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2008 Fall

Course Offerings for the Fall 2008 Semester

REL 110 The Nature of Religion

  • 01 M, W 4:10-5:25 Rhodes
  • 02 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Pettis (Room 205W)
  • 51 T, Th 8:25-9:40 Adluri

This introduction to religion asks the overall question "what is religious about religions?"  Specifically we will explore the different forms of religion that have appeared in the religious history of human kind: pre-literate spirit cults; ancestral cults; urban religion; the religions of law, like Judaism and Islam; freedom from the law in Christianity and Buddhism. Lastly, we will consider the fate of traditional religion in the modern world.


REL 111 Approaches to Religion

  • 01 M, W, Th 11:10-12:00 Raver
  • 51 Tu, Th 8:25-9:40 Miller

A modern critical study of religion using a variety of methods to further understand the meaning and function of religion in personal and social life. Approaches and readings from philosophy, psychology, the arts, history, sociology and anthropology.


REL 204 Religious Experience

  • 01 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Pettis (Room 205W)
  • 51 M, W 7:00-8:15 Adluri

What is "religious" experience? In what various ways is it manifested? How does it affect people and religious traditions? Most readings concern the experiences of individuals and communities, and include Australian, Native American and Islamic rituals, The Epic of Gilgamesh, biblical narratives, the Enlightenment of the Buddha, accounts by mystics, and Etty Hillesum's An Interrupted Life.


REL 207 Religious Sources for Morality

  • 01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Sproul

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 Religious Ideas of Social Justice

  • 01 M, Th 2:45-4:00 Huffman (Room 205W)

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 251 Eastern Religions

  • 01 Tu, F 12:45-2:00 Sproul

We will study some fundamental teachings of three major Eastern "wisdom traditions" -- Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Although each of these traditions is unique, certain common themes run through them. We will explore these as they concern ideas of God and man, reality and being, as well as the means and goal of liberation.  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 peoples.


REL 253 Western Religions

  • 01 Tu, W, F 9:10-10:00 Tirana

Introduction to fundamental religious ideas in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on the essential sacred texts in the Bible and the Qur'an. Attention is given to the influence of dualistic thought from Zoroastrianism and Gnostic systems, and to some mystical and contemporary interpretations.


REL 254 Tribal Religions

  • 01 Tu, F 2:10-3:25 Sproul

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.


REL 261.55 The Sacred Sky: Astrology in World Religions

  • M, Th 11:10-12:25 Finn (Room 205W)

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 262.55 Religions of Ancient Central and South America

  • 51 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15 Herrera

The socio-cultural landscape of the western hemisphere prior to European contact was one characterized by diversity as well as overarching cosmological concepts that we can call religious traditions. This class will be exploring those religious traditions with regards to how these cultures shared similar concepts and how they differed. While regions in this part of the world shared certain attributes, many questions remain as to the degree to which distinct areas interacted and how the level of interaction and exchange of ideas affected their particular worldviews. Therefore, while we will review well-established data on the subject matter, we will also be examining and evaluating current information and evolving academic interpretations that are being used to explore these phenomena. We will look at the two great traditions known as the Mesoamerican and Andean traditions, but will also be exploring the lesser-known Isthmo-Colombian and Amazonian regions. We will be looking at these regions through a variety of interpretive lenses: archaeology, anthropology, political economy, ecology and art history. We will be utilizing these disciplines to construct a framework with which we can thereby place our own questions. By looking at these areas in an iterative manner we will be able to compare and contrast what we see as regularities in cosmologies as well as those concepts that make a region or culture distinct. Towards the end of this class we will briefly address the modern manifestations of these traditions in the various forms that they have taken on. Whether they are syncretic religious movements or pockets of traditional life-ways we will see if the thread of Mesoamerican, Central and South American religions still holds in this modern age.


REL 270 Religion and Psychology

  • 51 Tu, F 8:10-9:25 Pettis

“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.


