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2015 Spring

Course offerings for the Spring 2015 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 M, Th 8:10-9:25 Rhodes (Room 205W)
            02 M, W 20:25-21:40 Raver
            03 Tu, Th 15:35-16:50 O'Neil

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 12:45-14:00 Huffman (Room 205W)

          02 Tu, Th 20:25-21:40 Haltenberger


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, F 9:45-11:00 Tirana (Room 205W)

          02 Tu, Th 16:10-17:25 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 11:10-12:25 Sproul


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, W 17:35-18:50 Cerequas (Room 205W)


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 14:10-15:25 Huffman (Room 205W)


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.

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


REL 253 Abrahamic Religions

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are collectively known as the Abrahamic Religions.  One reason for this is that Abraham is considered the progenitor of Moses, Jesus, and Muḥammad, the figures particularly associated with each of the three religions.  However, Abraham himself has always been a central figure in each of the three religions.  The fundamental outline of his life is clearly similar in each of religion.  The understanding of the spiritual significance of the figure of Abraham differs dramatically between them.  Abraham becomes the model Jew, the model Christian, and the model Muslim.  In this course, we look at how Abraham is viewed in each of these religions, and we use this as basis to explore basic aspects of each religion, such as doctrine, worship, and ethics.
Before doing this, however, we will look briefly at the foundational documents of each faith, the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Qur’ān, and we will look at the story of Abraham as it is told in the Bible and the Qur’ān.

          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 257 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.

           01 M, W 19:00-20:15 Raver


REL 261.59 Faith and Reason

Is faith fundamentally opposed to reason and rationality? Today, a popular answer is simply, 'yes.' Our investigation, however, will explore this question more deeply and seek out the modern roots of this secularist response in the traditions of Western theology and philosophy. Focused primarily on thought developed in the nineteenth century "critique of religion," our readings will include constructive, critical, and conservative applications of reason to the meaning, value, and truth of faith. Authors considered will include Kant, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. As diverse and apparently distant as these thinkers are, we will see how the approaches and concerns they developed came to inform many of the attitudes about religion we find in contemporary culture. Finally, we will consider the ways in which these philosophies contributed to the creation of “Religious Studies” as an academic discipline.

           01 W 10:10-1:00 Cerequas


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


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 M, W 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, F 11:10-12:25 Tirana (Room 205W)



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 Cerequas (Room 205W)


REL 317 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 Tu 19:00-21:40 Bruinius (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 (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.

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



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 14:45-16:00 Adluri (Room 205W)


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 9:45-11:00 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."

          01 Tu,F 15:45-17:00 Kelly-Nacht


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.

          01 M, Th 11:10-12:25 Breiner


REL 361.52 Religion and Poetry

The course will delve into poetry and religion from a comparative perspective. Beginning with Tillich and theopoetics, the course will be geared towards an understanding of poetry as way in which to witness and interpret the world, a way in which both meaning making and understanding/accepting a of lack of meaning are attempted.  Christian poets, Sufi poets, Buddhist poets, Indigenous poets, and finally a unit on poets and poetry not associated with particular traditions but whose work articulates and exemplifies the ideas of Tillich’s Ultimate Concern will all be read. The readings will cover a range of time periods and a plethora of perspectives.  We will engage with the work intellectually and creatively; using the word-craft and vision of the poet to illuminate the particularity of experience, a particularity which just might reflect the universal. 

           01 Tu, F 9:45-11:00 Huffman


REL 361.54 The Idea 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 Tu, Th 19:00-20:15 O'Neil


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

HRSTBA Staff (Permission Prof. Sproul required) (1241W)


REL 450.65 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) (1241W)

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