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2013 Fall

Note: All courses meet in room 206W unless otherwise indicated.

 

REL 110 Nature of Religion

This introductory course considers what is distinctively religious about religions. Using a combination of in depth case study and cross-cultural comparison, it introduces the student to recurrent themes, forms and structures of religion, considering such topics as: the nature of myth and ritual; sacred time and sacred space; gods, spirits and ancestors; as well as the roles of shaman, prophet, and priest.

          01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Sproul

          02 Tu, Th 16:10-17:25 Raver (Room 205W)

          051 Tu, Th  19:00-20:15 O'Neil

 

REL 111 Approaches to Religion

A modern critical study of religion using a variety of methods to further understanding of the role of religion in personal and social life. Approaches include those of philosophy, psychology, the arts, history, sociology, and anthropology. Readings are from a variety of differing religious traditions.

          01 Tu, F 9:45-11:00 Herrera (Room 205W)

          051 M, W 20:25-21:40 Raver

          52 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 O'Neil

 

REL 204 Religious Experience

Here the emphasis is not on doctrines of religion, but on central experiences that underlie the institutions of religion. Readings are drawn from a variety of cultures: from ancient writings to contemporary ones; from religious traditions and from outside religious systems as such. Most of the readings concern the experiences themselves, in material such as the Australian initiation rites, Islamic and Native American rituals, The Epic of Gilgamesh, biblical narratives, the enlightenment of the Buddha, mystical experiences, the journals of Etty Hillesum. Work by several theorists will also be read. Questions will include: What is the experience like? What is "religious" experience? How does the experience affect people and their lives?

          051 M, W 20:25-21:40 Haltenberger (Room 205W)

 

REL 205 Faith and Disbelief

Ethics has been defined as the tension between that which “is” and that which ought to be. This course will focus on the origin of the “ought”: How do we decide what is good and evil? What are the sources of our understanding of what ought to be? Are these sources religious? Have they to do with belief in God? (What do we mean by “religion” and by “God”?) Reading will be in Buber, The Book of Job, Genesis, Psalms, The Gospel of Matthew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

         051 Tu, Th 20:25-21:40 Cerequas (Room 205W)

 

REL 207 Religious Sources for Morality

Ethics has been defined as the tension between that which "is" and that which ought to be. This course will focus on the origin of the "ought". How do we decide what is good and evil? What are the sources of our understanding of what ought to be? Are these sources religious? Have they to do with belief in God? (What do we mean by "religion" and by "God"?) Reading will be in Buber, The Book of Job, Genesis, Psalms, The Gospel of Mattew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

          01 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Sproul

 

REL 208 Religion and Social Justice

While all religions agree that securing a socially just world is a 'constant occupation,' they disagree as to the concrete nature of that vocation. This course is designed to examine contemporary religious reflection on four social issues: war, race, the economy, and gender relations. The issues will be approached from as many sides as possible, examining them in light of the attitudes they reveal about God, society, and justice. The course will focus primarily on readings from a range of different traditions, in large part to illustrate the plurality of perspectives that exist.

             01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Huffman (Room 205W)

 

REL 209 Religion and Human Rights

Religion and human rights intersect in a variety of ways. The struggle for religious tolerance played a key role in the evolution of the human rights. Yet the quest for freedom of thought, conscience and belief remains unresolved in various parts of the world. It has been contended that religious beliefs about natural and moral order are the foundation of human rights. And as the movement for universal human rights swept the globe in the later part of the 20th century, scholars and religious thinkers have examined the contributions, compatibilities (and incompatibilities) of the worlds' major systems of thought, conscience and belief to the norms and standards of the human rights project. This course will examine these various intersections between religion and human rights.

