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Great Topics Seminars

Studies in the Humanities and Sciences


Spring 2015
“Sacred Paths: Modern Explorations in the Worlds of Religions”


Great Topics, Spring 2015 - "Sacred Paths: Modern Exploations in the Worlds of Religions"

Religion has been labeled “the most powerful social force on the planet,” yet so few people study it and it’s hard to say just what it is. Is it good or bad? Real or a joke? Should it be a personal matter, or a public social one? And how does religion relate to other social realities, such as government, culture, and sex?

Increasingly in our world, people of different religious persuasions are sharing the same work spaces and cities and communities. Do we know who our neighbors are? Do we understand or know about their customs and beliefs? In our multi-religious societies, how do religious people think about other religions? And what about right here in the Jackson area? What are the religious patterns and communities that exist here? And what about the growth of the so-called "nones"? What do we know about them and what do they believe?

The vision of this course is two-fold: first, we will "see" the religions of our world, through readings and lectures and film and person-to-person contacts. We will have opportunities to visit sacred sites and to observe sacred rituals. We will consider and discuss a wide diversity of religions and religious practices throughout the world. The second part of our vision is to "see" religions, religious practices, and religious people through the insights of religious scholars. What is the meaning and value of "the sacred"? What are the benefits of viewing religions through an "insider/outsider" perspective? What do religions teach about issues such as "evil" and sexuality, and how do they compare with each other?

All study begins with wonder and evolves into a variety of specific questions to which scholars then attempt to find answers. Religions have been and are some of the most fascinating phenomena of human culture for us ever curious homo sapiens to study, and our explorations will be wide-ranging, eye-opening, and thought provoking in each and every class. Using a variety of effective methods, in this course we will experience and learn about a multiplicity of religions, will engage multiple ways of studying religion, and will consider the multifaceted nature of religious systems. And, importantly, we’ll have fun doing so.



Established in 1988 and made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Leadership Seminars in the Humanities bring together Millsaps professors in the humanities with corporate, volunteer and professional leaders in the community. To better reflect the current philosophy of these seminars, the name has been changed to Millsaps Great Topics Seminars: Studies in the Humanities and Sciences. These seminars offer an opportunity for serious engagement with intellectual issues affecting society and the individual.


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For more information on the Great Topics Seminars, contact the Millsaps College Office of Continuing Education at 601-974-1130.