Academic Programs 
      

Comparative Religious Ethics (ET-660)  
Fall 2009

This course explores the ethics of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. The aim is to develop the ability to recognize distinctive elements of the moral consciousness that have arisen in each tradition. This will be accompanied by a more general inquiry into the relation between religious convictions and religious ethics, as well as into the extent to which these religions might find common ground in specific areas of moral concern (human rights, the environment, the use of power).

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., beginning Sept. 10

Kelton Cobb
Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:

phone: 
(860) 509-9513
email:
kcobb@hartsem.edu

 

Course Syllabus


PURPOSE OF COURSE: This course explores the ethics of Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. The intent is to develop the ability to recognize distinctive elements (symbols, stories, concepts, laws) of the moral consciousness that have arisen in each tradition and how these inform the moral deliberation of adherents. This will be accompanied by a more general inquiry into the relation between religion and ethos, as well as the extent to which these religions might find common ground, or irreconcilable differences, in specific areas of moral concern (e.g., the natural environment, family life, violence, respect for life).

AIMS OF COURSE:

  • to reflect on the role of religion in forming the ethos out of which arise moral commitments and perceptions of what is right and good
  • to become acquainted with frameworks for comparing the ethical orientations of religious traditions
  • to gain basic exposure to worldviews found in Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism
  • to examine how religions exist in relation to the politics, sense of justice, family life and the treatment of nature in a society
  • to consider specific case studies of moral dilemmas related to human rights, family life, violence, and respect for life from different religious worldviews
  • to assist the student in developing a religiously informed approach to moral deliberation
  • to assist the student in appreciating religious factors that influence cultural differences

COURSE TEXTS:
Required:

Laurence Cossé, A Corner of the Veil
Charles L. Kammer, III, Ethics and Liberation: An Introduction
Murtaza Mutahhari. Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God, Man and the Universe
Sayyid Qutb, Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview
Damien Keown, Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction
William R. LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan
James Turner Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions

Online Reader (also required)
Access these through the course website at https://sonisweb.hartsem.edu/sonisweb210/studsect.cfm

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:
Due

1-page reflection paper 10 points 9/17
7 page research paper 60 points 10/29
13-15 page research paper 100 points 1/14
Participation 30 points  
  200 points  

EXPLANATION OF REQUIREMENTS:

  1. Write a 1-page (typed, single-spaced, 11-12 point font, 1 inch margins) reflection on the novel A Corner of the Veil by Laurence Cossé. To organize and concentrate your thoughts, structure your reflection around this question: Which major character in the story seem to be the most reliable guide in anticipating how the proof of God’s existence will be received by most people? In short, which character gets it most right? Why? Give reasons, make an argument for this character’s view. For the title of the reflection, put at the top of the page the name of the character you select. This is due at the beginning of class on September 17.

  2. For this assignment you are to write a paper (7 pages, typed and double-spaced, 11-12 point font, 1 inch margins) in which you identify a particular ethical issue and assess it in light of aspects of the religious ethos which is found in either Christianity or Islam. In order to ensure that you are stretching into a religious world unfamiliar to you, it is expected that you will choose the religious tradition about which you know the least. “Aspects of the religious ethos” are best understood as key concepts, symbols, laws, stories, or exemplary figures that inform the moral life of adherents to that faith. Select 2-3 of these that guide and regulate, or should guide and regulate, that religious tradition’s approach to the ethical issue you have chosen. This is due in class on October 29.

    Ethical issues you may consider concentrating on: immigration, the environment, the media, marriage, women’s rights, global sex trade, human rights, reproductive rights, treatment of animals, economic justice, urban poverty, welfare reform, affluence, civil society, race relations, education, medicine, terrorism, war, revolution, the developing world, third-world debt, a particular business, industry or profession (e.g., WalMart, tobacco, alcohol, fast food, meatpacking, law), politics and religion, global trade, etc. It is expected that you will use materials we have read in the course, and materials you have found through your own library research. It is also expected that you will include articles from recent (this fall) newspapers, periodicals, and websites (make sure it is not exclusively websites) in your research, and that the influence of this will be found in your paper. See further instructions below.*

