Contemporary Issues in Religion series

Classes ➞ Religious Diversity ➞ Contemporary Issues series


This stream focuses on special topics in religion and addresses a different issue or theme each Term. The four Term topics currently being offered in this series are: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism,” “Religion and Nonviolence,” “Other ’Isms,” and “New Religious Movements.” Descriptions of each of these Term classes are given below. Future Term classes for 2021 are currently in development and will focus on 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 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.

The Contemporary Issues in Religion series:

RD201: “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism & Terrorism”

Offered: 2020 Term 1 in Hamilton

This eight-week course involves a detailed study of the history, context and contemporary issues of religious fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Both Buddhist and Sikh fundamentalism will be covered in the continuation of this class in Term 2.

This class is currently being offered in Hamilton in 2020 Term 1.

Weekly sessions include the topics:

  • Week 1: Course Introduction; Jewish Fundamentalism: Historical Context
  • Week 2: Contemporary Jewish Fundamentalism & Extremism
  • Week 3: Christian Fundamentalism: Historical Context
  • Week 4: Contemporary Christian Fundamentalism & Extremism
  • Week 5: Islamic Fundamentalism: Historical Context
  • Week 6: Islamic Extremism and Violence: Contemporary Context
  • Week 7: A Brief History of Hindu Fundamentalism
  • Week 8: Contemporary Hindu Nationalism, Extremism and Violence

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 (con’t)” & “Religion and Nonviolence”

Offered: 2020 Term 2 in Hamilton

This Term course will complete the component of religious fundamentalism with an examination of both Buddhist and Sikh extremism and terrorism. It then picks up where the “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” component leaves off, focusing on peaceful forms of nonviolent 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.

Weekly sessions include the topics:

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

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: “Other ’Isms”

Offered: 2020 Term 3 in Hamilton

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), the Japanese religious traditions (Shinto, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren and Zen Buddhism), followed by an exploration of the Bahá’í Faith, and the moral and ethical secular ideologies of Atheism, Agnosticism, Rationalism and Humanism.

Weekly sessions include the topics:

  • Week 1: Course Intro; Chinese traditions: Folk, Taoism, Confucianism, & Chinese Buddhism
  • Week 2: Japanese traditions: Shinto, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren & Zen
  • Week 3: Indian traditions: Sikhism
  • Week 4: Indian traditions: Jainism
  • Week 5: Zoroastrianism & Yazidism: Struggle for Survival
  • Week 6: Christian traditions and denominations: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovahʻs Witnesses, Christian Science, etc.
  • Week 7: Islamic traditions: Sufism, Ahmadiyya, Bahá’í Faith & Nation of Islam
  • Week 8: Ethical Ideologies: Atheism, Agnosticism, Rationalism & Humanism

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: “New Religious Movements”

Offered: 2020 Term 4 in Hamilton

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.

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)


Hamilton classes in this series meet on Tuesday evenings during 2020 Terms 1 & 2 from 7:00-9:30pm. The Term 1 & 2 classes are taught in tandem with Term 1 focused on “Religious Fundamentalism, Terrorism and Extremism” while Term 2 focuses on “Religion and Nonviolence.” Term 1 classes in Hamilton begin on Tuesday 11 February 2020, meet weekly for eight sessions, and end on Tuesday 31 March 2020. The Term 2 class will continue with the final two talks in the “Religious Fundamentalism, Extremism and Terrorism” series on both Buddhist and Sikh Fundamentalism, and will continue with the topic of “Religion and Nonviolence” over the last six sessions of Term 2.

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.

2020 Term 1 Registration can be found on our Registration page.

page last updated on 18 January 2020