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Comparative Religion: Themes and Topics in the Study of Religion


Admission requirements

BA-courses in the study of religion / Comparative Religion.


Religious freedom is often seen as one of the cornerstones of modern Western democracies, and a key aspect of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights. And yet Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, a scholar who combines expertise in law with the academic study of religion, claims that it is, in fact, impossible. This impossibility is not due to problems of the law, but to problems inherent in the concept of “religion” itself, and how it is used in scholarship, society, and the law. In this seminar, we shall discuss Sullivan’s work and attempt to relate it to current debates in the Netherlands and the European Union.

Course objectives

Students will not only refine the instruments of the academic study of religion and apply them to a highly salient contemporary subject, but they will be required to find one particular case from recent years – ritual slaughter, circumcision, sectarian threats – and collect and unpack the legal, social and academic reasoning which has made these cases the subject of fierce debates in European societies. They will present the cases and discuss them with their fellow students in the setting of a debate.



Mode of instruction

Seminar with readings, discussion and presentations.

Assessment method

Presentation (20 %), debate (20 %), final paper (60 %)


Blackboard will be used as an archive and a means of communication.

Reading list

W.F. Sullivan, The Impossibility of Religious Freedom, Princeton/Oxford 2005


Via uSis.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Prof. dr. A.F. de Jong.