Contemporary Issues in Religion series

ClassesReligious Diversity ➞ Contemporary Issues series

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES series

This stream focuses on special topics in religion that rotate amongst the Terms. Term topics in this series are: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism,” and “Religion and Nonviolence.” Descriptions of each are given below. Future Term classes in this series for 2021 are currently in development and will focus on “New Religious Movements,” Sacred Texts,” Esoteric Traditions and Mystical Experiences,” Religion and Film,” Faith & Feminism,” and Religion & the Arts.”

All classes are taught from an objective point of view. These are classes about religion and religious behavior, taught from an anthropological and historical 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.

Term 4 Registration information is available now on our Registration page.

This series of courses currently (2020) meets in Hamilton on Fridays from 11:00am-1:30pm and has distance-learning options available as both on-line live-streaming via Zoom or as watch-later recorded video sessions. RD204 “Religion and Nonviolence” is being taught in Term 4. See below for details.

The Contemporary Issues in Religion series:

RD201: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism I”

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM, EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM: This eight-week course is Part 1 of a three-part (three Term) course that incorporates a detailed study of the history, context and contemporary issues of religious fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in Judaism and Christianity. Part 2 of this course (offered in 2020 Term 2) focused on the history, context and contemporary examples of Islamic Fundamentalism and Extremism, while Part 3 (Term 3) examines the history, context and contemporary examples of religious fundamentalism and extremism in Hinduism, Buddhism and the Sikh faith. This includes a discussion of nationalist movements as well. Each course is self-contained and can be taken independently of any other courses in the series.

Next Offered: 2021 Term 1 in Hamilton

Weekly sessions include the topics:

  • Week 1: Course Introduction: Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism
  • Week 2: Jewish Fundamentalism: Historical Context, Part 1
  • Week 3: Jewish Fundamentalism: Historical Context, Part 2
  • Week 4: Contemporary Jewish Fundamentalism & Extremism, Part 1
  • Week 5: Contemporary Jewish Fundamentalism & Extremism, Part 2
  • Week 6: Christian Fundamentalism: Historical Context
  • Week 7: Contemporary Christian Fundamentalism & Extremism, Part 1
  • Week 8: Contemporary Christian Fundamentalism & Extremism, Part 2

Cost per person per Term (8 classes):

  • Waged: $104 (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $84 (includes $4 online registration fee)

RD202: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism II”

Next Offered: 2021 Term 2 in Hamilton

This eight-week course is Part 2 of a three-part (three Term) course that incorporates a detailed study of the history, context and contemporary issues of religious nationalism, fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in the various faith traditions. Part 1 of this series looks at the history, context and contemporary examples of Jewish and Christian Fundamentalism and Extremism. Part 2 of this course focuses on the history, context and contemporary examples of Islamic Fundamentalism and Extremism, while Part 3 (Term 3) examines the history, context and contemporary examples of religious fundamentalism and extremism in Hinduism, Buddhism and the Sikh faith. This includes a discussion of nationalist movements as well. Each course is self-contained and can be taken independently of any other courses in the series.

This course continues the theme of religious fundamentalism and extremism introduced in RD201 with an examination of the history, context and contemporary examples of Islam

Weekly sessions include the following topics:

  • Week 1: Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction
  • Week 2: The Historical Context: The Prophet Muhammad
  • Week 3: The Historical Context: Succession & Caliphates
  • Week 4: The Historical Context: Islamic Sects, Denominations & Schools of Thought
  • Week 5: The Historical Context: Wahhabism, Abul A’la Maudūdī, Sayyīd Qutb
  • Week 6: The Historical Context: Iranian Revolution & Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca
  • Week 7: Contemporary Groups: al-Qā’eda, Dāʿish (ISIS/ISIL), Al-Shabāb, Bōko Harām
  • Week 8: Contemporary Groups: Ḥamās, Hezbollah, the Tehrīk-i-Tālibān, and the Île-de-France attacks

Cost per person per Term (8 classes):

  • Waged: $104 (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $84 (includes $4 online registration fee)

RD203: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism III”

Next Offered: 2021 Term 3 in Hamilton

This eight-week course is Part 3 of a three-part (three Term) course that incorporates a detailed study of the history, context and contemporary issues of religious nationalism, fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in the various faith traditions. Part 1 of this series looked at the history, context and contemporary examples of Jewish and Christian Fundamentalism and Extremism. Part 2 of this course focused on the history, context and contemporary examples of Islamic Fundamentalism and Extremism, while Part 3 (Term 3) examines the history, context and contemporary examples of religious fundamentalism and extremism in Hinduism, Buddhism and the Sikh faith. This includes a discussion of nationalist movements as well. Each course is self-contained and can be taken independently of any other courses in the series.

