Religions of the World

Taught at Semester at Sea Spring Voyage 2013
Piedmont Virginia Community College

This course is an introduction to the beliefs and practices of the world’s major religions. We will explore how these religions respond to “big questions” such as why we are here, how we ought to live our lives, and what happens when we die. Students will learn the discipline of comparative religion so that they can critically analyze the similarities as well as the differences between these traditions. We will also wrestle with the problem of defining what religion is.

Religions of Asia

Taught at Semester at Sea Spring Voyage 2013

This course will examine religious traditions originating in India, China, and Japan with a focus on specific regional contexts. It is often imagined that religious traditions take the same form everywhere in the world. In reality, religions are practiced on a local level where they are shaped by the politics, history, and folkways of the region. Through this regional approach, we will examine the way the texts, practices, and values of these traditions both change and are changed by the cultures they inhabit.

Survey of the Old Testament

Taught at Piedmont Virginia Community College Fall 2011

Surveys books of the Old Testament, with emphasis on prophetic historical books.  Examines the historical and geographical setting and place of the Israelites in the ancient Middle East as background to the writings.

Survey of the New Testament

Taught at Piedmont Virginia Community College Spring 2012

Surveys books of the New Testament with special attention upon placing the writings

New Testament and Early Christianity

Taught at Piedmont Virginia Community College Fall 2012

Surveys the history, literature, and theology of early Christianity in the light of the New Testament.

Religions in America

Taught at Piedmont Virginia Community College Spring 2012

Surveys various manifestations of religion in the American experience. Emphasizes concepts, problems, and issues of religious pluralism and character of American religious life.

Vampires in Civilization

Tufts University Experimental College

The media hailed 2009 as the "year of the vampire," but stories of vampires and vampiric creatures have existed since the dawn of civilization. How can the human obsession with vampires be explained? This course will examine the vampire from its earliest antecedents in the Bronze Age, to Gothic literature, to Victorian occultism, to contemporary pop culture and the modern phenomenon of self-identified "vampires." The undead will be explored using an interdisciplinary "tool kit" that includes the perspectives of anthropology, psychology, comparative literature, religious studies, and even criminology.

This class has been approved by the History Department to count toward the Humanities distribution requirement.

Sample Student Work for Vampires in Civilization

Press for Vampires in Civilization

“Vampires 101,” Tufts Journal, 18 October 2010

“2010’s Hottest College Courses 2010,” The Daily Beast, 6 September 2010


Hi Joe,

I thought I would take this opportunity to say thank you for a class well taught last semester. Experimental College courses are most often reviewed well by our students but a few courses/instructors stand out from the rest and you are in that special category.

-Robyn Gittleman

Director of the Experimental College