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2015 Fall

Tentative Schedule. 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 9:45-11:00 Sproul

          02 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Rhodes (Room 205W)

          03 Tu, Th  19:00-20:15 Raver (Room 205W)


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, W 13:10-14:25 Long

          02 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 James (Room 205W)

           03 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 M, W 17:35-18:50 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 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 Tu, F 12:45-14:00 Tirana (Room 205W)


REL 209 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 10:10-1:00 Hawk


REL 251 Asian 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.

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

         02 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 Cerequas


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 17:35-18:50 Raver


REL 253 Abrahamic 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, F 11:10-12:25 Tirana (Room 205W)


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 12:45-14:00 Sproul


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


REL 257 Religions of Ancient Central and 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.

              01 Tu, Th 20:25-21:40 Herrera


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, W 20:25-21:40 Haltenberger (Room 205W)


REL 307 Religious Ideas in Literature

This course will discuss literary works from various cultures, contrasting different approaches to similar issues:  the meaning of life and death; the role of the individual in terms of the group; the nature of good and evil; the possibility of 'justification', meaning, grace and transcendence.  (Readings from authors such as Achebe, Camus, Dostoevsky, Endo, Lagerkvist, Mason, Mishima, Sartre, and Wiesel.)


          01 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Sproul


 REL 310 Religious Meanings 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.

           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.

           01 M,W 19:00-20:15 Bruinius (Room 205W)


REL 318 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, W 16:10-17:25 Haltenberger (Room 205W)


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.

          01 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Adluri


REL 321 Buddhism

This course is designed for students to gain a clear and substantial knowledge of the foundations of Buddhist teachings. It begins by examining the life of the historical Buddha, using his biography to recognize and define the major tenets of Buddhism, which include the Four Noble Truths, or the doctrine of Buddhist teachings and the Noble Eightfold Path, or the discipline of practice. Building on that foundation, the course includes several Buddhist sutras, such as The Dhammapada and The Diamond Sutra. The application of those principles is then explored through several biographical and autobiographical accounts of Buddhist masters from varying traditions. This overview includes a look at the common threads, as well as significant distinctions of doctrine and practice that occur among the various schools of the Buddhist religion.

           01 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Rhodes


REL 323 Christianity

This is a course on the doctrinal and liturgical components of Catholicism, 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 14:45-16:00 Breiner (Room 205W)


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 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Breiner (Room 205W)


REL 326 Religious Meanings of the Qu'ran

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


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.

          01 M, Th 9:45-11:00 Adluri


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 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Raver (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.

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


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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