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Religion and Reality

Why is it that the ways of thinking and living that people call “religious” are often judged by outsiders to be potentially harmful forms of delusion, while those who adhere to those lifeways understand them instead as providing access to what scholar Robert Orsi calls “the really real”? The story of the ideas and events that led to this stark difference of opinion is deeply tied up with European notions of racial and civilizational superiority. This course explores that story and counter-narratives to it in order to assess the consequences both for the lives of people who identify as “religious” and for the ongoing power struggle over who gets to define reality and what forms of knowledge are granted legitimacy.

Course Number

RLST 101 B1

Course Number (Cross Listing 1)

CRIS 142 B2


Gummer, Natalie D.





Course Format


Course Format Description

Synchronous online course meetings two to three times weekly; attendance is expected of all students except in unusual circumstances (contact instructor in advance), but meetings will be recorded and posted for asynchronous access. Classroom meetings twice weekly in two separate groups; online alternative will be made available if necessary.

Time Slot

Mid Morning



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