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Issues in Religion

REL 204 Religious Experience (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
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?


REL 205 Faith and Disbelief (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
An examination of questions raised in religious faith and in disbelief, concentrating particularly on the challenge to religion made by existentialism. Among the authors to be read are both critics and defenders of religion: Camus, Buber, Kierkegaard, Teilhard de Chardin, Sartre, Nietzsche, Tillich, and Bonhoffer.


REL 206 Ideas of God in Contemporary Western Thought (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
How does contemporary Western theology understand faith in God? What is meant--or ought to be meant--by the word "God"? How does the reality of evil figure into faith? Answers to these questions will be our primary focus as we read works by representative Jewish, Christian, and heterodox religious thinkers since World War II. Examples will be drawn from liberal, process, feminist, and radical perspectives, among others.


REL 207 Religious Sources for Morality (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 208 Religion and Social Justice (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 209 Religion and Human Rights (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 210 Atheism (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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"


REL 211 Astrology in World Religion (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 212 Religion and Healing (W) (3hrs., 3 cr.)
Various cultures hold different attitudes in their approaches to healing.  What are the shared characteristics of people who have been considered healers?  How does one's own suffering shape his/her idea of God?  What is the role of the Earth?  Is there a difference between curing and healing?  How have the scientific revolution and the development of Western Medicine shaped the way we understand healing today?  Through the use of religious texts, fiction, guest speakers and art we will examine approaches to the body, suffering, death and healing.

REL 307 Religious ideas in Literature (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.)


REL 308 Religion and the Arts (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 309 The Religious Meaning of Sex and Love (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
Sex remains one of the great powers in human life to which religion has not been indifferent. This cross-cultural and interdisciplinary course asks about the relation between the religious and the erotic, inquiring into such issues as: what lies behind speaking of the gods as sexual and/or loving; what lies behind speaking of faith as a matter of 'loving' God; what rationales underlie the various religious codes of sexual ethics? In short, what are the connections among the love of God, the love for God, and sexual love between human beings--in both historical and contemporary religion?


REL 310 The Religious Meaning Of Death (W) (3hrs.,3cr.)
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.

REL 311 Women and Religion (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
The focus is on contemporary feminist theologies. Feminist students of religion contend that male-defined traditions have set the patterns of religious and societal life, without adequate attention to women's experiences, insights or participation. The course focuses mainly on the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (some other traditions are included and welcome from the class), and explores the what and why of patriarchy, the power of symbols, feminist sources and methods for doing theology, as women reclaim their traditions or envision new ones, with new models for the sacred, the self and society.


REL 312 Religion and Politics (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
This course examines the interplay between religion and politics: how religious beliefs influence politics and how historical, cultural, and social factors affect religious views. Examined are contemporary situations in which religion is playing a visible role in the aims and understandings of political purposes. Included are "fundamentalist" movements in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and theologies of liberation in Latin America, U. S. Black Churches, and the feminist movement. The religious foundations and historical backgrounds of each movement will be considered, as will the present religious perspectives and interpretations of tradition that underlie specific political positions.


REL 313 Ecospirituality: Religion and Nature (W) (3 hrs., 3 cr.)
An exploration of world religions’ most foundational ideas about spirit, sentience and the natural world—human and non-human—investigating how they shape our self-understandings, our ethics and even our scientific inquiries. Consideration of some of the most recent scientific findings concerning consciousness in plants and animals, their implications for new understandings of ‘spirit and nature’ and their effect on our whole way of being in the world.


REL 314 Religion and Sports
This course on the religious dimension of sport concentrates on a study of how world views are expressed in a culture's sports.  Beginning with a consideration of religiously contextualized sport such as the ancient Olympic Games and the Mesoamerican ball game, the focus turns first to American football, basketball, and baseball and then to soccer and 19th century boxing.  After an inquiry into the spiritual dynamics of 19th century "muscular Christianity" and of the modern Olympic movement, the course concludes with an attempt to discern an arguable sportive spirituality.


REL 315 The Problem of Evil (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 316 Men and Religion (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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. 

REL 317 Religion and Film (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
Film is one of the most popular forms of literature in contemporary society. This course will explore the relationship between Religion and Film. As a class we will examine how film makers use religion to convey their points of view, as well as examining how western religions (Judaism/Christianity/Islam) use film technology for propagating faith.


REL 318 Religion and Science (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 319 Religion and The Body (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
This course will explore the various representations of the body in world religious traditions. Through an assortment of primary sources and secondary literature, we will examine what these traditions suggest about how the human body exists, perceives, engages with the world, creates, and participates in the moral and visceral fabric of life. We will approach the topic of the body and religion from philosophical, sociological, anthropological, and historical perspectives as we consider the relationship between the body and society, nature and culture, and the sacred and the profane.  Themes such as sexuality, gender, and disability will be discussed in our efforts to expand our understanding of what it means both to be a body and to have a body within the context of religious faiths and practices.


REL 334 Mysticism (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
A critical analysis of the patterns and nature of mystical experiences. Analyzing mystical reports and writers from a variety of traditions and eras, we will explore the nature of the transition processes which lead to these experiences and the experiences themselves. We will also ask of the commonalities and differences of the thoughts of mystics, and explore several typologies of them. Finally, we will look at the very lively contemporary debate about these experiences, focusing on the question of the role of language, background, and expectations in mystical experiences.


REL 335 Myth and Ritual (W) ·(3hrs., 3cr.)
What does a ritual do for its practitioners? How does it do it? What does the recitation of a myth do for people? Does a ritual or myth bring or express the infinite to its participants? What is the relationship of ritual or mythical events to people’s ordinary lives? The course, which assumes a working knowledge of more than one religious tradition, will look at rituals and myths from a variety of traditions including our own “secular” life. Focusing on the motifs of “heroes” and “goddesses,” we will identify and explore patterns of ritual/mythical life, and ask of their philosophical, social, psychological and theological significance.


REL 340 Homosexuality in World Religion (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
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.


REL 261 Special Topics: Issues in Religion (W)· (3hrs., 3cr.)
Study of particular religious topics or thinkers. Different subject each time offered.


REL 361 Special Topics: Issues in Religion (W) (3hrs., 3cr.)
Study of particular religious topics or thinkers. Different subject each time offered.

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