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Online Religion Courses Overview

The role of religion in society can be studied as part of philosophical, sociological and psychological academic disciplines. Online programs in religious studies are offered at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels, as well as through not-for-credit open courses at some universities.

Online Courses in Religion

The course descriptions below explore some commonly offered online religion courses.

  • Comparative Western Religions Course: This is an introductory course designed to give students a broad view of the role religion has played in past and current Western societies, with a look at the differences and similarities between varying religious theories and viewpoints. Class topics include an exploration of the foundation, historical accounts and key beliefs surrounding the practices of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This course may be taken as an elective within undergraduate humanities or liberal arts programs.
  • Comparative Eastern Religions Course: An in-depth study of the origin, development and current practice of religions that began in Eastern countries, including India, Japan, China and parts of Southeast Asia, is the focus of this online course. The roots of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and several Eastern folk religions are reviewed, along with a look at their roles in shaping Eastern societies.
  • Religion, Science and Magic Course: In this elective lower division course, religion is studied as one of many belief systems influencing how various cultures view their world and form their societies. Classes include discussions on witchcraft, cults, animism, shamanism, religious myths and folklore. The role of science and metaphysics in shaping modern-day religious concepts is also reviewed.
  • The Role of Religion in America Course: This course investigates religion's role in the founding and growth of the United States, including its contribution, whether positively or negatively, to American cultural perspectives on pluralism, race, politics and gender. An introductory Western religion course may be required prior to taking this class.
  • Introduction to Islam Course: This course gives an introduction to the birth and historical development of Islam as a Western religion. Students examine the core beliefs, literature, ceremonies and festivals inherent in its current-day practice.
  • Women and Religion Course: The historical role of women in religious traditions past and present, including witchcraft, goddess worship and gender biases, is explored in this online course. Coursework includes a look at the religious legends and symbols that are used to create, sustain and assert gender roles within many religious practices.
  • Introductory World Religions Course: Both Western and Eastern religions are the focus of this historical and comparative analysis. The various origins, core beliefs and principal practices of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are discussed. This introductory online course may be taken early in a degree program.
  • Native American Religions Course: This course offers an historical overview of Native American religions. While many courses of this type focus on tribes within the mainland United States, there are a few courses that also study the religious practices of Canadian First Nation tribes, Alaskan and Inuit tribes, Mexican and Central American cultures and their religious perspectives.
  • Religion, Education and Democracy Course: This course studies the complicated intersections between church and state in America. Students examine key Supreme Court decisions in determining the role of religion within American democratic systems. The course will especially focus on religion in public education and the policy created throughout history around this issue.
  • Anthropology of Religion Course: In this course, students will explore religion as a cultural phenomenon across the globe. Topics include society, culture and how they related to religion.
  • Temples Past and Present Course: This course will teach students about the role of temples in the lives of people who practice religion. Special topics include ancient and modern temples, temple service and the genealogy of families with regard to church history.

Program Information

Religion courses can be completed totally online and are available through several colleges at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. They can be taken as electives for liberal arts programs or as core courses in theological programs, such as an online Associate of Arts in Religion, Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, or a Master of Arts in Divinity. Courses typically seek to compare diverse religions, follow the historical development of a religious movement or provide an in-depth view of a particular religious perspective. For students simply interested in the subject, free open online courses in religious studies are available at some universities. However, these cannot be taken for credit.

Online religion courses are available through associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs; free online courses are also available. Various topics include western and eastern religions, Islam and Native American religions.


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