Religious Diversity Classes

In EarthDiverse’s 2019 Religious Diversity class offerings, there are two distinct series of classes, one introductory, offered in the morning, while the second series explores contemporary issues in religion, and is an evening class. Classes are currently offered in Hamilton, Tauranga and Te Awamutu. Each Term class may be taken independently of the others and there are no prerequisites, as classes may be joined at any time throughout the year.

NEWS: online registration for Term 3 is now live! Scroll down this page to read about our current class offerings, then select from the Registration Menu at the top of the page when you are ready to register for particular classes.


Exploring the diverse belief traditions contributing to New Zealand society.

This series of classes is currently being taught in Hamilton and in Te Awamutu.

Hamilton classes in this series meet weekly on Thursday mornings from 10:00am-12:30pm. Term 3 classes in Hamilton begin on Thursday 1 August 2019, meet weekly for eight sessions, ending on Thursday 9 September. The Term 3 course is “Contemporary Beliefs and Practices: Selected Topics 1”

Te Awamutu classes meet the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month during school Terms and will begin with the History & Development of the Western Religious Traditions, Part 1, in Term 3 on Wednesday 7 August 2019. Te Awamutu classes meet from 6:30-8:30pm.

The 2019 Term 3 Hamilton class in the ‘Discovering Religious Diversity’ series will look at Selected Topics in Contemporary Belief & Practice.
The 2019 Terms 3 & 4 Te Awamutu class in the ‘Discovering Religious Diversity’ series will look at the History and Development of the Western Religious Traditions. Terms 1 & 2 in 2020 will look at the History and Development of the Eastern Religious Traditions.

Learn about the history, development and contemporary practice of the world’s major religions throughout 2019. Each Term has a different focus and covers different material. The first two Terms focus on the history and development of each of the world’s main faith and belief traditions, while the second two Terms focus on Selected Topics in the Contemporary Practice of each of the major world religions. In the first half of this four-Term series, we explore both Western and Eastern Traditions. In the second half, we look at selected topics in the contemporary practice of religion, focusing on a different topic during each class, and viewing how each religion approaches that particular topic. Structuring discussions in this way allows us to focus on the similarities between the major world religions rather than on any perceived differences. The second half of this series focuses on a comparative examination of the contemporary values and practices of the major world religions, and involves a critical exploration of lifecycle rituals and beliefs, from birth to death, food and clothing preferences, festivals and other activities associated with what religions do.

1: “History & Development: Western Religions”

This eight-week course begins with “An Evolutionary History of Religion and Religious Behaviour” which encompasses the dawn of early human spirituality through to the emergence of polytheism and the Neolithic Revolution. Week 2 focuses on the rise of monotheism in Ancient Mesopotamia (including Zoroastrianism). In subsequent weeks, we will explore the history and development of the Western religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Other Western Religious traditions (e.g. Bahá’í Faith, Secular beliefs) will be viewed in the “Other Isms” class, offered as a part of the “Contemporary Issues in Religion” series.

Download the Information and Registration Form (PDF) for the Term 3 Te Awamutu class by clicking here.

2: “History & Development: Hinduism & Buddhism”

In this Term, we look at the rise of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the Eastern religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Other Eastern Religious traditions (e.g. Sikhism, Jain Faith, Chinese and Japanese religions) will be viewed in the “Other Isms” class, offered as a part of the “Contemporary Issues in Religion” series.

3: “Contemporary Practice: Selected Topics 1”

Week 1: Image and Iconography; Week 2: Sacred Time: Cosmology & Creation; Week 3: Sacred Time: Calendars, Holy Days & Festivals; Week 4: Sacred Spaces; Week 5: Prayer and Worship; Week 6: Food and Ritual; Week 7: Sacred Clothing; and Week 8: Sacred Music.