              01 W 10:10-1:00 Hawk (Room 205W)

 

REL 210 Atheism

We are used to thinking of atheism as the antithesis of all that religion is. But atheism as it appears in our modern world has many important roots that lie in different religious traditions. This course will explore some of these origins and challenge students to rethink and refine their concepts of what is involved in "not believing in God"

           051 Tu, Th 19:00-20:15 Cerequas (Room 205W)

 

REL 211 The Sacred Sky: Astrology in World Religion

Different cultures have varied beliefs about the sacred nature of the sky and how astronomical movement relates to lives and events on Earth. Viewing astrology as the vernacular used to describe the effect of astronomical cycles on terrestrial cycles, this course examines how those patterns were interpreted and understood to have meaning. The emphasis of the course is on Western astrology, from its origins in Mesopotamia to its current popularity, but also includes a look at Chinese, Native American, Mesoamerican, and Vedic astrology.

              01 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Finn


REL 251 Asian Religions

Religions proclaim attitudes towards each aspect of reality--personal,social,universal and absolute--and then use these attitudes to build structures of value and meaning which ultimately form the basis of the adherents' general outlook on life. In this course we are going to be studying the fundamental texts of Eastern Religions--Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Taoism--examining the basic attitudes of each faith and considering their implications for the lives of their followers. Although each of these religions is unique, certain common themes run through them and we will explore these as they concern ideas of "God", man, nature, society, and time. In doing this, we shall also be investigating the nature of religion itself, seeing what it is, how it develops and functions and what it means to various people.

         01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Kelly-Nacht

 

REL 252 Ancient Near Eastern Religions

This course is a survey of the basic history and of the most significant aspects of the religions of the major Near Eastern peoples in the Bronze Age (8000BCE-3000 BCE), including the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Canaanites, and Israelites. The magnificent civilizations that they built had an enormous influence on subsequent human culture. This course is based on primary material, of both archeological and literary natures, and will discuss the most important texts produced by religious and secular sources.

          051 M, W 19:00-20:15 Raver

 

REL 253 Abrahamic Religions

An introduction to the essential religious ideas in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on their foundational sacred texts with some contemporary interpretations. In addition, other influential religious ideas, such as Zoroastrian dualism and Gnosticism will be included.

          01 Tu, F 9:45-11:00 Tirana

 

REL 254 Tribal Religions

An examination of the traditional religions of Australia, the Pacific Islands, and North America. Study of the theological implications of myths and rituals (ideas of God, good and evil, humanity and the world), consideration of social values and the role of the individual in relation to the group, discussion of the meaning found in life and in death in traditional cultures.

          01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Sproul

 

REL 256 Afro-Caribbean Religions

This course is a survey of some of the most salient forms of African-based religions in the Caribbean and South America, and in New York City. The course will include some consideration of the transformations that have occurred in the journey of the belief systems from Africa to the New World, but the focus of the course will be on the integrity of the Afro-Caribbean forms of religion. The course will include not only attention to beliefs, but to art and ritual forms in which these religions have expressed themselves. In addition, the course will raise the question of the ongoing appeal of these religions.

              01 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Huffman (Room 205W)

 

REL 258 Religions of Early Europe

Both Greek and Roman classical authors described the peoples north of the Danube Riveras “barbarians,” tribes uncultured and illiterate, warlike and unmatched in their banality.We know from what they left behind, however, that this was far from true.We know very little about the tribes of ancient Europe, and even less about their religious systems. This course,therefore, is a course in guesswork. We examine these early religious systems found in Europe, long before the classical Greeks, the Romans, and the Christian world redefined their existence, and attempt to consider them for what they actually were.

         051 M,W 17:35-18:50 Raver

 

REL 270 Religion and Psychology

"Every statement about God is a statement about the human person, and every statement about the human is a statement about God." This course will examine the complementarity between religion and psychology in many aspects of the human person through the media of selected text, film, and story.

          051 M, W 17:35-18:50 Haltenberger (Room 205W)

 

REL 307 Religious Ideas in Literature

Storytelling has been a nurturing and necessary activity of the human species, and a primary medium for conveying religious inquiry and insight. Through careful reading, discussion, and student essays, this class will consider the inquiry into key religious issues--e.g., the human condition and possibilities of transformation, divine justice, the sacred and society, alienation and meaning--in novels, short stories, and plays by authors such as Dostoyevsky, Unamuno, Camus, Lagerkvist, Malamud, Baldwin, O'Connor, Endo, and Atwood. (Auditors require permission of the instructor to register.)

