Throughout recorded history, religion has played an important part in the lives of people of all cultures. According to modern archeologists, religion may even date back to a time before our ancestors were classified as Homo sapiens. With the awareness of their own self-consciousness, as well as the recognition of their own mortality, human beings have sought to come to terms with living in a world of which they recognize they are a part, yet from which they often feel themselves apart. As seemingly autonomous agents, individuals struggle to make sense of their lives as distinct souls or minds, while embedded in a world which seems somehow to have produced that very sense of self. The purpose of this course is get a clearer sense of what people mean by the term "religion," to gain an appreciation for the complexity of its involvement in human psychology, and to understand why it continues to matter in contemporary society.
To that end, topics ranging from the alleged attributes of (and argument for) God to whether religion defies rational explanation will be discussed. Is religion merely a psychological phenomenon, bordering on insanity, or do the religious understand something quite fundamental about the nature of the universe and their relation to it? Are religion and science necessarily at odds? Is religion inextricable from culture and politics? And is an ethical, and meaningful, existence possible without the certainty of God? Even if we don't find the answers, a greater understanding of the complexity of the issue may help us live together in a world both united and torn asunder by a variety of phenomena we collective call "religion".