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2011 Fall

Course offerings for the Fall 2011 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.

          01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Sproul

          02 Tu, Th  16:10-17:25 Raver (HW 412)

          51 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.

          01 W 10:10-13:00 Herrera (HW 113)

          02 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 Huffman (Room 205W)

          51 M, W 20:25-21:40 Raver


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 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Raver (Room 205W)


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 Mattew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

          01 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Sproul


REL 208 Religious Ideas of 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.

          01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Huffman (HW 205)

REL 251 Eastern Religions

Religions proclaim attitudes towards each aspect of reality--personal,social,universal and absolute--and then use these attitudes to build structures of value and meaning which ultimately form the basis of the adherents' general outlook on life. In this course we are going to be studying the fundamental texts of Eastern Religions--Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Taoism--examining the basic attitudes of each faith and considering their implications for the lives of their followers. Although each of these religions is unique, certain common themes run through them and we will explore these as they concern ideas of "God", man, nature, society, and time. 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 people.

         051 M,W 19:00-20:15 Palitsky (HW 205)


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.

          01 M, W 19:00-20:15 Raver


REL 253 Western Religions

An introduction to the essential religious ideas in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, focusing on their foundational sacred texts with some contemporary interpretations. In addition, other influential religious ideas, such as Zoroastrian dualism and Gnosticism will be included.

          01 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.

          01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Sproul


REL 261.55 Religion and the Stars: Astrology in World Religions

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.

          01 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Finn


REL 261.56 Religion and Human Rights

Religion and human rights intersect in a variety of ways. The struggle for religious tolerance played a key role in the evolution of the human rights. Yet the quest for freedom of thought, conscience and belief remains unresolved in various parts of the world. It has been contended that religious beliefs about natural and moral order are the foundation of human rights. And as the movement for universal human rights swept the globe in the later part of the 20th century, scholars and religious thinkers have examined the contributions, compatibilities (and incompatibilities) of the worlds' major systems of thought, conscience and belief to the norms and standards of the human rights project. This course will examine these various intersections between religion and human rights.

         01 W 10:10-13:00 Hawk (HW 412)


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. This course,therefore, is a course in guesswork. We examine these early religious systems found in Europe, long before the classical Greeks, the Romans, and the Christian world redefined their existence, and attempt to consider them for what they actually were.

         051 M,W 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.

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


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 Tu, Th 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.

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


REL 313 Spirit and Nature

This course focuses on the ways in which religious world views bear upon our relations with nature and non-human animals. After grounding the discussion in historical reflection on the growth of ecological awareness and sensitivity to animal life and attending to the charge that religion has contributed to contemporary "ecological crisis", the course examines how the material of three spiritual traditions can be marshalled in support of ecological responsibility. It then considers the putative implications Darwinism entails for theism and the Western moral tradition. Lastly, it explores the consequences of "putting animals on the theological agenda" and concludes with an inquiry into how the understanding of the life of Jesus might be impacted when history is re-read in the light of such a project.

           01 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.

           051 M,W 17:35-18:50 Bruinius (HW 205)


REL 321 Buddhism

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".

           01 M,TH 11:10-12:25 Rhodes (HW 205)


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 W 9:10-12:00 Breiner (HW 205)


REL 323 Christianity

This is a course on the doctrinal and liturgical components of Catholocism, the Eastern Church, and Protestantism. Major doctrinal and liturgical differences exist between these Christian groups and the goal of this course is to understand how this is possible. Major themes will include the "essence" of Christianity, the early Church controversies, Christian "tradition," and the basis for reformed doctrine. The focus of inquiry will be both theological and historical, beginning with the religious context for Christianity and ending with the reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

          01 M,Th 9:45-11:00 Cole


REL 324 Islam & Buddhism

Islam and Buddhism provide an interesting contrast among the major world religions. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that does not depend for its coherence and efficacy on the existence of a supreme deity. Islam, on the other hand, is a theistic religion that believes that the ultimate meaning of human existence is related directly to a supreme deity, God (Allah). This course will devote half a semester to each religion, covering an outline of its history, an overview of its belief system, and a look at its practices. The course thus provides, in one term, a brief look at two very different paradigms of religious faith.

          01 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Breiner (HW 205)


REL 334 Mysticism 

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.

          051 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Adluri


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.

          01 M, Th 16:10-17:25 Long


REL 361.53 Atheism

We are used to thinking of atheism as the antithesis of all that religion is. But atheism as it appears in our modern world has many important roots that lie in 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"

           01 W 10:10-13:00 Cerequas (HW 410)


REL 361.55 Religion and Science

This course will use as its starting point Albert Einstein's statement that "Science without Religion is Lame, Religion without Science is Blind." We will continue from there to explore the relation between Science and Religion historically as well as exploring modern conflicts and dialogues. This class will investigate the ways in which different approaches can aid, detract from, and influence Science and Religion--two vital human endeavours. Our ultimate goal is to come to a deeper understanding of the complexity of this relationship and to learn how these two seemingly disparate modes of thought come together.

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


REL 361.57 Yogis, Mystics and Shaman

Exploration of similarities and differences among three types of religious professionals who are both feared and revered, focusing on calling, initiation, transformation, development of spiritual power, healing, sacrifice, and service. Topics include, but are not limited to, Siberian shamanism; Classical and Kundalini Yoga; and Orthodox Christian and Sufi mysticism.

           01 M, Th 13:10-14:25 (HW 205)


REL 362.50 Religion & the Body

This course will explore the various representations of the body in world religious traditions. Through an assortment of primary sources and secondary literature, we will examine what these traditions suggest about how the human body exists, perceives, engages with the world, creates, and participates in the moral and visceral fabric of life. We will approach the topic of the body and religion from philosophical, sociological, anthropological, and historical perspectives as we consider the relationship between the body and society, nature and culture, and the sacred and the profane.  Themes such as sexuality, gender, and disability will be discussed in our efforts to expand our understanding of what it means both to be a body and to have a body within the context of religious faiths and practices.

           01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 O'Neil (HW 205)


REL 362.54 Religion and Men

The focus of this course will be on interconnections between religion and warrior ideals in the construction of masculine identity in a select group of religious cultures. The course will include the following: a) a short comparison of ideas of manhood in a representative sampling of world religions; b) a study of the celebration of man as warrior in the Rg Veda; c) a consideration of early  Christian rhetoric commending Jesus and the celibate ascetic in terms of Roman martial imagery; d) a study of 19th c. definitions of manhood in Christian and Jewish cultures; e) a consideration of Barbara Ehrenreich's hypothesis accounting for the association of men with war.

           01 M, Th 13:30-14:25 Long


REL 390 Modern Theories of Religion

Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but is it religious?Is religion about culture and power structures or is this only one aspect of religion...and how important is that aspect?Do we need God to be religious?Do we need religious belief in order to be good?Is religion to blame for evil?Does religion, in the end, ask us to go beyond good and evil?Is there any "something" to religion for us to study, and can we ever finally say what that something might be?And what does all of this mean for "Religious Studies" today?These are just a few of the questions we'll wrestle with as we explore such influential (and sometimes) controversial thinkers as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Mary Douglas, Michael Foucault, Edward Said, Pierre Bourdieu, and Slavoj Zizek. Our readings and discussions will bring us into the heart of current arguments and problems in the field of religious studies.

            01 W 10:10-13:00 Cerequas (HW 410)


REL 410 Independent Study in Religion 1,2, or 3 credits

HRSTBA (permission Prof. Sproul required)


REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion 3 hrs. 3 crs.

HRSTBA (permission Prof. Sproul required)

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