Links below give a more detailed description of specific courses.

PHI 105 World Religions

Course description: (To be updated) This course looks at religion from a philosophical perspective. This means asking questions such as, "can we know if there is a god or not, can ultimate reality be described in language, are all religious beliefs equally true or false, how can evil and suffering be explained?" This course is designed to help you clarify your own position and become aware of the beliefs of other individuals and groups. Besides traditional Western issues in philosophy of religion, we will look at Buddhism, Taoism, and Advaita Vedanta. Additional religions and texts such as Aztec and the Baghavad Gita may be added based on class interest. The course will be organized around four topics: religious experience, the nature of ultimate reality, the problem of evil, and the question of afterlife. This course is not designed to advocate or attack any religious or non-religious position. The goal is exploration of this important and fascinating part of human experience.

Course Format: This is a discussion based class. Most of the learning that will happen in this course will occur in large or small group discussions. I attempt to keep my initial presentations of philosophers and philosophical positions to 25 minutes or less. A typical class may involve my presenting a theory or problem followed by a small group discussion of some questions, followed by whole class discussion and a summary. This means:

  1. You need to participate (more on that later).
  2. You need to have read the handouts I have given you.
  3. Explore, don't just argue.
  4. Keep notes of group discussions.
  5. Respect every position taken in a discussion.

No texts to buy, I will give you handouts for every theory we look at with some comments of mine and a short excerpt from a primary source. I expect you to read each handout and struggle with it, not necessarily to understand it. If in a discussion I see you have tried to understand a reading but failed, you have done the task I have assigned . You fail only if I determine you have not read the handout or tried to understand it.

I encourage you to use online resources (Google, Wikipedia, etc.) on topics that interest you as well as library resources.

Course Requirements: You will decide most of the work you will be graded on. There are a few nonnegotiable items - everyone does the following:

Nonnegotiable course requirements.

  1. Class participation: Since this is a discussion based course, you need to participate. Participation can take several forms.
    1. large group discussion and response to lecture questions
    2. small group interaction
    3. personal communication. Email me, talk to me - all our interaction counts.
    4. Facebook discussion.
      1. This is voluntary, if enough of you choose this, we can hold a semester long series of conversations.
      2. Go to McKimmy World Religion on
      3. Request to join.
  2. Class attendance: Your being here for class discussion is essential, so attendance counts. It is so important I am willing to reward and punish. Miss less than 2 classes and I will award you 1/2 a grade (B to B+). Miss 4 or more classes and I will subtract 1/2 grade (B to B-).
    1. of course singing in and leaving before the end of class does not count as being here.
    2. of course claiming illness as a reason for missing several classes without documentation is not acceptable.
    3. settle any questions about attendance before the end of the semester.
  3. Small group presentation: Each small group will be responsible for leading the class in exploring some particular topic in the field of philosophy of religion. Probably based on something that caught your interest in readings or class discussion, or a question you have been wondering about even before you took the class. debate, present, lead a discussion.
  4. Class position paper: 1 - 2 pages. On each of our major topics (religious experience, nature of ultimate reality, evil, and afterlife) submit an initial description of your current position or why you do not have a position. At the conclusion of each section, I will ask you to submit another 1 - 2 page paper stating if your position remains the same, and how you are reacting to other possible positions.

Negotiable Items:

You know how you learn best and perform best. I want you to decide on what other work you will do in the course that will make the class interesting and relevant to you. I have listed below a variety of things you could do, but do not think you are limited by my list - be creative! choose from my list or create your own. I want you to submit a learning contract within three weeks. This contract can be modified later in the course.

Basic guidelines:

  1. Fairness: I expect you to create a contract that involves enough effort to justify the grade you desire in this course. Think about the requirements of any college course. Think about what other students in this class will be doing to achieve a good grade. If our contract does not seem fair to me, I will talk with you individually. You can either convince me that your contract is fair, or modify it.
  2. Flexibility: Your initial contract is just the beginning. During the semester what you want to do and when you want to do it may change, just let me know, and we will modify your contract.
  3. Interest: You should do things in this course that interest you. Make this course useful to you. Make it interesting.
  4. Realistic goals: No one knows your work and study style and obligations better than you, so set goals you know you can attain. Here are the due dates for contract projects:
    1. Project 1: xx/xx/xx
    2. Project 2: xx/xx/xx
    3. Complete Contract: xx/xx/xx
    4. You may submit work at any time before these dates - these are the deadlines.

Here is my list of possible graded activities:

  1. reaction papers: a 2-3 page paper reacting to something that occurred in class. Perhaps a theory we discussed or something that was said during a discussion. Your personal thoughts, mentioning any relevant theories we have discussed.
  2. mid term exam: objective or essay
  3. final exam: take home essay
  4. video project: interview and analyze format, dramatic production, animation, etc.
  5. research paper: 10 pages or more, explore a position, a person, an idea beyond what we explore in class. You should discuss this with me in advance of doing the paper.
  6. literature/media ethical analysis: a play such as "Waiting for Godot," or "No Exit," books such as The Brothers Karamozov, The Plague, God is not Great, The God delusion, City of God, movies such as "The Seventh Seal," "Bruce Almighty," "The Ten Commandments," "Inherit The Wind." You might critique the position taken or provide your own interpretation of the work. Be specific and thorough 8 pages or more.
  7. class presentation: This might be a presentation you do alone, but it could also be a panel discussion or debate with another person or team. You might debate a topic (e.g., free will), present a position or a philosopher we do not have time to study. I highly recommend this option, it makes the class more interesting and is a nice way to hear what other people think of your ideas. A presentation can range from 15 to 35 minutes.
  8. journal: write at least 15 entries of 3/4 page minimum. In this journal you would record your thoughts, questions and reflections on religion, philosophy, the topics covered in class. Be as reflective as possible, demonstrate that you are taking the course.
  9. personal position paper: this is a paper to be submitted towards the [end of the course.[/b] In this paper you would give a comprehensive statement of your position on religion with as complete a justification as possible. 5 page suggested minimum.

Concluding suggestions:

  1. Think of everything you submit for a grade as a draft. I will usually return your work with a grade, comments, and questions. If you are satisfied with the grade, we're done. If not, react to my comments and questions and resubmit. DO not rewrite the entire paper - respond specifically to what I have written.
  2. Take risks, explore. This class can be valuable to you personally if you genuinely explore the questions we look at.
  3. Don't expect to understand everything. You are joining a conversation that is perhaps 3000 - 5000 years old. It will take a while before you will know what's being said.


Broome Community College is located in Central New York State near Binghamton and part of the SUNY system.