traditions.  New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

The Teaching Company has a 30-hour Great Courses lecture series, "The Great World Religions," that is available from the North Island College library.  It features superb six-hour introductions to five major faiths, including the three featured in this course.  These Audio DVDs can be borrowed or listened to in the library.

My Assumptions About This Course

That you are interested in world religion and eager to learn as much about it as possible in this course.

That it will be impossible to learn all that you would like to learn given the massive amount of relevant material and the time constraints involved.

That my job as instructor is to strike an appropriate balance between providing a common core curriculum and setting up structures that also allow you to study materials of personal interest.

That this course should help to set you up for future formal or informal study of world religion rather than being a survey that teaches you "all that you need to know."

That the success of this course will depend not just upon my efforts but upon your willingness to participate in the creation of a dynamic learning community through your own study and willingness to engage with your classmates.

Tentative Class Schedule


Wednesday, September 8

a)  Course Introduction


Monday, September 13

a)  Discussion:  Entering Sacred Space -- Jerusalem

b)  Video: "Jerusalem" (National Geographic, 2013, 44 mins.)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Entering Sacred Space -- Jerusalem  Discussion Topic.

Optional Extras:

  "Jerusalem: Center Of The World," PBS, 2009 (Available through NIC and Films On Demand):

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

  "Jerusalem -- The Making Of A Holy City," BBC, 2011:  A three-hour overview of the city's religious history by Simon Montefiore.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Wednesday, September 15

a)  Lecture:  Jerusalem -- One City, Three Faiths


Monday, September 20

a)  Discussion: Jewish Sacred Festivals

b)  Lecture: The Essence of Judaism (1)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in Sacred Festivals In The News -- Judaism .

Listening And Viewing:

Video: "Passover Themes," Religion And Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, April 15, 2011 (4 mins).

Video: "Shabbat/Sabbath," Religion And Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, January 5, 2017 ( 3 mins).

Optional Extras:

Audio: "Judith Shulevitz, Making Room For The Sabbath," Fresh Air, NPR, March 31, 2010 (39 mins).

Audio: "Days Of Awe," On Being, American Public Media, September 6, 2007 (51 mins).]

Wednesday, September 22

a)  Discussion: The Mourner's Kaddish

b)  Lecture: The Essence of Judaism (2)

Listening And Viewing:

Audio: "The Mourner's Kaddish," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, March 14, 2010.

Video: "Jewish Burial Practices," Religion And Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, February 6, 2004 (6 mins)

Optional Extras:

Video: "What Is Judaism?," Cogito, May 2, 2020.

Audio: World Religions -- Judaism (January 16, 2011):  A 12-minute explanation from Stephen Prothero.

WEEK 4:  Judaism On-Line Text and Judaism Study Guide

Monday, September 27:

a)  Discussion:  Book Of Genesis

b)  Possible Video Clip from Bill Moyers's Genesis series

Reading Assignment:

Robert Crumb, Book Of Genesis

Judaism On-Line Text And Judaism Study Guide:

I have collected some resources from the Learn Religions web-site as a partial substitute for a course text.  I am also making some corresponding worksheets for each of the Abrahamic religions.  The relevant web resources and the worksheets can be accessed from the On-Line Text sections of the web-site.  I will also embed these materials within the Syllabus (links to the Judaism On-Line Text and Judaism Study Guide are included above as two separate links).  You will have a couple of weeks on your own time to complete each worksheet and then should submit these through Blackboard in a timely manner.  Please don't just initially Google the answers  -- you will not learn as much from that as from a very careful browsing of the Learn Religions web-site.  I will look at the worksheet to see whether you approached it with care but, rather than grading each individual answer, will award you the full 3% grade for each completed worksheet.  The worksheet is just meant as both a guide for you and as an accountability mechanism.

Wednesday, September 29

a)  Video: "A History Of God" (History Channel, 2001, 100 mins) or "By The Rivers Of Babylon," Episode 1, Kingdom of David: The Saga Of The Israelites  (PBS, 2009, 60 mins).


Monday, October 4

a)  Discussion: Judaism In The News

b)  Lecture: The Essence of Judaism (3)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in Judaism In The News.

Listening And Viewing:

Listen to at least one audio file and/or view at least one video file at Judaism: Audio Links and Judaism: Video Links.