Download the Information and Registration Form (PDF) for this Term 3 Hamilton class here:

4: “Contemporary Practice: Selected Topics 2”

Week 1: Rites of Passage: Birth and Coming of Age Ceremonies; Week 2: Rites of Passage: Marriage; Week 3: Asceticism, Monasticism and Renunciation; Week 4: Sacred Journeys and Pilgrimage; Week 5: Going Beyond: Esoteric Traditions & Mystical Experiences; Week 6: Ethical Ideologies; Week 7: Rites of Passage: Death and Bereavement; Week 8: Interfaith dialogue.


This stream focuses on special topics in religion and will address a different issue or theme each Term. Future Term classes for 2020 are currently in development and may focus on Sacred Texts, Esoteric Traditions and Mystical Experiences, Religion and Film, Faith & Feminism, and Religion & Art.

This series of classes is currently being taught in Hamilton and Tauranga.

Hamilton classes in this series meet weekly on Thursday evenings from 6:00-8:30pm. Term 3 classes in Hamilton begin on Thursday 1 August 2019, meet weekly for eight sessions, ending on Thursday 19 September. The Topic for Term 3 Hamilton classes will be “Other Isms” and will view such topics as Chinese and Japanese Religions, Jain Dharma, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, the Bahá’í Faith, and the Ethical Ideologies of Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism and Rationalism. Term 4 classes will look at “New Religious Movements”.

Tauranga classes in this series will meet on Tuesday evenings during Terms 3 & 4 from 6:00-8:30pm. Term 3 classes in Tauranga begin on Tuesday 30 July 2019, meet weekly for eight sessions, and end on Tuesday 17 September 2019. The Term 3 class will look at “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” while the Term 4 class will look at the topic of “Religion and Nonviolence”

The 2019 Term 3 Hamilton class in the ‘Contemporary Issues in Religion’ series will look at the topic of “Other ’Isms”, and meets Thursday evenings from 6:00-8:30pm.
The 2019 Term 3 Tauranga class in the ‘Contemporary Issues in Religion’ series will look at the topic of “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” and meets Tuesday evenings from 6:00-8:30pm.

1: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism”

This eight-week course involves a detailed study of the history, context and contemporary issues of religious fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in all of the world’s main faith and belief traditions. We’ll explore the differences between these terms and view, in detail, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh fundamentalism and extremism.

Download the Information and Registration Form (PDF) for this Term 3 Tauranga class here:

2: “Religion and Nonviolence”

This Term course will pick up where “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” leaves off, focusing on peaceful forms of religious practice, and will discuss key issues ranging from the Jain concept of ahiṃsā, the Hindu concept of satyāgraha, and the Jewish notion of Tikkun Olam, and others, along with key figures like Mahātmā Gāndhī, Martin Luther King, Khān Abdul Ghaffār Khān, and others.

3: “Other ’Isms”

This Term focuses on a wider variety of religions and belief systems, including: the Indian traditions of Sikhism and Jainism, the Chinese religious traditions (Folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese Buddhism), followed by an exploration of the Japanese religious traditions (Shinto, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren and Zen Buddhism), the Bahá’í Faith, and the moral and ethical secular ideologies of Atheism, Agnosticism, Rationalism and Humanism.

Download the Information and Registration Form (PDF) for this Term 3 Hamilton class here:

4: “New Religious Movements”

This Term covers a wide variety of what are typically titled “new religious movements,” religious or spiritual movements often on the periphery of the world’s major faith and belief traditions. During the course of the term, we’ll look at a wide range of both mainstream traditions and a smattering of smaller cults and sects.


  • All classes are taught from an objective point of view. These are classes about religion and religious behavior, taught from an anthropological point of view, and are designed for participants to get a greater understanding of the depth and scope of the diversity that exists within the world’s various faith and belief traditions.
  • Detailed Syllabi are available at the start of each Term.
  • Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.
  • All classes encourage questions and group discussion. There are no assignments, required readings, quizzes, tests or exams.
  • PDF copies of each class presentation are emailed to all participants the next day so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!
  • Course fees include a short tea/coffee/snack break in the middle of each session.
  • There are no refunds for missed classes.
  • Guests of registered participants are welcome to attend a single class at no charge.
  • Certificates of Completion for any particular Term or for an entire Series of classes are available for Professional Development purposes upon request at the end of each Term or Series.

