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Grant number: AQ-50990-14

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Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc. (Atlanta, GA 30302-3999)
Andrew Altman (Project Director: September 2013 to present)
Abbas Barzegar (Co Project Director: May 2016 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on Religious Tolerance

The development of a mid-level undergraduate course on religious tolerance in Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and secular traditions.

The development of a mid-level undergraduate course on religious tolerance from Jewish, Christian, Islamic and secular traditions. Andrew Altman (professor of philosophy) and Abbas Barzegar (assistant professor of religious studies) develop a fourteen-week seminar for sophomores and juniors that examines the ethical questions arising from religious difference. They consider a range of competing answers to the questions across the centuries from both religious and secular sources. Students study and debate the perspectives offered through four main course units. The first, on the emergence of religious tolerance in Christian Europe, counterpoints readings from medieval and early modern Christian theologians such as Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, who argued against tolerating heretical views, with defenses of tolerance from such thinkers as Locke, Spinoza, and Mendelssohn. The second unit explores how major thinkers of the Islamic world addressed issues of tolerance and intolerance. Students read works by medieval authors justifying ecumenical and inter-religious exchange (al-Ghazali and Ibn 'Arabi) or advocating exclusion (Ibn Tamiyya) and then consider contemporary theorists (such as Tariq Ramadan) who consider Islam's relationship to values of freedom and equality. The third section, From Jewish Emancipation to the Holocaust: The Spread and Collapse of Enlightenment Values, examines Enlightenment-era debates on Jewish emancipation in Europe followed by the rise of Nazi anti-Semitism, with readings from Arendt, Goldhagen, and Levinas. The final unit takes up contemporary issues of tolerance for liberal democracies, offering perspectives from philosophy (Rawls), political theory (Andrew March), and Islamic studies (Vincent Cornell). Students write three papers; in addition, they contribute to a publicly accessible course website containing information and analyses of historical and current events related to religious tolerance. The university's Center for Ethics, where Altman serves as Director of Research, collaborates in offering course-related forums, open to the campus and the public, for scholars to discuss issues of tolerance.

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$32,995 (approved)
$32,995 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2014 – 5/31/2017