CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will offer a special course this spring looking at one of the foundations of nearly all contemporary and ancient religions - the notion of God.

The course will be taught by Marcus Borg, the Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at OSU, and Jill McAllister, an adjunct professor at OSU who is on the clergy of the First Unitarian Church in Corvallis.

Called "The Idea of God," the course will meet twice a week beginning in March. Development of the course is connected to a major, nationally televised event planned at Oregon State for the year 2000 called, "God at 2000." It will be sponsored by the Hundere Chair in Religion and Culture at OSU, the Trinity Institute in New York City, and the Chautauqua Institution.

Surveys have shown that a majority of people in the world believe in God, but those beliefs are not identical. The differing images of God need to be taken seriously, Borg said.

"How people think about God matters," he pointed out. "Some concepts of God make God incredible, and result in atheism. Other concepts make God seem remote and irrelevant. And still other concepts of God, grounded in experience, make God the central reality in human life."

Offered through the Department of Philosophy, the OSU course will address a number of questions about God, including: different concepts and images of God and why they matter, experiences of God, the quest for God, God and afterlife, and the notion of God as it relates to gender, science, politics and ethics.

The course also will look at how people in many different traditions - including western, Asian, and pre-modern - have thought about God.

"The notion of God is very ancient," Borg said. "Virtually every culture known to us has spoken of a power or energy behind the visible world of our ordinary experience. The quest for God continues into our own time. A spiritual revival is going on in the United States and its expressions cover a spectrum from conservative Christianity through charismatic Christianity and mainline denominations to New Age movements."

Borg is the author of nine books, including "The God We Knew," named as one of the 10 outstanding books in religion in 1997 by Publishers Weekly. He also has received several awards for teaching.

The special OSU course, "PHL 199: The Idea of God," will be offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3:20 p.m. It will be available to people in the community as well as OSU students. Interested persons should contact the Department of Philosophy at 541-737-2955.

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Marcus Borg, 541-737-6195