Spring 2023

Replacing Religion

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-321

Moodle site: Course


Andrew C. Dole (Section 01)


For as long as “religion” has been a distinct object of reflection and inquiry, opinion has been divided about whether it is good or bad, necessary or contingent, universal or parochial.  And accompanying such differences of opinion have been revisionary projects with different levels of ambition, ranging from the renovation of existing religious traditions to the abolition of all forms of religion. The middle range of this spectrum is occupied by proposals not to eliminate religion but to replace it with something better. The idea that animates this sort of project is that there may be forms of culture that, if they are not religion precisely, can serve those functions that religion serves without causing the problems that religion causes. This course will explore a range of attempts to replace religion with one or more alternatives that are evident in the historical records of the past two centuries. We will explore attempts to create “religions of humankind”;  the creation of explicitly non-religious intentional communities that are nevertheless modeled on religious communities in important ways; explorations of such phenomena as competitive sports and political ideologies as alternatives to religion; and the emergence of the term “spiritual but not religious” to name a recognizable, if loosely defined, relationship to religion.  Students in this course will write an independently researched paper on a topic of their choosing at the end of the semester.

Spring semester. Professor A. Dole.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: class discussion; formal papers on assigned topics; independent research; a formal research paper.


2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023