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Religion in the World


Admission requirements



Religion is everywhere, but it is nowhere the same. This course offers an introductory survey of religion as a human cultural endeavour, from prehistory to the present and from a global perspective. We know that religion exists in a dazzling variety of forms, and that it fulfills an equally wide range of functions. This has always been the case and is unlikely to change in the future. This course will discuss the backgrounds to this wide variety of symbolic behaviour and will yield the students the necessary tools to understand religious pluralism, the way the evolution of religion has been conditioned by the physical environment as well as by social, technological and intellectual developments. This epic journey starts with questions of the origins of religion in human evolution and will continue up to the present, with an eye to likely scenarios for the future development of a core phenomenon in all known human cultures.

For students of the bachelor Religiewetenschappen, part of the course Religion in the World are the classes about “Studievaardigheden”, organised by the EAV. Students who follow or have followed the classes about academic skills in another bachelorprogramme, could apply for an exemption.

Course objectives

Students will learn about the typology of religions, the variety of known religions on a global scale and the main lines of development of religions in human history. They will learn to analyze interpretive strategies on a longue durée scale and will acquire basic knowledge of the variety of religion in human culture. They will learn to reflect on such questions critically and to write about them in a concise way.

Transferable skills

After successfully completing this course:

  • Students will have participated in a common effort to join up really big questions and really big data with facts on the ground in the real world

  • Students will have built up experience in negotiating cultural difference

  • Students will have had their first experience in reporting on academic research in writing.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme and their contents will be part of the examination. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

Assessment method

  • Three essay questions (500 words each) throughout the course (40 %)

  • Written examination with essay questions (60 %)


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Resit will consist of the same parts as the first opportunity.

Exam review

When and where the exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.

Reading list

A. Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Princeton 2013 (students need to acquire a copy of this book) + a selection of articles


Students are required to register through uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


Prof. dr. A.F. de Jong