Wednesday, October 6

a)  Lecture: The Jesus Of History; The Christ Of Faith

***Wednesday, October 6:  First Journal Installment Due as Hard Copy in Class or through Blackboard Learn (Use either the Regular Journal [Option 1] or the Note-Taking/Journal Combo [Option 2] format)  [20%]


Monday, October 11: NO CLASS -- THANKSGIVING

Wednesday, October 13

a)  Discussion:  Abraham -- A Journey To The Heart Of Three Faiths

b)  Introduce Comparing Buddha, Jesus And Muhammad Project

Reading Assignment:

Bruce Feiler, Abraham: A Journey To The Heart Of Three Faiths

Optional Extras:

Browse extensively in Of God And Abraham Discussion Topic.

"Children Of Abraham," On Being, American Public Media, April 4, 2003 (53 mins).



Monday, October 18

a)  Lecture:  Of God And Abraham

Wednesday, October 20

a)  Discussion: Jesus -- Rise To Power

b)  Lecture:  Essence Of Christianity (1)

Listening And Viewing:

Video: "Messiahs," Episode 1, Jesus: Rise To Power, National Geographic (2015, 45 mins.)

Video: "Martyrs," Episode 2, Jesus: Rise To Power, National Geographic (2015, 45 mins.)

Video: "Christians," Episode 3, Jesus: Rise To Power, National Geographic (2015, 45 mins.)

Optional Extras:

Video: "Christianity From Judaism To Christianity," Crash Course History #11, April 5, 2012 (12 mins.)

***Class Participation Check-In


Monday, October 25:  Christianity On-Line Text and Christianity Study Guide

a)  Discussion:  Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, And James, The Brother Of Jesus

b)  Lecture:  The Two Marys

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, And James, The Brother Of Jesus  Discussion Topic.

Listening And Viewing:

  "Mary Magdalene: Art's Scarlet Woman," BBC, 2017.  (59 mins)


Wednesday, October 27

a)  Discussion: Lost Gospels

b)  Discussion: Christianity In The News

c)  Lecture:  Essence Of Christianity (2)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in Christianity In The News.

Listening And Viewing:

Video: "The Lost Gospels," BBC Four (2007, 89 mins.)

Listen to at least one audio file and/or view at least one video file at Christianity: Audio Links and Christianity: Video Links


Monday, November 1

a)  Lecture:  The Bible

Optional Extras:

Video: "In The Footsteps Of Judas," BBC (2016, 56 mins):  Part 1; Part 2.

Audio: "A Jewish Perspective On The New Testament," All Things Considered, NPR, December 24, 2011 (5 mins).

Video Understanding The New Testament, Great Courses (24 episodes):  An intensive introduction to the New Testament from University of Virginia professor David Brakke.  This is an option I only include for true keeners.  But some of you with an interest in Biblical Studies may want to at least sample this course now or after the semester when you have more time.  You may also want to browse the wide selection of other Great Courses in a variety of different subject arieas available through the Kanopy and the Vancouver Island Regional Library.  To do that, type in "Great Courses" as a search term after you have accessed the Kanopy database.  You will need a free Vancouver Island Public Library card to use Kanopy.

Wednesday, November 3

a)  Discussion:  Comparing Buddha, Jesus, And Muhammad

b)  Video: "Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet," PBS (2002) [116 mins.]

***Wednesday, November 3: Comparing Buddha, Jesus, And Muhammad Due [20%]


Monday, November 8

a)  Finish Video: "Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet," PBS (2002) [116 mins.]

Wednesday, November 10: NO CLASS -- READING BREAK


Monday, November 15

a)  Lecture: "Recite In The Name Of Your Lord" -- The Essence Of Islam (1)

Optional Extras:

  "The Black Cube," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, December 25, 2009 (27 mins.)

Wednesday, November 17

a)  Discussion: Ramadan And Islam

b)  Video: "Inside Mecca" (60 mins.)

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Sacred Festivals In The News -- Islam  Discussion Topic.

Listening And Viewing:

Video: "Ramadan North And South," Al Jazeera World, June 20, 2016 (46 mins.)

Video: "Eid Al-Fitr," Religion And Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, July 17, 2015 (3 mins.)

Optional Extras:

Audio: "Revealing Ramadan," On Being, September 10, 2009 (51 mins).

WEEK 12:  Islam On-Line Text and Islam Study Guide

Monday, November 22

a)  Lecture: "Recite In The Name Of Your Lord" -- The Essence Of Islam (2)

Wednesday, November 24

a)  Discussion: The Qur'an

b)  Mini-Lecture: The Qur'an

Reading Assignment:

Tarif Khalidi, trans., Qur'an

Optional Extras:

Video: "A Year With The Qur'an," Religion And Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, November 3, 2015 (7 mins.)

