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Religion and Philanthropy

This course explores three relationships between people’s religious traditions and their philanthropic ideas and activities: 1) how diverse religious traditions have shaped distinctive
philanthropic practices, 2) how political, economic and social forces have structured religious philanthropy, and 3) how competing visions of good lives and a good society have played out in
the give and take of religious philanthropy. In examining the normative models of giving and service through a variety of religious traditions, we will analyze how religious narratives,
practices, teachings and authorities have shaped people’s generosity and humanitarianism. In studying religious philanthropy in particular historical contexts, we will explore how religious
philanthropy has been influenced by secular states and market economies, transforming religious traditions and communities along the way. In observing the tensions between the purposes of givers and takers, we will locate religious philanthropy in the world of social action so as to assess claims about the uniquely selfless, altruistic or civic nature of religious philanthropy. The primary focus is cultural and historical, but students will also explore through research and application how the issues discussed in class affect individuals, institutions, and civil society in contemporary contexts.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

David P. King

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Graduate Course, Seminar
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, Other

General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Empire/Foreign Policy/Globalism, Politics/Law/Government

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