While AU doesn’t offer a broad range of religious studies classes, both students and staff agree that the one introductory class offered, RELS 204: Introduction to World Religions, is a course that merits the consideration of all students, regardless of their program or personal beliefs.
Gary Drainville, a University of Manitoba student currently nearing completion of his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, recently finished RELS 204. ?Religion (other than Christianity) has always intrigued me, but I only ever knew a little about Judaism, Buddhism, etc.,? Drainville says. ?Sometimes ignorance can create all sorts of stereotypes.?
Understanding the beliefs of others rather than relying on often-inaccurate stereotypes is particularly necessary for Drainville in his chosen career. He has spent the last ?21 years in the Canadian Forces,? and plans on ?at least 10 more years? in the service. While taking RELS 204 through AU, Drainville was ?deployed overseas to the Middle East in support of the war on terrorism onboard HMCS Charlottetown.?
?One of the most interesting aspects of my RELS 204 course was the ability to sometimes connect what I was reading while travelling in the Middle East,? says Drainville. ?I visited mosques and was able to speak with locals in places such as Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Israel, and Dubai.?
Drainville says that aside from this applicability, his favourite parts of the class were ?the two assignments where passages from various sacred texts were given,? and he ?had to identify where they were from and give an interpretation.? He also greatly appreciated the support he received from his tutor, saying that he ?felt completely connected and understood by the tutor.?
Dr. Renee Brodie currently tutors RELS 204, and says that ?given our multicultural society and the frequency that religion is misrepresented in the media, Religion 204 offers students a chance to learn about dimensions of religion that may otherwise not make it to headline news.?
?It’s a wonderful look into one of the most influential elements of the human journey; this is perhaps the greatest strength of the course,? Dr. Brodie says. ?The only weakness, if it can even be called that, is that there’s a lot of material to read over and absorb, since the course covers seven world religions. It’s a challenge, but one that you walk away from with a greater understanding of our world. Religion doesn’t exist in a bubble, so It’s fun to learn how it has influenced history, politics, and culture in ways that you may not have realized before.?
?Religion helps students by creating an awareness of others? beliefs, practices and observances, thereby making students more sensitive to their needs. This is particularly relevant for those who choose careers in nursing, social work, or education, for instance,? says Dr. Brodie. ?An added benefit is that as we learn about ?the other,? we learn about ourselves, since we are all ?the other? to someone else.?
In ?a course of this nature,? Dr. Brodie says, ?It’s important to use your tutor as a resource, but many students feel either intimidated or that It’s a waste of time to contact them. If I could change anything in the course, I’d make sure that every student knew that their tutor is there to help them whenever he or she needed help.?
Dr. Brodie also notes that RELS 204 has a website ?that isn’t mentioned in the material provided in the course pack,? and that this website is ?filled with useful information? and ?really provides students with some of the expectations for the assignments and papers.?
?There are few guarantees in life,? Dr. Brodie concludes, ?but I guarantee that if you take this course, you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation of the religious diversity that exists and a better sense of the complexities of religious belief. It’s worth your time.?