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2010 Fall

Course offerings for the Fall 2010 semester

(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.

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

          156 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 Raver

          051 Tu, Th 20:25-21:40 Adluri


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.

          001 Tu, F 08:10-09:25 O’Neil

          002 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Cerequas (Room 205W)

          051 M, W 20:25-21:40 Raver


REL 204 Experience of Religion

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 17:35-19:50 Raver


REL 206 Ideas of God

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.

          001 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Long


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 Matthew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

          001 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.

          001 Tu, F 11:10-12:25  Huffman (Room 205W)


REL 251 Eastern Religions

In an age of increasing encounter between very different cultures, it is critical that we attempt to understand religious traditions that are not historically our own. In this course we will encounter primarily the religious traditions of India (Hinduism and Buddhism) and China (Confucianism and Taoism). Readings are in sacred texts and secondary sources.

          001 M, Th 11:10-12:25  Rhodes (Room 205W)


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 Western Religions

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.

          001 Tu, W, F 9:10-10:00 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.

          001 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Sproul


REL 261.55 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.

          001 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Finn


REL 262.54 Religions of Early Europe

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.

          051 Tu, Th 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.

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


REL 310 Religious Meaning 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.

          051 M, W 19:00-20:15 Adluri


REL 312 Religion and Politics

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.

          001 Tu, W, F 10:10-11:00 Tirana


REL 313 Spirit and Nature

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.

          001 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.

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


REL 321 Buddhism

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.

          001 M, Th 13:10-14:45 Rhodes (Room 205W)


REL 322 Islam

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 sociocultural 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.

          001 M, W, Th 12:10-13:00 Weinfield (Room 409W)


REL 324 Islam and Buddhism

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.

          001 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Breiner (Room 205W)


REL 323 Christianity

An upper level introduction to the liturgical, doctrinal, and spiritual heritage of the various forms of Christianity.

          001 M, F 09:45-11:00 Cole


REL 334 Mysticism 

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.

          051 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 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.

          001 M, Th 16:10-17:25 Long


REL 361.53 Atheism

What does it mean today to consider oneself an atheist?  Is being an atheist a matter of preferring a particular set of values, or is more the absence of those values?  Do atheists have a coherent belief-system?  In answering this question, it helps to observe the historical moment when “atheism” changed from being simply an insult to a defended philosophical position.  Studying this evolution yields some surprises: we are used to thinking of atheism as the antithesis of all that religion is.  But in fact, atheism as we know it in our world today has many important roots that lie inside of 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.”

        001 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Weinfield


REL 361.56 Religion and Science

An exploration of the ways in which Science and Religion have related historically as well as in modern times.  As a class we will agree on a definition of both Science and Religion and work to discover their place in the human experience both historically and in modern times, exploring the relation between Science and Religion historically, theoretically, philosophically, and theologically.

        001 M, Th 14:45-16:00 Haltenberger (Room 205W)



REL 410 Independent Study in Religion



REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion


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