Audio: "Recite!," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, August 22, 2010 (27 mins.)


Monday, November 29

a)  Lecture: "Recite In The Name Of Your Lord" -- The Essence Of Islam (3)

b)  Discussion: Islam In The News

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Islam In The News .

Listening And Viewing:

Listen to at least one audio file and/or view at least one video file at Islam: Audio Links and Islam: Video Links.

Optional Extras:

Audio: "Khadijah," Beyond Belief, BBC Radio 4, September 11, 2017 (30 mins)

Wednesday, December 1

a)  Lecture: Muslim Festivals In The News

b)  Discussion: Banning The Burqa

c)  Wrapping Up And Looking Ahead

Reading Assignment:

Browse extensively in  Banning The Burqa  Discussion Topic.

Optional Extras:

"The Sunnah Of Muhammad," Heart And Soul, BBC World Service, June 26, 2016 (27 mins).

  "Jesus And Islam," Arte France, 2015  (Available through NIC and Films On Demand).

Episode 1, "The Crucifixion According To The Qur'an":

Episode 2, "People Of The Book":

Episode 3, "Son Of Mary":

Episode 4, "Exile Of The Prophet":

Episode 5, "Muhammad And The Bible":

Episode 6, "The Religion Of Abraham":

Episode 7, "The Book Of Islam":

***Friday, December 3:  Second Journal Installment Due through Blackboard Learn or handed to the instructor in hard copy.


Reflections On Entering The Course  


On-Line Text Worksheets

9% (3% x 3)

First Journal Installment


Second Journal Installment


Comparing Buddha, Jesus, And Muhammad


Class Participation 


a)  Reflections On Entering The Course (1%)

Who are you? Where are you from? What are your interests? Why are you taking this course? How would you begin to make sense of your own thoughts about religion and religious studies? Do you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions as we start the course? Write two or three informal paragraphs for the second class of the semester to introduce yourself to me.

b)  On-Line Text Worksheets (9%)

There will be three fill-in-the-blanks worksheets that highlight the basics of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam respectively.

c)  The Journal (50%) [20% +30%]

The student Journal will be the most substantial assignment in this course.  It will represent your on-going engagement with the core class curriculum.  The focus of the Journal should be on analysis, interpretation, and commentary.  It should consist of a series of short writings of varying lengths about the course material.  I refer to these short writings as entries.  The purpose of the journal is to provide you with the opportunity for frequent thoughtful and analytical commentary upon course-related material.

I have provided you with two different options for the Journal: (1) The Regular Journal; or (2) The Note-Taking/Journal Combo.  These are described in detail on the Assignment Page of my web-site.  You should familiarize yourself with these two models and make a clear choice between the options at the beginning of the course.

It is expected that you work regularly on the Journal throughout the semester, writing in it on a weekly basis.  You will only need to hand in the Journal to me twice, however.  You will submit your Journal to me at the five-week mark of the course.  I want to check to ensure that you are making good progress on the assignment and that we share a mutual understanding as to the nature of the assignment.  This will be worth 20% of your course mark.  Your second submission will be due at the end of the semester.  This will be worth 30% of the course grade.

d)  Comparing Buddha, Jesus And Muhammad (20%)

This is a research project that will ask you to research the traditions associated with each of these major religious founders in comparative perspective.  I will be providing you with a template to guide your research.  Please don't start on this until we talk about it later in the course.

e)  Class Participation (20%)

Seminar discussion is fundamental to Liberal Studies.  The discipline is premised upon the idea that meaningful education best takes places within a group format; that an ideal instructor should serve as a knowledgeable and inquisitive guide rather than as the authoritative expert; and that all students have the potential to add to others' learning.

Upper-level Liberal Studies are typically organized entirely around the seminar format.  We in LIB 130 will combine lectures and documentaries with extensive discussion.  Sometimes we'll devote an entire class period to a particular text.  Other times, we will have a shorter but focused conversation about a particular topic.  I would like to encourage a classroom environment in which all are eager to share their ideas and in which lectures are accompanied by thoughtful dialogue.  This will be dependent not just upon your willingness to speak, but your pre-class preparation and your willingness to listen.

The class participation grade will be based upon attendance; pre-class preparation; and the willingness to contribute thoughtfully to group discussion.  Good participation is not a matter of how much you say but of the value of what you say as a contribution to shared understanding.  Dominating the discussion will not allow others to examine your ideas.  Never having much to say will deprive the seminar of your valuable ideas and critical abilities.  Straying too quickly off topic and speaking without listening can derail what might otherwise be a profitable discussion.