  3. For your final paper (13-15 pages, typed and double-spaced, 11-12 point font, 1 inch margins, no title page, no fancy covers) you are to write a paper in which you identify a particular ethical issue (see list above for ideas) and assess it comparatively in light of aspects of the religious moralscapes which are found in two of the faith traditions covered in this course (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism). In your research and writing, keep these three things in mind:
    1. One should not compare the ideals of one religious tradition to the practices of the other. Compare ideals to ideals and practices to practices.
    2. Within a religious tradition, however, it is important to reflect on the extent to which its practices are influenced by, or fall short of, its own ideals, values and norms.
    3. Each religious tradition contains internal divisions and multiple movements. Find a way to acknowledge this in your paper. But given the length of the paper, it is not expected that you will do full justice to internal differences inside of the two faith traditions you are comparing.

As with the mid-term paper, it is expected that you will use materials we have read in the course, and materials you have found through your own library research, and that you will include articles from recent (this fall) newspapers, periodicals, and websites (make sure it is not exclusively websites) in your research, and that the influence of this will be found in your paper. This paper is due by January 14. Electronic submissions are acceptable. If you submit a hard copy and wish to have it returned, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. See further instructions below.*

A one page (no longer than this, typed, single-spaced) preview of the paper, including a working bibliography, is due no later than December 3. I will return these with comments the following week.

* Scrupulously follow the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for Research Papers handout (available online at http://www.hartsem.edu/student/forms/researchpaperguide.pdf). In writing the paper, on form, follow the letter of the law. I’m picky about this. This means using sources, citing them properly, proofreading what you’ve written, using very few quotations, 11-12 point font, 1” margin, double-space, proper margins, footnotes or parenthetical references, bibliography—everything. Do not use Wikipedia or other unrefereed Web sources, except as gateways to dependable websites—unless these unrefereed Web sources are the raw material you are analyzing. Plan ahead, using the Seminary bookstore, an online bookstore, the Seminary library, your local library, or Inter-library loan.

4. Students are expected to be present at each class, to read the assigned texts by the scheduled dates, and to participate actively in class discussions.

GRADING:
The grading formula used in this class follows an unconventional pattern. The interval between letter grades is 20%. This scale allows for more room to move within each grade level, and thus more careful distinctions within each level. Within letter grades, there will be +’s and -’s. Every assignment and the course grade will follow this scale:

200pts
100pts
60pts
30pts
10pts
A=
200-160
100-80
60-48
30-24
10-8
B=
159-120
79-60
47-36
23-18
7-6
C=
119-80
59-40
35-24
17-12
5-4
F=
79-0
39-0
23-0
11-0
3-0

In all assignments it is assumed that what is submitted is the student’s own original work. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden. As described in the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper, plagiarism occurs when students “submit another person’s work, lift paragraphs, sentences, or even a choice phrase from another writer, or make use of another person’s ideas (even if the student puts these ideas in his/her own words) without acknowledging the source. A related kind of dishonesty is to resubmit a paper which was done for a different course, even if it is the student’s own work. These practices are not permitted at Hartford Seminary. They will be reported to the Dean’s Office and may result in disciplinary action.” If a paper is found to contain plagiarism, even in a single sentence, the minimum penalty will be failing that assignment, with no opportunity to rewrite. If you are unsure of the line between plagiarism and legitimate uses of sources (e.g., quotation, paraphrase), see one of the Seminary’s Writing Consultants.

Hartford Seminary Writing Consultants
Hartford Seminary offers all students the services of a Writing Consultant. The Writing Consultant is to help students improve their command of written English, and to help organize essays and research papers.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a required amount of lead time that is required for the Writing Consultants to be able to review your work. For more information, see www.hartsem.edu/student/
writingassistance.htm.

SCHEDULE OF TOPICS AND READINGS:
Note: The readings indicated for each class date are to be read for that class.

INTRODUCTION: RELIGION AND ETHICS
September 10: Religion, Ethos and the Formation of Moralscapes

September 17: God and Morality
Laurence Cossé, A Corner of the Veil, pp.11-267
Assignment due: 1 page reflection paper: Who got it right?

