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2009 Fall

Course offerings for Fall semester 2009


REL 110  The Nature of Religion

01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Sproul

02 M, W 4:10-5:25 Rhodes (Room 205W)                 

51 M, W 8:25-9:40 Adluri

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.

REL 111 Approaches to Religion

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

51 Tu, Th 8:25-9:40 Troy

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 9:45-11:00 Raver

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 206 Ideas of God

01 M, Th 1:10-2:25 Long

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
01 Tu, F 12:45-2:00 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

51 M, Th 2:45-4:00 Staff

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

51 M, W 5:35-6:50 Rhodes (Room 205W)

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

An introduction to the essential religious ideas in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on their foundational sacred texts with some contemporary interpretations. In addition, influences from Zoroastrian dualism, gnostic and mystical movements will be included.


REL 254 Tribal Religions
01 Tu, F 2:10-3:25 Sproul

In this course we shall be studying forms of religion as they appear among the indigenous peoples of Australia, the Pacific and North America. In particular, we will focus on the faiths of the Aborigines of Australia; of the Maori of New Zealand; of the Ngaju Dayak of South Borneo; of the people of Fiji and New Guinea; of the Trobriand Islanders; and of the Hopi, Sioux, Wintu, Lenape and Eskimo people of North America.... In our readings, we shall attend not so much to what people do religiously, but why they do it: the meaning of their religious behavior and the significance of their myths, creeds and religious philosophy will be our main concern. We shall investigate the ramifications of this world view in terms of attitudes toward God, the world, society and individuals. And we shall investigate how it manifests itself ritually in birth rites, initiations, vision quests and the sun dance. We shall also consider how people who held this view of the world fared under colonialism and the missionary faith of the westerners, and we shall see how their thinking came to reflect the meeting' of these cultures.... Throughout our discussions, we shall be concerned with the purpose and meaning of religion--how it is intended by its adherents, what structures of belief they hold in common, and what difference religion makes in their lives.


REL 261.55 Religion and the Stars: Astrology in World Religions

51 Tu, Th 5:30-6:50 Finn

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 262.54 Religions of Early Europe

01 M, W, Th 12:10-1:00  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 and Psychology 

01 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Cole

“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 complementarities 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, W, Th 11:00-12:00 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

51 M, W 7:00-8:15 Raver

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

Exploring the interaction between religion and politics, the course will focus mainly on Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the major religions most relevant to U.S. public policy views and actions today. We will consider religious foundations and interpretations in relation to modern historical factors affecting the emergence of some contemporary religious-political movements. Divergent views from within each religion will be presented, and we will investigate the religious resources for both war and peace. Throughout, we will seek to comprehend the logic of the stances and to develop informed questions about navigating the relationship between religion and politics.


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 The Problem of Evil

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

This course attempts to look at the problem of evil from various religions.  We begin with the idea of non-existence in the Egyptian religious system, personified as Seth, examine the demons of Mesopotamia, and then look at the dualistic Zoroastrianism religion.  Ideas concerning karma and non-existence in Hinduism and Buddhism will be discussed, as well as the Greek idea of the “five ages of man” and the “fall” into loosing oneself as examples of “evil” in the world.  We move from there into the idea of Satan as shown in the books of Genesis, Job, and the later prophetic writings, and then examine how this idea of Satan grew into the Christian Satan and later popularized “devil.”  Readings also include C.S. Lewis’ idea of suffering and of God’s goodness, William R. Jones and the issue of black liberation theology in the light of suffering, and the thought of Friederich Nietzsche, Albert Camus and Paul Tillich on the idea of existentialism, doubt, power to overcome, and courage. 


REL 321 Buddhism
01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Nordstrom (Room 205W)

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

01 M, Th 12:45-2:00 Hunsberger (Room 205W)

An introduction to the major concepts, practices, and texts of Islam, as well as an examination of the life and faith of the prophet Mohammed. A study of 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 7:00-8:15 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 333 Christian Theology
01 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Bruinius

Every religious tradition pauses to reflect upon its central religious experience; "theology" is the articulate expression of this reflection. In this course, we will examine the Christian form of theology with regard to key doctrines in key works: the doctrines of Trinity, Incarnation, and existence of God, and Grace--by way of a range of Christian theologians from the 5th century Augustine to the 20th century Barth.


REL 334 Mysticism

01 M, W 5:35-6:50 Adluri

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.

REL 340 Homosexuality in World Religions

01 M, Th 4:10-5:25 Long

This course will explore the various ways in which homosexuality has been accommodated, honored, and even institutionalized among some religious traditions of the world- - as well as explore the history and grounds for its condemnations among others. Although the main body of the course will focus on historical religions, the course will conclude with some attention to flashpoints of contemporary debate.


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

HRSTBA   Staff (Permission Prof. Sproul required)


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

HRSTBA Staff (Permission of Prof. Sproul required)

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