HarvardX Courses


Professor Moore launched a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) through HarvardX on January 8, 2018 entitled Religion, Conflict, and Peace in Contemporary Global Affairs.  The course is offered online to a global audience and participants have the opportunity to take it for free or sign up for a Certificate for $50.  See the course trailer and register here. The course description is below.

In this course, we will explore a series of contemporary conflicts in different regions of the world with a special focus on identifying and analyzing the diverse and complex roles that religions play in both promoting and mitigating violence in each context. Students will learn a method for recognizing and analyzing how religious ideologies are embedded in all arenas of human agency and not isolated from political, economic, and cultural life as is often assumed.

In addition to examining the conflicts themselves, we will also explore the religious dimensions of the impacts those conflicts have on civic life in areas such as public health, education, and commerce by addressing a series of questions.

  • What roles do religions play in fostering violence and what roles do they play in promoting peace?
  • How do religious institutions and ideologies function to support and/or thwart public health initiatives?
  • What are the ideological justifications for functional economic policies and how do they reflect and/or challenge diverse religious values?
  • What roles do religions play in advancing or suppressing educational opportunities and for whom?
  • Are media representations of the religious dimensions of conflict accurate? 
  • Case studies will include Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, France, India, Israel/Palestine, Myanmar, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Syria, and the United States. Final projects will be individually shaped based on interest and (where relevant) professional focus.

The course is open to all and especially relevant for aspiring or professional educators, journalists, public health workers, foreign service officers and government officials who wish to better understand how religions function in contemporary world affairs.


Professor Moore is the lead scholar for the six module MOOC entitled World Religions Through Their Scriptures and the professor for the first module in the series entitled Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures. The first version of the course launched in 2016, and a second version  launched in March, 2018 with an added module on Sikhism. Register here for version two of this popular series that enrolled over 200,000 participants representing over 140 countries.

The course is comprised of seven, month long modules led by the following faculty members: 

  • Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures: Diane L. Moore, Senior Lecturer on Religious Studies and Education, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religion, and Director of the Religious Literacy Project;
  • Hinduism: Neelima Shukla-Bhatt,  Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, Wellesley College;
  • Buddhism: Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, (HDS and FAS);
  • Judaism: Shaye Cohen, Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy (FAS);
  • Christianity: Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity (HDS and FAS);
  • Islam: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures (FAS and HDS)
  • Sikhism: Harpreet Singh, Scholar of South Asian Traditions (HDS)

This is a collaborative project among seven colleagues at HDS, FAS, and Wellesley College to create a series of modules introducing participants to the academic study of religion through some of the central texts of five of the world’s religious traditions with an emphasis on origins and interpreters.

Many contemporary conflicts across the globe are related to religion and yet few people are equipped to understand what those religious dimensions entail. For a variety of complex reasons, many people believe that the best way to understand religion is to understand religious texts. For example, following the 9/11 attacks, sales of English translations of the Qur’an skyrocketed. We understand why this approach is problematic and yet we know that the impulse to understand religious traditions through texts persists. We hope this course will challenge some common assumptions about religions and texts as well as build capacities to strengthen better understanding of religion applicable to world affairs in contemporary contexts.

The unifying theme of all seven modules is a cultural studies approach to teaching and learning about religion through the lens of sacred texts. Participants in the course will 1) learn methods for how to understand religion in general and religious texts in particular; 2) learn the political and cultural contexts that produced religious texts and the processes that led to some being designated as “sacred”; 3) learn about diverse interpretations within and between traditions regarding what the designation “sacred” means; and 4) learn about contemporary and historical examples of diverse interpretations of the texts themselves.