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2016 Spring

Tentative Schedule. *Classes held in room 206W unless otherwise noted*

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

02 M, W 19:00-20:15 Raver (Room 205W)

03 Tu, F 9:45-11:00 Kellogg


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 Adluri (Room 205W)

          02 Tu, Th 19:00-20:15 Herrera

          03 Tu, F 15:45-17:00 James


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 19:00-20:15 Haltenberger


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 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Cerequas (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 Matthew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

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


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 9:45-11:00 Tirana (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

          02 Tu, Th 17:35-18:50 Kelley


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


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 16:10-17:25 Long


REL 256 Afro-Caribbean Religion

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


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 10:10-13:00 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 M, W 17:35-18:50 Haltenberger

          02 Tu, Th 16:10-17:25 Cerequas (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 Tu, F 12:45-14:00  Raver (Room 205W)


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 14:45-16:00  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 313 Spirit and Nature

This course focuses on the ways in which religious world views influence our understanding of Nature and our relations to others in the natural world.  Emphasis will be placed on ecospirituality in various traditions.


            01 Tu, F 14:10-15:25 Sproul


 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 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 9:45-11:00 Adluri (Room 205W)


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 9:45-11:00 Rhodes


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

Christian theology involves the task of rendering the faith in such a way as to uncover its coherence, plausibility, and maybe even its persuasive relevance.· This course will explore the essential shape of Christian faith as it is framed in the work of such classic thinkers as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Luther--and in the contemporary work of James Alison and of Christopher Morse.

          01 M, Th 13:10-14:25 Long


 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


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 (Room 205W)


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

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


REL 450.66 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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