This course continues the theme of religious fundamentalism and extremism introduced in RD201 and RD 202 with an examination of the history, context and contemporary examples of Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Fundamentalism and Nationalism.

Weekly sessions include the following topics:

  • Week 1: The Hindu Context: Mughal Empire, British Rāj, the Indian Rebellion of 1857
  • Week 2: The Hindu Context: Mahātmā Gāndhī, the Quit India Movement, and Jalliānwālā Bāgh
  • Week 3: The Hindu Context: The Rise of Hindu Nationalism and the Emergence of the Indian Independence Movement; Partition
  • Week 4: Contemporary Hindu Nationalism: Hindutva, Rāshtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindū Parishad, the BJP, Indo-Pakistan Aggression, Kashmiri Separatism, Assam Movement, Sino-Indian Relations
  • Week 5: A History of Sikh Nationalism, Extremism & Terrorism
  • Week 6: Contemporary Sikh Nationalism, Extremism & Terrorism
  • Week 7: A History of Buddhist Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism
  • Week 8: Contemporary Examples of Buddhist Extremism

Cost per person per Term (8 classes):

  • Waged: $104 (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $84 (includes $4 online registration fee)

RD204: “Religion and Nonviolence”

Currently Offered: 2020 Term 4 in Hamilton

This eight-week course picks up where the “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” courses leave off, focusing on peaceful forms of nonviolent religious practice, and discusses 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. It also introduces the topic of Religion and Animal Rights.

Weekly sessions include the following topics:

  • Week 1: Religion and Nonviolence: Jain ideals of ahimsā
  • Week 2: Hindu Approaches to Nonviolence: Mahātmā Gāndhī & Satyāgraha
  • Week 3: Buddhism, Nonviolence and the Dalāi Lāmā
  • Week 4: Jewish Approaches to Peace and Social Justice: Tikkun Olam
  • Week 5: Christian Approaches to Peace and Nonviolence
  • Week 6: Islamic Approaches to Peace and Nonviolence
  • Week 7: Sikh Approaches to Peace and Nonviolence
  • Week 8: Religion and the Animal Rights

Cost per person per Term (8 classes):

  • Waged: $104 (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $84 (includes $4 online registration fee)

This class meets on Friday mornings from 11:00am-1:00pm and runs for 8 weeks, beginning on Friday 23 October and continuing through Friday 11 December 2020.

Term 4 Registration for this course is available now on our Registration page.


RD205: “New Religious Movements”

Next Offered: 2021 in Hamilton

This course 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.

Weekly sessions include the topics:

  • Week 1: Course Intro: Sects, Cults, Mainstream & New Age Movements
  • Week 2: Christian: Brethren, Christadelphians, Unification Church, Branch Davidians, Opus Dei, Palmarian Catholic Church, etc.
  • Week 3: Indian: TM, Eckankar, 3HO, Sant Mat, ISKCON, Meher Baba, Arya Samaj, Ananda Marga, Rajneesh, Muktananda, Adidam, etc.
  • Week 4: Chinese & Japanese: Soka Gakkai, Falun Gong, Aum Shinrikyo, etc.
  • Week 5: Neo & Black Judaism: Rastafarians, Nation of Yahweh, Commandment Keepers: Holy Church of the Living God, Messianic Judaism, etc.
  • Week 6: Pagan: Wicca, Druids, Church of Satan, Satanism, Voodoo, Adonism, Church of All Worlds, Church of Aphrodite, etc.
  • Week 7: UFO Religions: Scientology, Aetherius Society, Chen Tao, Heaven’s Gate, Raëlism, Unarius Academy of Science, Urantia Foundation, etc.
  • Week 8: Parody Faiths: Pastafarians, Jediism, Church of the SubGenius, Dudeism, etc.

Cost per person per Term (8 classes):

  • Waged: $104 (includes $4 online registration fee)
  • Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $84 (includes $4 online registration fee)

CURRENT OFFERINGS – 2020 Term 4:

Hamilton in-person classes in this series meet on Fridays throughout 2020 from 11:00am-1:00pm. Term 4’s offering is RD204: “Religion and Nonviolence” (see above).

• All classes in this series offer Distance-Learning options in addition to our in-person classes. These are offered as either on-line live-streaming sessions via free Zoom software, or one can chose to watch the video-recordings of our live sessions at one’s leisure.

Hamilton class location: Hamilton classes are held at ArtmakersNorris Ward Park Arts Centre2 Seddon RoadHamilton. 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. Bikes are also welcomed!


2020 Term 4 Registration is available now on our Registration page.


page last updated on 26 September 2020.