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This content is taken from the The Open University's online course, Why Religion Matters: Religious Literacy, Culture and Diversity. Join the course to learn more.

Learning with us

The course team

This course has been designed by three members of the Religious Studies department at The Open University: Suzanne Newcombe, Hugh Beattie and Graham Harvey.

Our research focuses on understanding contemporary religion in a historical context and religion as it is lived. You will get to know each of us as the course progresses, as well as the facilitators who will respond to your comments and questions.

What you will learn

In the first week, we introduce some principles of religious literacy. The approach of this course is not to list major religions or summarise the primary religious texts. Instead, it outlines some key principles to help you understand the complexity and diversity of contemporary religion.

The internal diversity of religion is covered during the second week. You will critically explore some of the most contentious contemporary issues involving religion. You will consider subjects that include religious attitudes to violence, dress codes and homosexuality. Throughout this week, we stress the variety of positions and practices relating to any one of these issues found within a religious context.

Our ideas of religion and culture are explored in more detail during the third week. Can religion be separated from culture? Can religious literacy help us understand protest movements? To what extent is religion performative? Here we challenge common assumptions that religion is mainly about personal and private beliefs. This course will challenge some common assumptions about religion, but at the same time will demonstrate how the concept of ‘religion’ can help us understand collective values, ethics and expectations.

Practical case studies are the focus of the fourth and final week of the course. In this week you will concentrate on skills of thinking and practice to help you interact with complex and contentious beliefs and practices with more skill and confidence.

How you will learn

If this is your first course, please review the Using FutureLearn guide for an introduction to learning with FutureLearn.

Skills and principles

This course is about more than information. You will learn principles and skills that you can apply in your own environment. Contemporary religion is complex and dynamic. Knowing what questions to ask about religion is more helpful than knowing a lot of facts about religion. Thinking skills are also important in helping you to assess information sources about religious beliefs and practices.

Discussion and comments

We want you to actively engage with the material and discuss how it relates to your experience. The discussion steps are designed to develop your critical thinking on the course concepts. You might like to read Six tips and tools for social learning on FutureLearn to help you get the most out of the platform’s social features.

When participating in discussions on this course, please remember that the FutureLearn Code of Conduct asks you to behave with honesty, respect and kindness to fellow learners and educators. If you see a comment that you think might break the Code of Conduct, you can press the flag button beneath it to report it to the moderators.

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

You can now get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

A Certificate of Achievement: At the end of the course there will be an opportunity to take a test and receive a Certificate of Achievement. This may be useful to help you demonstrate your commitment to ongoing learning and personal development to employers.

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Religion Matters: Religious Literacy, Culture and Diversity

The Open University

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: