REL300.5 Beyond Beliefs: Religion & Power (Fall, Spring)

At the early stages of the 21st century London, capital city of the UK, has become home to the greatest breadth of religious diversity in human history. Every faith and denomination of humanity’s wide range of religion and belief has some representation in the city, though challenges to freedom of religion or belief exist. Ancient churches sit alongside synagogues from two centuries ago and the new religious architecture of mosques, gurdwaras and mandirs, catering to Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities. Many other faiths and Christian communities with heritage and links to churches established by the first apostles, such as Assyrians and Copts, contribute to public life and national discourse.

The complex mosaic of beliefs in London, coexisting and often flourishing, contrasts with a wider global picture where religious identity has been integral to interstate and intrastate conflicts and a sharp rise in human rights violations, targeting entire communities on the basis of their religion or belief.

Using the city’s unparalleled networks of diverse religious and faith communities, architecture and infrastructure, this class will explore the contrast between religious animosity and coexistence. We will examine how England’s historic periods of civil and religious strife were catalysts for colonists to create a society in the American landmass, in part due to their search for religious liberty. We will also study the secular critique of returning religiosity in national and international affairs, such as those who advocate an entirely secular public order or even advocate anti-conversion laws to limit missionary activity. In the final sections of the course, students will explore debates over the benefits and the challenges of the UK’s religious diversity in contemporary society.

May also be registered as PSC 400.5.

Department: Religion

Location: London

Semesters: Fall, Spring

Credits: 3