Religious Studies | Religion, Ethics & Public Life
R170 | 13184 | C. Cottine


This is an introductory course in religion and ethics, focusing on social responsibility and
moral reasoning. We will begin by examining basic methods and tools in ethics, after which
we will examine several topics: abortion, the ethics of war and peace, the ethics of death
and dying, environmental ethics, equality and justice in gender, race, and sexual
orientation, and doing ethics in a globalized age. The primary objective of the course is to
explore the complexity of these topics and to understand what intellectual resources
various religious traditions bring to the moral discussion in American public life today. We
will focus on hotly debated issues today, and ask whether individuals or groups have a
responsibility to protect the interests of vulnerable, or “at-risk” populations: fetuses,
political communities under attack, sick and dying patients, the poor, and minorities. At
the end of the course we will begin to explore the complexities, challenges, and
opportunities that living in a globalized and religiously and culturally diverse world
presents to ethics. These groups, and the issues that surround their needs, stand at the
center of debates in public culture today--debates in newspaper articles, religious
gatherings, political elections, professional meetings, evening talk shows, shop floor
conversations, and family dinners. With each topic we will examine different arguments
and points of view. Sources draw primarily from Judaism, Christianity, and contemporary
social thought.