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2009 Spring

Course Offerings for the Spring 2009 Semester

REL 110 The Nature of Religion

01 M, Th 8:10 am - 9:25 am, room 206 Hunter West, Pettis

02 M, W, TH 12:10 am -1:00 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Raver

51 T, Th 8:25 pm - 9:40 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Herrera

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, Th 2:45 pm -4:00 pm, room 205 Hunter West , Staff

02 T, F 8:25-9:40, room 205 Hunter West, Finn

51 T, TH 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Herrera

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 T, W, F 9:10 am – 10:00, room 206 Hunter West, Tirana

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 205 Faith and Disbelief

01, T, F 11:10 am - 12:25 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Sproul

It is common to equate religion with belief in a god or gods who are usually envisaged as "supernatural" --more than natural-- omnipotent, omniscient, and "out there" in "heaven".  In this course we are going to investigate challenges to this idea and to related theories concerning faith, ethics, and the religious life.Rather than proceeding in straight chronological fashion, we shall begin with Camus' The Stranger in which the possibility of living without the idea of God is explored, and then go on to several alternatives to Camus' radical solution by reading Kierkegaard, Buber, and Teilhard de Chardin.  These three each see God as present in the world, but define the Holy and ways of recognizing it in other than traditional manners.In the second half of the semester, we shall start again with a fictional expression of disbelief --Sartre's Nausea-- and then examine several theories of a lack of meaning in/to life and possible ways in which to cope with it and conquer it.  Here we shall be reading Nietzsche, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer.

REL 206 Ideas of God

51 M, TH 4:10 pm - 5:25 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Long

St. Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child.  But, when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Perhaps, then, there are childish ways of being religious and childish ways of thinking about God, ways that might be fully appropriate to childhood, but unbecoming and inappropriate in an adult.  And, just as there might be different ways of conceiving God appropriate to different stages in an individual life, so too there may be ways of thinking of God which are appropriate for differing times and places.

This course is a survey of some of the major ways in which contemporary Western thinkers in the last half of the twentieth century have envisioned theistic belief in a way that is fully consonant with modern science and modern moral sensibilities. Its subject matter is what is sometimes known as fundamental theology, but more precisely, philosophical theology.  The story that will be told is how faith in the post-WWII era has been led to a god beyond the god of classical theism--and even beyond theism itself.

In sum, it will paint a picture of the major options within “liberal” and “radical” Christian and Jewish theology at the fin de siecle--a picture we may well find that is unflattering enough to cause a rethinking of the value of more traditional approaches.But even as we explore the pluralism that attends the theological enterprise at the moment, we will continue to press the question of what is really at stake in the Western idea of God.  The central concern of the course will not be to come up with a definite idea of God, but to become aware of the area and the concerns which the word calls attention to.

REL 251 Eastern Religions

51 M, W 8:25 pm - 9:40 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Adluri

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 252 Ancient Near Eastern Religions

51 M, TH 9:45 am – 11:00 am, room 206 Hunter West, Raver

This course is a survey of the basic history and of the most significant aspects of the religions of the major Near Eastern peoples (8000BCE - 300BCE) including the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Canaanites, and Israelites. The magnificent civilizations that they built had an enormous influence on subsequent human culture in general. 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.

REL 255 Religion of Two Gods

01 M, Th 1:10 pm - 2:15pm, room 206 Hunter West, Long

In this course we will explore a variety of religious dualisms—that is, those religions which do not see opposites such as Light and Dark and Good and Evil as complementary aspects of a single reality, but as truly antagonistic.  We will survey historical forms—Zoroastrianism, demiurgic Christianity, Manichaeism, and Jainism—inquiring into the ways they are world-denying and/or world-affirming.  We will conclude our study with attention to the dualisms of fundamentalist Christianity and the philosophy of Albert Camus.

REL 262.54 Religions of Early Europe

01 M, W, Th 11:10 am - 12:00 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Raver

Both Greek and Roman classical authors described the peoples north of the Danube River as “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, but what we do know through archaeology and text provides us with a belief system that does not necessarily correspond to what the Greeks and Romans, and later, the Christians, believed. We examine early religions systems found in Europe from prehistoric, Celtic, Germanic, Balkan, and Nordic cultural remains and reconstruct their belief systems based on the primary sources at hand.

REL 270 Religion & Psychology

01 M, Th 1:10 pm - 2:25 pm Room 205 Hunter West, 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 complementaries between religion and psychology in many aspects of the human person through the media of selected text, film, and story.

REL 307 Religious Ideas in Literature

01 T, W, F 10:10 am- 11:00 am, room 206 Hunter West, Tirana

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 key religious issues--e.g., divine justice, the human condition and possibilities of transformation, religious understandings and society, alienation and meaning--in novels, short stories and plays, by authors such as Dostoyevsky, Lagerkvist, Camus, O’Connor, Ozick, Malamud, Baldwin, Endo (Auditors require permission of the instructor to register).

REL 309 Religious Meanings of Love & Sex

01 M, Th 2:45 pm - 4:00 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Long

Sex remains one of the great powers in human life to which religion has not been indifferent. This cross-cultural and interdisciplinary course inquires into 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 religions?