 Although attendance is not required, I will take roll, and those who are not in class regularly will receive a poor grade for this component of the course.

I do appreciate that some students are shy or for other reasons may find it intimidating to speak in our group setting.  I do want these students to push themselves to try their best to engage with the class.  I will nonetheless be understanding of these students so long that they can clearly demonstrate to me by other means that not only do they come to class but that they do so well-prepared and are engaged with the material.

Time Commitment

Although the time it takes individual students to complete course responsibilities varies individually, I have set up the course with the expectation that you will devote at least an average of 5 hours a week of out-of-class study to LIB 130.  In general, one should set aside two hours of out-of-class time for each hour of university course class contact time.  In the case of LIB 130, I expect you not just to complete the course assignments but also to keep up with the weekly reading, viewing, and listening responsibilities so that you are engaged with the course and can contribute to your classmates' education.

Writing Support And Peer Tutoring

Writing Support is available to all students at no additional cost.  Go to Writing Support for any or all of your assignments.  Every visit is a step toward becoming a better writer.  Use Writing Support as many times as you like, and at any point in your writing process.  The writing support faculty can help you understand the assignment, develop your ideas, outlines, thesis, and revision -- and anything else in-between.  Book your appointment through the library website, or visit the library desk to inquire about drop-ins.  There's also WriteAway, an online tutoring platform that allows you to upload your papers and assignments for detailed written feedback.  Both services may be found at .

Peer Tutoring is available at no additional cost for a wide range of courses offered at NIC.  Students are hired and trained to tutor in a wide variety of content areas, in addition to supporting other students with basic study skills.  These students have been successful in the courses they have taken and can help support other students become successful in their own courses.  To see the list of tutors currently available, request a tutor in a course, or apply to become a tutor, please visit the library website: .

Late Policy

The curriculum for this course is organized on a week-by-week basis, in which most assignments are cumulative and on-going.  Discussion amongst students is also dependent upon classmates keeping current with their studies.  Late assignments are also often an extra burden from an instructor standpoint.  Due dates should be noted and met.

However, I appreciate that there may be occasions where a very few extra days to polish an assignment in the midst of competing deadlines can be helpful, and thus I deliberately assume a good-faith effort on the part of students to meet the due dates and provide a small cushion of flexibility without any academic penalty.   That does not mean the due dates are unimportant or that extensions are automatically granted.  You must discuss possible extensions with me directly and I reserve the right to refuse to accept any late assignment if you do not check in with me before the due date.  As a general rule, no assignment will be accepted more than two weeks late and no end-of-the-semester assignment will be accepted more than one week late.

Student Technical Services

Our Student Technical Service team is available to help you with any technical issues that you may be experiencing as a student.  Please go to for more information.

Learn Anywhere

NIC's Learn Anywhere website is geared to provide a collection of information that will help you be successful learning digitally by covering area such as: What is digital learning? How to be a digital learner while using NIC-supported technologies during your studies? A list of key skills and knowledge all students should have for successful learning in today's world, knowing your rights and responsibilities and Technology Readiness Checklists. More details at:

Community Supports (24/7)

There are several supports available to help any student in distress. If you are in distress, please reach out for support.

Vancouver Island Crisis Line:  24/7 1-888-494-3888 (Available to students located on Vancouver Island only)

Crisis Suicide helpline:  24/7 1-800-784-2433 (Available to students located in Canada only)

BC 211:  Full list of community services available across BC.  Dial 2-1-1 on BC cellphone (Available to students located in BC only).

Here2Talk24/7 counselling support for post-secondary students: 1-877-857-3397 (Available to students located in Canada and offshore).

A Note On Plagiarism

Everything that you hand in should be your original work unless otherwise indicated.  Violations of this policy may result in being reported to the Academic Integrity Committee and in failing an assignment or the course in its entirety.  Please talk to me if you have any uncertainty about what is permitted here.  I want to help you to get as much out of this course as possible but, for this to happen, you need to put forth strong and honest effort.

Related Policy

Community Code of Academic, Personal and Professional Conduct (3-06)

Instructional Accommodation and Access Services for Students with Disabilities (3-17)

Student Appeals Policy (3-30)

Student Complaint Resolution Policy (3-31)

Evaluation of Student Performance Policy (3-33)

Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy (3-34)

Course Outline Policy (3-35)

Academic Standing and Progression (3-37)

Grading System (4-14)

Welcome To The Course



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