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2012 Spring

Course offerings for the Spring 2012 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 11:10-12:25 Sproul

          02 W 9:10-12:00 O'Neil (HW 411)

          051 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 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 Palitsky

          051 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 (HW 205)


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 M,Th 11:10-12:25 Cerequas


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.

          01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Cerequas


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.

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


REL 251 Asian 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.

         051 M, W 19:00-20:15  Raver


REL 253 Abrahamic 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 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Smilios (HW 205)


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,W Th 12:10-13:00 Troy (HW 411)


REL 261.53 Religion and Sports

This course on the religious dimension of sport concentrates on a study of how world views are expressed in a culture's sports.  Beginning with a consideration of religiously contextualized sport such as the ancient Olympic Games and the Mesoamerican ball game, the focus turns first to American football, basketball, and baseball and then to soccer and 19th century boxing.  After an inquiry into the spiritual dynamics of 19th century "muscular Christianity" and of the modern Olympic movement, the course concludes with an attempt to discern an arguable sportive spirituality.

          01 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Long


REL 261.57 Religious Belief and Physical Practice: Taming the Body, Training the Mind

We exist in the world, and know about it, by means of our physical bodies. Whatever ultimate claims or proclamations a religious system might make, it is through the body and its practices that these are realized in daily life.  The question, “What to do with this body?” is near and dear to the projects of ethics, philosophy, worship, and salvation (or justice) that we undertake in both religious and secular life. In this class, we look at the physical practices through which religious beliefs are articulated, and the ways in which the body acts to mediate between the mundane and the transcendent.  We will apply the perspectives of comparative religion, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology, as we seek to understand the connection between religious experience and physical practice.

          01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 (HW 205) Palitsky


REL 261.58 Geography of the Sacred: Religious Meanings of Land and Space

This course is an exploration of sacred space in religion.  We will work with the concept of sacred geography by reading Mircea Eliade, David Brown, Gaston Bachelard, and Michel de Certeau (and others) and study the dynamics of sacred spaces in various religions.  The course focuses on sacred geographies (such as the Ganges River, Mount Meru, the Tuxtla Mountains,  Delphi, and others), examining the texts, practices, and representations of these places, with special focus on the idea of pilgrimage.  We also focus on the temple as sacred space, by comparing cultures such as Hindu, ancient Egyptian and Sumerian, ancient European, and Mayan.  Modern examples of geography and the sacred, such as Ground Zero and spaces of every day life, will be considered.

           051 M, W 17:35-18:50 Raver


REL 262.55 Religions of Ancient Central & South America

This class will explore a sample of the numerous pre-Columbian religious traditions of Mesoamerica, Central and South America. Using primary and secondary sources, we will examine how the inhabitants of these regions constructed and expressed their worldviews. One of the main questions to consider will be whether these religious traditions are products of cross-cultural or particular processes. We will also briefly address the contemporary manifestations of these traditions and their implications for modern populations.

          001 Tu, F 9:45-11:00 Herrera


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 (HW 205)


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.

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


REL 309 Religious Meanings 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: Feminist Theologies

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 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 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Adluri (HW 205)


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.

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


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 7:10-8:25 Finn


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 14:10-15:25  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 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Greenbaum (HW 205)


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


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."

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


REL 337 Sufism

Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, has been viewed within the Muslim community as being either profoundly un-Islamic or as the completion of the Straight Path which is Islam. This course will deal with the main aspects of Islamic mysticism, including some of the basic teachings and practices of the Sufis.  The course will also deal with some prominent Muslim mystics and different types of Sufi tradition.  In particular, the course attempts to place Sufism in the context of Islam as a whole and to discuss the relationships which have and do exist between Sufis and the rest of the Muslim community.


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


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  15:45-18:15 Bruinius (HW 205)


 REL 361.54 Ideas of the Monstrous in World Religions

At the boundaries of the familiar lies a vast landscape of terror. However, it is by the monstrous characters we have cast as the denizens of the unknown that we come to define the very shape of the known as well as our relationship to all that we cannot include in that familiar sphere, be they grotesque creatures or God. Our understanding of who we are, where we come from, and what will become of us is intimately linked to the past, present, and future we envision for our monstrous others. This class will explore the way monsters have populated the territory of the unknown in mono- and polytheistic traditions, in order to examine religious, ethical, and political understandings of ourselves and the Holy. To this end, we will engage in lively discussions on the nature of religion as exemplified by representations of monsters and the monstrous in literature, art, and film.

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


REL 363.56 Religious Meaning: Quran

For Muslims, the Qur'ān is the very Word of God.  As such, it is the basis of all aspects of the religion of Islam.  It is the primary source of law and ethics.  It is the primary source of the articles of faith and the basis of Islamic ethics.  It permeates every aspect of a Muslim's life.  This course examines the structure and contents of the Qur'ān, including the structure of its language as it applies to questions of interpretation and translation.  The course introduces students to a range of sources and methodologies for studying the Qur'ānic text.  The historical context for the compilation of the Qur'ān into its canonical form is sketched. Issues of coherence, textual relations and variant readings are discussed from the various viewpoints.  Questions about the dating, integrity, and authenticity of the text, as well as the relationship between Islamic and pre-Islamic scriptures are also addressed.  The interpretation of the Qur'ān is discussed in its various forms: legal (fiqh), exegetical (tafsīr – both classical and modern), mystical (Sūfī), as well as its various genres: ḥadīth-based, grammatical, philosophical, modernist. Various particular matters such as scriptural abrogation, multi-valence, occasions of revelation, etc. are examined in their appropriate contexts.

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

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

HRSTBA Staff (Permission Prof. Sproul required)

REL 450.62 Honors Seminar in Religion

01 W 16:10-18:50 Sproul (1241W)

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

HRSTBA Staff (Permission of Prof. Sproul required)

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