Tauranga class (14 Dec 2018), from left to right: Rev. John Hebenton, Kevin Nichol, Helen Carey, Sue Reynolds, Alison Carey, Betty Atkinson, Viv Whimster, Bhadra Dasi Reid, Dianne Sundberg, Paula Simons, Carole Spice, Ngaire Southon, Dr Tod Nachowitz. Missing from photo: Cliff Simons, Mary Rose, Leigh Sundberg and Margaret Birtles.


  • Term 1: begins Thur 14 Feb, and end Thur 4 Apr 2019 (8 weeks)
  • Term 2: begins Thur 2 May, and end Thur 6 Jun 2019 (6 weeks)
  • Term 3: begins Mon 29 July, and ends Fri 27 Sep 2019 (8 weeks)
  • Term 4: begins Mon 14 Oct, and ends Fri 13 Dec 2019 (8 weeks)

HAMILTON: All Hamilton classes meet on Thursdays during Terms for 8 weekly sessions, as follows:

  • The Hamilton Discovering Religious Diversity series meets on Thursday mornings from 10:00-12:30pm.
  • The Hamilton Contemporary Issues in Religion series meets on Thursday evenings from 6:00-8:30pm.

Hamilton classes are held in the Conference Room at Artmakers, Norris Ward Park Arts Centre, 2 Seddon Road, Hamilton. The carpark entrance is off Seddon Road at the back of Norris Ward Park. The classroom is immediately to the left of the Waikato Society of Potters studio. There is plenty of free parking available in the carpark just outside the classroom.

TE AWAMUTU: The Te Awamutu class entitled “History & Development of the Western Religious Traditions, Part 1” meets on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month during school Terms from 6:30-8:30pm for a total of 4 sessions per Term.

  • Term 3 classes held on 7 Aug, 21 Aug, 4 Sep, and 18 Sep 2019
  • Term 4 classes held on 16 Oct, 6 Nov, 20 Nov and 4 Dec 2019
  • Classes are held at St John’s Anglican Church, 162 Arawata Street, Te Awamutu

TAURANGA: Term 3 Tauranga classes on “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” are held weekly on Tuesday evenings (8 classes per Term) from 6:00-8:30 and are held at St George Anglican Church, 1 Church St, Gate Pa, Tauranga.


HAMILTON & TAURANGA classes (8-week Terms):

  • Waged: $104 per person per term (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged/Student/Senior: $84/person (includes $4 online registration fee)

TE AWAMUTU class (4 sessions per Term):

  • Waged: $54 per person (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged/Student/Senior: $44/person (includes $4 online registration fee)


Select the ‘Registration’ link from the Main Menu bar above, or click here to go to the registration page, then scroll down to the appropriate section that has the type of class you wish to apply for (e.g. ‘Religious Diversity’ classes or ‘Language classes’. Make sure that you chose the correct ‘Pay Now’ button for the location of the class you wish to enroll in. Fill in your details, select ‘Pay Now’ and you will be taken to a Payments page where you can securely enter in your payment details. A receipt will automatically be generated for you.

Hamilton class participant John Vreede tries on a Jewish tallit or prayer shawl


All classes are taught by Todd Nachowitz, PhD. Todd has been a part-time lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato where he taught introductory courses on Comparative Religion; Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism; Religion in Secular Society; and Islam. Todd has a Masters Degree in Development Anthropology from Syracuse University in upstate New York (1991) and a PhD from the University of Waikato (2015) in Political Science and Public Policy where he worked on issues of diversity governance. Prior to settling in New Zealand in 1995, Todd lived and worked in the United States, India, Pakistan and Nepal. He spent 11 years in South Asia as the Academic Director of university study-abroad programmes in Varanasi, India (for the University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lahore, Pakistan (for the University of California-Berkeley); and Kathmandu, Nepal (for School for International Training, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA) that focused on language, culture and religion. Todd speaks Hindu and Urdu, and is a specialist in comparative world religions and the history, religions, languages and cultures of South Asia. Todd’s most recent research and publications involve religious diversity, the Indian diaspora, and the history and development of multiculturalism in New Zealand. He was a founding Trustee and former Centre Coordinator of the Religious Diversity Centre, based in Auckland, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Waikato Interfaith Council.

