People have always asked themselves fundamental life questions, such as: Where do we come from? What is the purpose of life? Why is there suffering in the world? This course will delve into religious beliefs and practices outside the context of mainstream religions.You will explore the animistic beliefs in spirits of so-called nature religions, meet medicine men, witches and people possessed by spirits, learn about the mother goddess cults of the first farming communities and the patriarchal religions of ancient civilizations with their sometimes brutal practices of ritual sacrifice. Look at the rituals of the life cycle and the role of myths as explanations for human origins and existence and as guidelines for behaviour. Learn how traditional societies tried to cope with the rapid social changes that took place after westerners flooded their once-isolated homelands, and look at doomsday cults, the New Age movement and other current developments in western spirituality. Finally, compare religion and science as different kinds of explanatory frameworks, especially with respect to the issue whether or not creationist beliefs may be compatible with evolutionism.