September 24: Types of Moral Deliberation
Charles Kammer, Ethics and Liberation, 1-34
Murtaza Mutahhari, Fundamentals of Islamic Thought, pp.38-61
Damien Keown, Buddhist Ethics, pp.21-38


FIRST SEGMENT: CHRISTIAN ETHICS


October 1: A Christian Moralscape I

Charles Kammer, Ethics and Liberation, 35-117

October 8: A Christian Moralscape II
Charles Kammer, Ethics and Liberation, 118-188
Max Stackhouse, “Godly Cooking? Theological Ethics and the Technological Society” (online)


SECOND SEGMENT: ISLAMIC ETHICS


October 15: An Islamic Moralscape I

Murtaza Mutahhari, Fundamentals of Islamic Thought, pp.9-38, 65-128
Sayyid Qutb, Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview, pp.41-49, 203-222

October 22: An Islamic Moralscape II
Sayyid Qutb, Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview, pp.73-97, 112-119, 126-164, 170-177
Murtaza Mutahhari, Social and Historical Change: An Islamic Perspective, pp.3-34 (Online)

October 29: Family Ethics and Internal Moral Debates in Islam
Bruce Lawrence, “The Shah Bano Case” (online)
Kecia Ali, “Money, Marriage and Sex” (online)
Kecia Ali, “Lesser Evils: Divorce in Islamic Ethics” (online)
Assignment due: 7 page paper on an ethical issue in a single faith tradition


THIRD SEGMENT: BUDDHIST ETHICS

November 5: A Buddhist Moralscape I

Damien Keown, Buddhist Ethics, pp.3-20, 39-131

November 12: A Buddhist Moralscape II
LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, pp.3-118

November 19: Abortion in Comparative Religious Ethics
LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, pp.119-176, 210- 220

Donna Lee Bowen, “Contemporary Muslim Ethics of Abortion” (online)
Daniel Callahan, “The Roman Catholic Position” (online)
Beverly Harrison, “Theology and Morality of Procreative Choice” (online)

FOURTH SEGMENT: ISSUES IN COMPARATIVE ETHICS

November 26: Reading Week—NO CLASS

December 3: War in Comparative Ethics
Daizen Victoria, “Zen at War” (online)
Johnson, The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions, pp.9-75, 101-127, 160-171

Assignment due:
Typed preview of final paper, with bibliography (1p)

December 10: Responsibility for the Earth in Comparative Ethics
Wendell Berry, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” (online)
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Islam and the Environmental Crisis” (online)
Nawal Ammar, “An Islamic Response to the Manifest Ecological Crisis: Issues of Justice” (online)
Malcolm David Eckel, “Is There a Buddhist Philosophy of Nature?” (online)
Dalai Lama, “A Tibetan Buddhist Perspective on Spirit in Nature” (online)
Yi-Fu Tuan, “Discrepancies between Environmental Attitude and Behaviour: Examples from Europe and China” (online)

January 14: Assignment due: Final paper due

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Comparative Approaches to Religious Ethics

Carmody, Denise and John Carmody. How to Live Well: Ethics in the World Religions. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1988.

Coward, Harold and Daniel Maguire, eds. Visions of a New Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and Ecology. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000.

Etzioni, Amitai, ed.. Repentence: A Comparative Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.

Fasching, Darrell, and Dell deChant. Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

Fasching, Darrell. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia? Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993.

Ferguson, John. War and Peace in the World’s Religions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Green, Ronald. Religion and Moral Reason: A New Method for Comparative Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Kelsay, John. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993.

Küng, Hans. A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Little, David, and Sumner Twiss. Comparative Religious Ethics: A New Method. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978.

Lovin, Robin, and Frank Reynolds, eds. Cosmogony and Ethical Order: New Studies in Comparative Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Maguire, Daniel, ed. Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Neusner, Jacob, and Bruce Chilton, eds. Altruism in World Religions. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2005.

Neville, Robert, ed. The Human Condition. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.

Outka, Gene and John P. Reeder, Jr., eds. Prospects for a Common Morality. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Rouner, Leroy, ed. Human Rights and the World’s Religions. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1988.

Schweiker, William, ed. Humanity before God: Contemporary Faces of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Ethics. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006.

Stackhouse, Max. Creeds, Society, and Human Rights: A Study in Three Cultures. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984.

Twiss, Sumner and Bruce Grelle, Explorations in Global Ethics: Comparative Religious Ethics and Interreligious Dialogue. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.