REL 308 Religion and the Arts

  • 01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Raver

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 310 Religious Meaning of Death

  • 01 M, Th 1:10-2:25 Long

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 312 Religion and Politics

  • 01 Tu, W, F 10:10-11:00 Tirana

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 Spirit and Nature

  • 01 M, Th 2:45-4:00 Long

The religious traditions of the world give expression to--and are frequently the supports for--many of our attitudes towards the natural world; both conscious and unconscious. The religious traditions treated in the course are chosen to present a typology of the different ways religions have conceptualized and thereby evaluated nature and animal life; whether, for example, the human is conceptualized as being kin to nature (as among Australian Aborigines and Native Americas), or part of nature (e.g., Taoism and Buddhism), or indeed "above" nature (e.g., the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). At the same time, the course is rounded out by an exploration of religious grounds for and against vegetarianism.


REL 315 Problem of Evil

  • 01 M, W, Th 12:10-1:00 Raver

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 321 Buddhism

  • 01 M, W 5:35-6:50 Rhodes

Study of Buddhism, its development, literature, and religious practices. Since Gautama Buddha is the outstanding figure in the history of Indian religions, we will explore the myths about him in order to understand his life and teachings. The emphasis will be Indian Buddhism. Whenever possible, we will compare this Eastern tradition with the traditions of the West in order to better understand our own faiths.


REL 322 Islam

  • 01 Tu, F 12:45-2:00 Hunsberger (Room 205W)

An introduction to the major concepts, practices, texts, and history of Islam, from its pre-Islamic roots, to the life and career of the Prophet Muhammad, and through its classical development to the present day. The multi-disciplinary approach this course will study Islam's origin in its own socio-cultural framework, its ideologies, ethos, and ethics, as well as its adaptive changes and reinterpretations in the course of history including its status in the modern world as one of the most populous and wide-spread religions.


REL 324 Islam and Buddhism

  • 51 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50 Breiner

A constructive study of Buddhism and Islam, two dynamic world religions propagating differing world views. In the past, they have had historical interactions with one another. This course is an examination of their founders, their development, their major texts, their beliefs and rituals. Special attention is given to their historic collisions and to the manner in which they have met the challenges posed by the different cultural and geographic contexts they have encountered. Their contrasting appeals for contemporary Americans are considered.

REL 334 Mysticism

  • 01 Tu, Th 4:10-5:25 Weinfield (Room 205W)

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 340 Homosexuality in World Religions

  • 01 M, Th 4:10-5:25 Long

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 361.56 Religious Ideas in Ancient Fiction

  • 900 M, W 5:35-6:50 Cowan

The Muslim scholar and philosopher Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.D. 702-765) defined Literature as “the garment that one puts on what he says or writes so that it may appear more attractive.” Often specific literary works served in the defense of new ideas and perspectives and thus mark important turning points in the history of ideas. The distinction between religious texts and secular cultural production in ancient civilizations is a nebulous one, yet much early literature presents figures that serve as exemplars for ethical behavior. This course will concern texts that defend new positions and back them up through the use poetic or philosophical examples. The course will include the following texts:
The Bhagavad Gita
. Juan Mascaró, trans. New York: Penguin, 1962.
Chuang Tzu. The Book of Chuang Tzu. Martin Palmer, trans. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Confucius. The Analects of Confucius.
Arthur Waley, trans. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Plato. The Symposium.
Christopher Gill, trans. New York: Penguin 1999.
Saint Augustine. Confessions.
R.S. Pine-Coffin, trans. New York: Penguin, 1961.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva.
Boston: Shambhala, 2005.


REL 390 Modern Theories of Religion

  • 01 HRSTBA Long

An advanced methodology course surveying key issues and main approaches under discussion in the current study of religion when standard methods of interpretation are being subjected to exhaustive critique and revision and new theories are being proposed. (Prereq: ENGL 120; REL 111 or its equivalent; and at least one other course in religion or one of the theoretical courses offered in one of the participating departments such as ANTHRO 307, PHILO 262, or SOC 205; permission of instructor required to register.)


REL 410 Independent Study in Religion (1, 2, 3 cr.)

  • HRSTBA Staff

REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion (3, 6 cr.)

  • HRSTBA Staff


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