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War, Peace, and Religion

War and religion have a long and often confusing relationship.  The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate this:  how does religious conviction factor into the way we describe these “wars”?  Is religion (of any sort) inherently violent?  Isn’t “peace” also a common religious concern?  This course will examine the phenomena of war and peace and religion by surveying the basic teachings and practices of the world’s great religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism) as well as other, smaller and more local traditions.  Continuing the Pacific Seminar 1 foci on critical thinking and expression, some of our work will be historical survey—what have religious traditions said and done in the past; some of our work will be contemporary analysis—we will pay special attention to the way religious language is a part of the rhetoric that surrounds the conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries; and part of our work will be theoretical—what is it about religion as such that seems to pursue both war and peace?  Students will read in original and secondary literature, visit some local houses of worship and local clergy persons, and present their finding in formal research papers and in class presentations.