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Religion is…


Many of the misunderstandings and misinterpretations surrounding religion today stem from a lack of both study and scrutiny. This course was developed with the goal of enabling participants to get their general bearings of the tenets of the Abrahamic faiths, as well as to engage in thoughtful discussion and informed critique about the role of religion in today's globalised world.

This course understands religion as a 1) foundation for spiritual life and knowledge, 2) as an ongoing process of social relations among groups of people, and 3) as the wellspring of solutions (as well as of problems) regarding contemporary questions of society both locally and globally. Using this definition of religion, we will take on various themes, including: basic theological concepts, diversity in religious practices, the creation of sacred spaces, gender relations, political activism and the role of religion in the myriad global crises facing the world today.


Indeed, the realities of religious pluralism constitute the backdrop for our contemporary need to better understand one another. In this course, religious pluralism will be invoked across various themes as both the sociological fact of diversity in many societies around the world and as a political paradigm for fostering peace and cooperation within diverse populations.

In keeping with our desire to engage participants with purposeful lessons and discussions, each session we update the course content so that each week's theme considers relevant current political events around the globe. During this Spring 2020 session, we will also be taking into account the significant and unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on religious practice, among other themes.

The course is accessed via Hedwig which is hosted by the Cambridge Theological Federation.

Course structure

Each week, you will receive set readings and prepare various assignments online. Woolf Institute tutors will support you and provide feedback throughout the course. Alongside fellow participants, you will be able to discuss ideas on the online discussion forum. Following an introductory discussion forum before the course commences, the course is divided into three modules:

Module 1: Religion is… a foundation

Week 1: Theology
Week 2: Religious Practices
Week 3: Sacred Space and Sacred Land
Week 4: Religious Leadership

Module 2: Religion is… a process

Week 1: Women in Religious Leadership
Week 2: Media
Week 3: Religion and Society

Module 3: Religion is… a problem or a solution

Week 1: Religious "Fundamentalism"
Week 2: Religious Violence
Week 3: Humanitarian Crises: Poverty, Pollution and Refugee Crisis

Course timetable

Participants will have access to the general course information and introductory discussion forum before the course commences. The modules will then run as follows:

Module 1: Religion is... a foundation
Module 2: Religion is... a process
Module 3: Religion is... a solution

Following Module 3, participants will then have access to further information and the concluding discussion forum.

Application details

The course fee is usually £295, but this has been waived for the 2020 course in response to people being at home more due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before submitting your 2020 application, please read the Religion is... 2020 Booking Terms and Conditions.

Participants will be given online access to the course and the course materials, tutor feedback and a Woolf Institute Certificate of Completion.