White, C. Dale. Making a Just Peace: Human Rights and Domination Systems. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

Christian Ethics
Al-Faruqi, Ismail Ragi. Christian Ethics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis of Its Dominant Ideas. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1967.

Andolsen, Barbara Hilkert, et al., eds. Women’s Consciousness, Women’s Conscience: A Reader in Feminist Ethics. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

Connors, Russell and Patrick McCormick. Character, Choices and Community: The Three Faces of Christian Ethics. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1998.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Who Are We?: Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000.

Gustafson, James. Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Kammer, Fred. Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.

Harrison, Beverly Wildung. Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1985.

Himes, Michael and Kenneth Himes. Fullness of Faith: The Public Significance of Theology. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.

Lovin, Robin. Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Maguire, Daniel. The Moral Core of Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

McFague, Sallie. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Niebuhr, Reinhold. An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. New York: Harper and Bros., 1935.

Shriver, Donald. An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Stackhouse, Max. Public Theology and Political Economy: Christian Stewardship in Modern Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987.

Stone, Ronald. The Ultimate Imperative: An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1999.

Wogaman, J. Philip. Christian Moral Judgment. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989.

------------. Christian Perspectives on Politics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Islamic Ethics
Abdo, Geneive. No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006.

Aslan, Reza. No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. New York: Random House, 2005.

Al-Faruqi, Ismail Ragi. Al Tawhīd: Its Implications for Thought and Life. Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1992.

Bowker, John. What Muslims Believe. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1998.

Brockopp, Jonathan, ed. Islamic Ethics of Life: Abortion, War, and Euthanasia. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.

Cook, David. Understanding Jihad. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Eaton, Gai (Charles Le). King of the Castle: Choices and Responsibility in the Modern World. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1990.

Esack, Farid. Qur’an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity against Oppression. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997.

Gülen, Fethullah. Love and the Essence of Being Human. Istanbul: Journalists and Writers Foundation Publications, 2004.

Haleem, Muhammad Abdel. Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001.

Hassan, Riaz. Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002.

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. The Dignity of Man: An Islamic Perspective. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2002).

------------. Freedom, Equality and Justice in Islam.
Kelsay, John. Arguing the Just War in Islam. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Lawrence, Bruce. Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Murata, Sachiko and William C. Chittick. The Vision of Islam. New York: Paragon House, 1994.

Mutahhari, Murtaza. Fundamentals of Islamic Thought: God, Man and the Universe. Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1985.

------------. Social and Historical Change: An Islamic Perspective. Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1986.

Nursi, Said. The Damascus Sermon. Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 1996.

Qutb, Sayyid. Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview. North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2006.

------------. Social Justice in Islam. Oneonta, NY: Islamic Publications International, 2000.

Ruthven, Malise. Islam in the World. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Weiss, Bernard. The Spirit of Islamic Law. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1998

Viorst, Milton. In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.

Buddhist Ethics
Conze, Edward. Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1975.

Corless, Roger J. The Vision of Buddhism. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1989.

de Bary, William Theodore. The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan. New York: Vintage Books, 1969.

Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

------------. Buddhist Ethics in Theory and Practice. Oxford: Routledge, 2006.

Keown, Damien. Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

------------, ed. Buddhism and Abortion. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

------------, ed. Contemporary Buddhist Ethics. Oxford: Routledge, 2000.

------------. The Nature of Buddhist Ethics. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001.

King, Winston L. In the Hope of Nibbana: The Ethics of Theravada Buddhism. LaSalle, IL: Open Court Press, 1964.

Prebish, Charles, ed. Buddhist Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Approach. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1992

Queen, Christopher, and Sallie Queen. Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Albany: SUNY Press, 1996.

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove Press, 1974.

Saddhatissa, Hammalawa. Buddhist Ethics: Essence of Buddhism. New York: George Brazillier, 1970.

Sivaraksa, Sulak. Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1992.

Sizemore, Russell and Donald Swearer. Ethics, Wealth, and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Unno, Taitetsu. River of Fire, River of Water: An Introduction to the Pure Land Tradition of Shin Buddhism. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Victoria, Brian Daizen. Zen at War. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Wray, Elizabeth. Ten Lives of the Buddha: Siamese Temple Painting and Jataka Tales. New York: Weatherhill, 1996.


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