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2017 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 M, Th 8:10-9:25am Rhodes

          02 Tu, F 8:10-9:25am Kellogg  (Room 205W)

          03 M, Th 5:35-6:50pm Raver (Room 205W)

          04 Tu, Th 8:25-9:40pm Menguc (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, Th 4:10-5:25pm Long

          02 Tu, F 8:10-9:25am Grass

          03 M, W 7:00-8:15pm Raver (Room 205W)

          04 Tu, Th 8:25-9:40pm Herrera (Room 205W)


REL 204 Religious Experience

This course is intended to provide some insight into the meaning of a particular dimension of human experience, the "religious experience."  While anyone who is religious could be said to be having a religious experience at each moment, we will not be concerned with this broad perspective but focus instead on the narrower view of the religious "breakthrough," that event through which a person becomes religious.  This will mean that the course will concern itself very much with non-religious persons, following them as closely as possible up to and through the point of their religious breakthrough.

          01 M, W 7:00-8:15pm Haltenberger


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, Th 4:10-5:25pm 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 9:45-11:00am Grass


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 11:10am-12:25pm 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 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50pm Bruinius


REL 211 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  1:10-2:25pm Raver (Room 205W)


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 9:45-11:00am Rhodes

         02 Tu, F 2:10-3:25pm Staff (Room 205W)


 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 9:45-11:00am Tirana (Room 205W)

          02 M,W 4:10-5:25pm James (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 11:10am-12:25pm 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 M, Th 2:45-4:00pm 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 7:00-8:15pm  Herrera (Room 205W)


REL 261.58 Religion and Healing

*Course Description TBA*

              01 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Amdur


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 8:25-9:40pm Haltenberger


REL 307 Religious Ideas in Literature

One of the most interesting ways to think about religion's attitudes toward reality is to consider their formulation, expression and development in literature.  While not reducing the art of literature to its 'ideas', the focus of this course will be on some of these formulations particularly as they concern images of the self, the group and God.  In discussing works from various cultures, we shall be able to contrast 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 in Achebe, Alexia, