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2011 Spring

Course offerings for the Spring 2011 semester (TENTATIVE)

(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.

          01 Tu, F 8:10-9:25 O’Neil

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

          51 M, W 20:25-21:40 Raver


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.

          01 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Finn

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

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


REL 204 Religious Experience

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?

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


REL 205 Faith and Disbelief

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.

          01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Sproul


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.

          01 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Sproul


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.

          51 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.

          01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Breiner


REL 255 Religions of Two Gods

This course explores religious traditions which conceive of the world as constituted by mutually exclusive, and indeed antagonistic, realities. Gnosticism and Manichaeanism were once historically potent movements, but are no longer practiced. Others, like Zoroastrianism and Jainism, are not only of historical importance, but still claim adherents. Dualistic currents of thought also manifest themselves in non-dualistic contexts. This course examines the major historical dualistic religions--and some of theological dualism's historical and contemporary step-children--to understand what accounts for the appeal of dualistic understanding and to appreciate the motivations behind the lifestyles to which they have characteristically given rise.

          01 M, Th 14:45-16:00 Long


REL 256 Afro-Caribbean Religions

This course is a survey of some of the most salient forms of African-based religions in the Caribbean and South America, and in New York City. The course will include some consideration of the transformations that have occurred in the journey of the belief systems from Africa to the New World, but the focus of the course will be on the integrity of the Afro-Caribbean forms of religion. The course will include not only attention to beliefs, but to art and ritual forms in which these religions have expressed themselves. In addition, the course will raise the question of the ongoing appeal of these religions.

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


REL 261.53 Religion and Sports

Description pending for this course. Please contact for more information at this time.

          01 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Long


REL 262.55 Religions of Ancient Central and South America

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. We will look at the two great traditions known as the Mesoamerican and Andean traditions 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. We will also address the modern manifestations of these traditions in the various forms that they have taken on today.

          51 M, W 17:35-18:50 Raver


REL 270 Psychology and Religion

"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.

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


REL 307 Religious Ideas in Literature

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.)

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


REL 308 Religion and the Arts

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.

          01 Tu, Th 17:25-19:00  Raver


REL 309 Religious Meaning of Love and Sex

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?

          01 M, Th 16:10-17:25  Long


REL 311 Women and Religion

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.

          01 Tu, W, F 9:10-10:00 Tirana


REL 320 Hinduism

A study of the nature of Hinduism and its development, literature, philosophy, and religious practices. Readings in such traditional texts as the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita, as well as in modern texts,will explore Hinduism's understanding of God, human beings, the feminine principle, society and community, time and history, and we shall study how these understandings develop from 2000 BCE to the 21st century.

          51 Tu, Th 19:00-20:15 Adluri


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.

          01 M, W, Th 12:10-1:00 Weinfield


REL 330 New Testament Religion

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.

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


REL 333 Christian Theology

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, existence of God, and Grace – by way of a range of Christian theologians from the 5th century Agustine to the 20th century Barth.

          01 M, Th 11:10-12:25  Cole


REL 335 Myth and Ritual

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.

          01 01 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Rhodes (Room 205W)


REL 336 Zen

An inquiry into the complex nature of Zen--thought by some as the essence of Buddhism, by others as a Buddhist-Daoist hybrid-- this course focuses on the intellectual difficulties in understanding a teaching which represents itself as "beyond words and phrases."

          51 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Nordstrom


REL 337 Sufism

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.

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


REL 361.51 Religion and Film

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.

          01 F  3:45-6:15 Bruinius 


REL 410 Independent Study in Religion



REL 450.58 Honors Seminar in Religion

          01 W 4:10-6:50 Sproul (Room 1241)


REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion



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