What is a "religion"?

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The main objective of the course is to critically reflect on various pre-conceptions of "religion" in order to demystify and denaturalize it. Religions are here understood as historical and contextual social configurations. In order to critically engage distinct types, features, components, boundaries, and constraints of religion, this course will be built around the collective exercise of designing a religion.

Learning Outcomes

The student shall by the end of the course have gained the following learning outcome defined in knowledge, skills, and general competence:


The student

  • has advanced knowledge of the most important features and types of religions in different contextual and historical settings
  • can analyze the processes in which religions become legally, politically, and socially recognized


The student

  • can analyze and deal critically with prevailing cultural pre-conceptions of "religion"
  • can engage in critical and creative discussions on what it means for something to be appraised as "religion"

General competence:

The student can apply his/her knowledge of 'religion' and religions in social context to interact and collaborate with fellow students on a jointly created project

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Autumn and spring, but not regularly

Place of Instruction

Online course, and therefore not restricted to Bergen.
Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
The course literature is in English. Students should therefore have a sound knowledge of English.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
Admission to the Master6s Programme in Religious Minorities.
Teaching and learning methods

The teaching and student activities in this course will entirely take place online.


  • short introductory videos
  • readings
  • following each video/reading there will be a short quiz, that tests the students basic understanding of the video/reading
  • individual feedback on discussion postings and essays from the instructor

participation in online discussions

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

In this course the following compulsory requirements have to be approved:

  • Course quizzes following videos and/or texts. There will be between 1 and 5 quizzes per week. The quizzes will test the students' command of the prescribed course material. A successful completion of at least 80% online course questions in course quizzes is required.
  • A reflective essay (800 words) on the topic: "What counts as "religion" where I am from?"
  • Two comments (200 words each) on essays submitted by fellow students.

Compulsory requirements are evaluated with "approved/not approved."

Forms of Assessment

Teams of students will work on a joined creative project "designing a religion". Each student has to submit a reflective work report of 800 words on this creative project; this report shall also contain statements on the student's individual contribution to the work as well as on how the team collaborated in the process. This report will count as the assessment of the course.

The exam assignment will be given in English.

The exam can be submitted in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading Scale
Assessment Semester
The course is normally assessed in the teaching semester only.
Reading List

The reading list consists of approximately 500 pages.

The reading list is published by July 1st for the autumn semester and by December 1st for the spring semester.

Course Evaluation
The course unit will be evaluated regularly.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee for The Study of Religions
Course Coordinator
The Programme Committee for The Study of Religions, Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (AHKR)
Course Administrator
Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (AHKR)