REL 311 Women & Religion

01 T, Th 4:10 pm - 5:25 pm, room 205 Hunter West, Rhodes

Important issues in religion today are the role, insights, and treatment of women in religious traditions--in the past, present and for the future. This course explores Western religions from contemporary feminist perspectives. The focus is on current theology and spirituality, including biblically-based traditions and new directions in movements such as Goddess religions.

REL 320 Hinduism

51 M, W 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Adluri

A study of the nature of Hinduism and its development, of literature and philosophy. Reading in such traditional texts as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita we'll explore Hinduism's understanding of God, human beings, society and community, time and history. We shall study how these understandings developed from 2000 BCE to the 20th century.


REL 321 Buddhism

51 T, Th 5:30 pm - 6:50 pm, room 205 Hunter West, Rhodes

This course will trace the historical, doctrinal and ritual development of the Buddhist tradition from its inception in India, sometime around the 5th or 6th century B.C.E., to the present. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia and eventually to the west, the primary source of transmission was the scriptural form known as the “sutra.” In order to appreciate the various forms Buddhism has taken over the course of its history this course will examine sutras from the original Buddhist canon as well as sutras from the Madhyamika, Yogachara, Zen, T’ien T’ai and Hua-yen schools of thought. This course will also include debates about contemporary Buddhism and so-called “engaged Buddhism”.

REL 322 Islam

51 T, Th 5:35 pm - 8:50 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Breiner

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 323 Christianity

01 M, Th 11:10 am - 12:25 pm, room 205 Hunter West, Pettis

An introductory course in the doctrinal, ceremonial, and spiritual heritage of Christian tradition.  After a study of the formation of the Christian worldview, we will explore the spirit and form of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestant Christianity, asking what these differing traditions share in common.

REL 330 New Testament Religion

01 T, F 2:10 pm - 3:25 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Sproul

A scholarly consideration of the religion of the New Testament and earliest Christianity. Examination of the theological interest of the authors of the books of the New Testament in order to consider the major facets of New Testament Religion: the mystery of Jesus Christ, Paul’s mission and message, ethics, the relation to the Law of Judaism, salvation theology, and apocalyptic thinking.  Reading in the New Testament and secondary sources.

REL 335 Myth & Ritual

01 T, F 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Sproul

Myth and ritual are two primary forms of religious expression: studying them is very basically investigating what is central to religion. We will begin with definitions but in doing so will rapidly discover that how one understands myth and ritual largely depends on one’s own myth. The complexities abound: myths proclaim reality--the effective reality we live with, the context of our understanding--and within that context they assign values. Further, myths believed in are not recognized as such but are usually considered (self-evident) truths or facts; we will see this clearly when we study various methodological approaches to our subject. Each is sure of its position: are myths and rituals expressive and prescriptive of culture? Of the psyche? Of logic and language? Of biology? Of the cosmos itself? Of all of the above? The answers depend on those who are asking and what they believe to be the most important realities of the world--i.e., it depends on their myth. And evaluating them, we will have to confront our own fundamental attitudes toward reality, our myths. So self-awareness will continually be sought. We will constantly be probing the presumptions and implications of our ideas and those of others, reading both theoretical works and primary sources.

REL 336 Zen

01 M, W 4:10 pm - 5:25 pm, room 205 Hunter West, Nordstrom

This course will examine the various strains of Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese Buddhism which came to be known as "Zen Buddhism" in western culture. We will look at a variety of primary sources for the study of Zen along side the research of top scholars working in the field today. We will approach the Zen tradition historically in an attempt to discover the roots of what is today one of the most popular forms of Buddhism practiced in America.


REL 337 Sufism

01 T, F 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm, room 205 Hunter West, Hunsberger

Within the Muslim community, Sufism has been alternatively regaled as being profoundly un-Islamic and hailed as the completion of the Straight Path which is Islam, by supplementing right action and belief with matters of the heart. While considering the origins of Sufism within Islam, this course concentrates on Sufism in its integrity, focusing on the nature of Sufi path, its historical transformations, and its theological-doctrinal and metaphysic underpinnings. Thus, the course offers the student an opportunity to explore the continuities of Sufism with more conventional forms of Islam as well as its innovativeness, but importantly concentrates on an 'appreciation' of the Sufi path in its own right.


REL 361.51 Religion & Film

51 M, W 5:35 pm - 6:50 pm, room 206 Hunter West, Adluri

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 410.01 Independent Study

01 Days/location TBA, Staff permission required

REL 410.02 Independent Study

02 Days/location TBA, Staff permission required

REL 410.03 Independent Study

03 Days/location TBA, Staff permission required

REL 450.57 Honors Seminar

01 W 4:10 pm - 6:50 pm, room 1241 Hunter West, Sproul

Advanced research and writing in a scholarly and collegial atmosphere. Twelve or so students meet once a week in a seminar setting to read and discuss interesting books and ideas and to plan and talk about their individual research projects. Research papers of 30 or more pages are required. (Prereq: Five courses in Religion; Permission of Program Director required; for majors or CUNY-BA students focusing in religion only.)

REL 490.03 Honors Tutorial

01 Days/location TBA, Staff

3 credits, Permission of Prof. Sproul required

REL 490.06 Honors Tutorial

01 Days/location TBA, Staff

6 credits, Permission of Prof. Sproul required

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