Dr Todd Nachowitz, Humayan’s Tomb, New Delhi, India, February 2015.


  • The lecturer taught with great care and sensitivity towards all religious and cultural beliefs. This course unpacks knowledge that is applicable to our social well-being. I enjoyed the paper and all the enthusiasm from the lecturer. Thank you!
  • This course was very interesting and stimulating. Dr Nachowitz has an effective teaching style, and his passion for the subject was evident in every lesson. I hope you continue to teach this so that others can have an opportunity to benefit from it like me. Thank you for a wonderful class. 
  • I suggest everyone should take the opportunity to do this course. It has given me a better understanding of the different religions and beliefs.
  • I loved everything about it. Every religion is very interesting.
  • Outstanding teacher with magnificent stories/experiences to share.
  • I especially loved all the things he brought in to show us. Explained in a way that was easy to understand.
  • The Discovering Religious Diversity series of classes was both fascinating and very instructive. Each week a highly informative and visually interesting powerpoint was used to present the various topics as they related to the major faith traditions. Todd’s anecdotes based on his years of academic research and teaching, as well as living in South Asia for over a decade, helped bring the information to life. The class consisted of people of all ages, including students, educators, ministers of religion and others simply interested in broadening their knowledge about faith traditions. —Ruth Cleaver (President, Auckland Inter-faith Council)
  • I really like Todd’s approach, to select topics for each evening and look at how each religion expresses that particular topic. As he has said this tends to draw out the similarities between the various religions rather than the differences. As a minister of Universal Worship, coming from a Sufi and interfaith perspective, I appreciate this approach very much. —Sirr Christoffersen (Auckland class participant)
  • A superb course for a deeper and exciting understanding into the rich spiritualities in different major religions of the world. Educational course contents and very helpful Sources and References for deeper understanding are given. An indispensable course for interfaith dialogue geared towards a more comprehensive religious approach for world peace. Doctor Todd is a friendly teacher and an effective tour guide into the course. It was once believed that true Biblical Prophets feel the world with the passion of God. That’s how Dr Todd guides us into the subject matter of the Course. —Rev Danny Ioka (Auckland)
  • Todd is a well prepared teacher. Thorough in his knowledge and has rich personal experience of major world religions to draw from. Very enjoyable so much that I will enrol for another term. —Philomena Clare (Auckland)
  • This course is a gem, more people need to know about it. —Hamilton 2017 course participant
  • Todd’s course was like a family gathering. That was one of the reasons it was such fun. Thank you. —Hugh Oliver (Hamilton 2018 Term 3 & Term 4 course participant)
  • This class has been the highlight of my week. Thank you for your gifts of making theology interesting and facilitating us to make connections between the traditions we have been introduced to. —John Aston (Auckland 2018 Terms 1-4 course participant)
  • Thank you for a great year of learning. I loved the sessions and will spread the word to others. —Mariette Poortman (Hamilton 2018 Terms 1-4 course participant)
  • Great year, great lessons, great edification! —Bhadra Dasi (Tauranga 2018 Terms 1-4 course participant)
  • This course expanded my knowledge base and the interaction invited me into more understanding and appreciation of otherness – only to discover (yet again) that ‘yes, there is much diversity’ and ‘yes, we share so much in common’ (Discovering Religious Diversity class participant, Jan 2019)
  • We took a journey every Thursday without leaving the room, with everyone contributing. Todd drew us all in. (Discovering Religious Diversity Hamilton class participant, Jan 2019)
  • Todd is an excellent tutor, who can teach by personal experience and easily explain subjects (Discovering Religious Diversity class participant, Jan 2019)
  • Todd’s one of very few people who you’d go to hear no matter what subject he talked about. I’d go to hear him talk about paint drying (Hein Laaper, Discovering Religious Diversity class participant, Jan 2019)

page last updated 7 August 2019.