          01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Tirana(Room 205W)

 

REL 308 Religion and the Arts

The arts have always been a medium for transforming spiritual beliefs, from prehistoric figurines to William Blake’s mystical paintings. Even in today’s society, the arts serve as a vehicle for religious expression, reflecting not only the individual’s experience with the sacred but society’s view of what art constitutes and how religion should be depicted. But how did we get to this point? We shall examine the relationship between religion and sculpture, painting, dance, theater, decorative arts, music and, finally, photography and film from a chronological and cross-cultural perspective.

         051 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Raver (Room 205W)

 

REL 310 Religious Meanings of Death

The fact of death is at the center of the study of religion. The meaning one gives to death often determines the direction of one's life. This course will explore the various meanings which different cultures in different historical periods have discovered in the reality of death. Attention will also be given to contemporary formulations. Material studied will be cross-cultural and interdisciplinary. Discussion will center on the assigned readings.

           01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Adluri (Room 205W)

 

REL 313 Spirit and Nature

This course focuses on the ways in which religious world views bear upon our relations with nature and non-human animals. After grounding the discussion in historical reflection on the growth of ecological awareness and sensitivity to animal life and attending to the charge that religion has contributed to contemporary "ecological crisis", the course examines how the material of three spiritual traditions can be marshalled in support of ecological responsibility. It then considers the putative implications Darwinism entails for theism and the Western moral tradition. Lastly, it explores the consequences of "putting animals on the theological agenda" and concludes with an inquiry into how the understanding of the life of Jesus might be impacted when history is re-read in the light of such a project.

           01 M, Th 14:45-16:00 Long

 

REL 315 The Problem of Evil

Is it possible to say that we are living in an "age of evil," that the events of our time reveal the presence of a "spirit of evil" in our midst? What does religion have to say about such a phenomenon? How does religion think about and define evil? Who or what is responsible? Can anything be done about it? These are the questions this course will address by way of Eastern and Western religious materials.

           051 M,W 19:00-20:15 Bruinius (Room 205W)

 

REL 316 Men and Religion

Reflecting recent work of scholars of gender, both male and female, this course will explore the ways in religions have historically constructed the "male" and "masculine."  The focus will be on materials drawn from the Jewish and Christian traditions, albeit in world perspective.  Highlighted will be the importance of ideas about war for the framing of religious interpretations of men and the male role.

           01 M, Th 13:30-14:25 Long

 

REL 318 Religion and Science

This course will use as its starting point Albert Einstein's statement that "Science without Religion is Lame, Religion without Science is Blind." We will continue from there to explore the relation between Science and Religion historically as well as exploring modern conflicts and dialogues. This class will investigate the ways in which different approaches can aid, detract from, and influence Science and Religion--two vital human endeavours. Our ultimate goal is to come to a deeper understanding of the complexity of this relationship and to learn how these two seemingly disparate modes of thought come together.

           01 M, W 16:10-17:25 Haltenberger (Room 205W)

 

REL 320 Hinduism

A study of the nature of Hinduism and its development, literature, philosophy, and religious practices. Readings in such traditional texts as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita, as well as in modern texts,will explore Hinduism's understanding of God, human beings, the feminine principle, society and community, time and history, and we shall study how these understandings develop from 2000 BCE to the 21st century.

          01 M, Th 14:45-16:00 Adluri (Room 205W)

 

REL 321 Buddhism

This course is designed for students to gain a clear and substantial knowledge of the foundations of Buddhist teachings. It begins by examining the life of the historical Buddha, using his biography to recognize and define the major tenets of Buddhism, which include the Four Noble Truths, or the doctrine of Buddhist teachings and the Noble Eightfold Path, or the discipline of practice. Building on that foundation, the course includes several Buddhist sutras, such as The Dhammapada and The Diamond Sutra. The application of those principles is then explored through several biographical and autobiographical accounts of Buddhist masters from varying traditions. This overview includes a look at the common threads, as well as significant distinctions of doctrine and practice that occur among the various schools of the Buddhist religion.

