Understanding                           

World Religions                           


Course Description

Globalization and high-speed communication put twenty-first century people in contact with adherents to a wide variety of world religions, but usually, valuable knowledge of these other traditions is limited at best.


On the one hand, religious stereotypes abound, hampering a serious exploration of unfamiliar philosophies and practices. On the other hand, the popular idea that all religions lead to the same god or the same moral life fails to account for the distinctive origins and radically different teachings found across the world's many religions. Many Christians, in particular, desire a deeper understanding of the world's religious landscape.


In the Understanding World Religions course, author and professor Irving Hexham presents religions as a complex and intriguing matrix of history, philosophy, culture, beliefs, and practices. He explores the world's broad sweep of religions under the categories of African religions, the Yogic traditions (including Buddhism), and the Abrahamic traditions. With the understanding that a certain degree of objectivity and critique is inherent in the study of religion, Hexam presents an appreciative yet realistic approach, noting both the strengths and inherent problems of each world religion.

By completing this course, you'll gain:

  • familiarity with the most important figures, practices, and writings of the world's main religions
  • an understanding of the differences in each religion's outlook and teaching
  • insight into the formation and distinctives of each religion, as well as the broad traditions under which the world's religions fall
  • confidence in your growing knowledge through person personalized review sessions, including award-winning memory building tools, and unit assessments.

Course Instructor

Irving Hexham

Ph.D., University of Bristol


Irving Hexham is professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary and adjunct professor of World Christianity at Liverpool Hope University. He has published twenty-seven academic books, including The Concise Dictionary of Religion, Understanding Cults and New Religions, and Religion and Economic Thought, plus eighty major academic articles and chapters in books, numerous popular articles, and book reviews. Recently he completed a report for the United Nations’ refugee agency on religious conflict in Africa and another for the Canadian Government’s Department of Canadian Heritage on Religious Publications in Canada. He is listed in Who’s Who in Canada and various scholarly directories. In 2008, he was honored at the historic Humboldt University in Berlin with a Festschrift, Border Crossings: Explorations of an Interdisciplinary Historian (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag).

Course Outline

1.   Introductory Issues and a Biased Canon

2.  African Traditions, Part 1

3.  African Traditions, Part 2

4.  The Origin of Yogic Religions

5.  The Richness of Hindu Tradition; Rethinking the Hindu Tradition

6.  Gandhi the Great Contrarian

7.  Buddhism

8.  Development of Buddhist Belief and Practice

9.  MIDTERM EXAM


10.  The Moral Quest of Edward Conze; Other Yogic-Type Religions
11.   Early Judaism; Rabbinic and Other Judaisms
12.  Jewish Faith and Practice; Martin Buber’s Zionist Spirituality
13.  Christianity and Christian History
14.  Christian Faith and Practice; Christian Politics
15.  The Challenge of Islam; Muslim Beliefs and Practices
16.  Muslim Piety; Rebirth of Contemporary Islam
17.  FINAL EXAM

Course Textbook

This Course is based on the book Understanding World Religions: An Interdisciplinary Approach by Irving Hexham. While taking this course, you will have online access to most of this book's contents. However, if you want off line access or want this book in your personal library as a long-term reference, you may purchase it by clicking on the button to the right which will link you to amazon.ca. 


Clearwater College is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca. When you purchase from amazon.ca by linking through our website, Clearwater College receives a referral fee not only for this book, but also for any other purchases during your session on Amazon after linking through our site.


Course Details

Understanding World Religions

by Irving Hexham


15 Units, Self-paced

9 Hours of Video

12 Months of Access to All Online Content

3 Credits toward a Certificate, Diploma or Degree

Support by a Clearwater College Professor


Cost: $510 CAN