          01 M,Th 11:10-12:25 Palitsky

 

REL 323 Christianity

This is a course on the doctrinal and liturgical components of Catholocism, the Eastern Church, and Protestantism. Major doctrinal and liturgical differences exist between these Christian groups and the goal of this course is to understand how this is possible. Major themes will include the "essence" of Christianity, the early Church controversies, Christian "tradition," and the basis for reformed doctrine. The focus of inquiry will be both theological and historical, beginning with the religious context for Christianity and ending with the reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

          01 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 Cole

 

REL 324 Islam & Buddhism

Islam and Buddhism provide an interesting contrast among the major world religions. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that does not depend for its coherence and efficacy on the existence of a supreme deity. Islam, on the other hand, is a theistic religion that believes that the ultimate meaning of human existence is related directly to a supreme deity, God (Allah). This course will devote half a semester to each religion, covering an outline of its history, an overview of its belief system, and a look at its practices. The course thus provides, in one term, a brief look at two very different paradigms of religious faith.

          01 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Breiner (Room 205W)

 

REL 326 Religious Meanings of the Qu'ran

For Muslims, the Qur'ān is the very Word of God.  As such, it is the basis of all aspects of the religion of Islam.  It is the primary source of law and ethics.  It is the primary source of the articles of faith and the basis of Islamic ethics.  It permeates every aspect of a Muslim's life.  This course examines the structure and contents of the Qur'ān, including the structure of its language as it applies to questions of interpretation and translation.  The course introduces students to a range of sources and methodologies for studying the Qur'ānic text.  The historical context for the compilation of the Qur'ān into its canonical form is sketched. Issues of coherence, textual relations and variant readings are discussed from the various viewpoints.  Questions about the dating, integrity, and authenticity of the text, as well as the relationship between Islamic and pre-Islamic scriptures are also addressed.  The interpretation of the Qur'ān is discussed in its various forms: legal (fiqh), exegetical (tafsīr – both classical and modern), mystical (Sūfī), as well as its various genres: ḥadīth-based, grammatical, philosophical, modernist. Various particular matters such as scriptural abrogation, multi-valence, occasions of revelation, etc. are examined in their appropriate contexts.

              01 W 9:10-12:00 Breiner (Room 406W)

 

REL 334 Mysticism 

What is mysticism? This course provides insight into the meaning of the term by reference to the writings of those recognized by their religious traditions as mystics. As an organizing principle, we proceed according to a five-fold typology, studying the mysticism of self, emptiness, love, and eschatology in selected readings in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

          01 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Adluri (Room 205W)

 

REL 340 Homosexuality in World Religions

This course surveys and analyzes typical ways in which homosexuality has been understood, evaluated and, in some cases, institutionalized in a variety of religious traditions, attending especially to implicit constructions of gender.

          01 M, Th 16:10-17:25 Long

 

REL 390 Modern Theories of Religion

Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but is it religious?Is religion about culture and power structures or is this only one aspect of religion...and how important is that aspect?Do we need God to be religious?Do we need religious belief in order to be good?Is religion to blame for evil?Does religion, in the end, ask us to go beyond good and evil?Is there any "something" to religion for us to study, and can we ever finally say what that something might be?And what does all of this mean for "Religious Studies" today?These are just a few of the questions we'll wrestle with as we explore such influential (and sometimes) controversial thinkers as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Mary Douglas, Michael Foucault, Edward Said, Pierre Bourdieu, and Slavoj Zizek. Our readings and discussions will bring us into the heart of current arguments and problems in the field of religious studies.

            01 W 10:10-13:00 Cerequas

 

REL 410 Independent Study in Religion 1,2, or 3 credits

HRSTBA (permission Prof. Sproul required)

 

REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion 3 hrs. 3 crs.

HRSTBA (permission Prof. Sproul required)

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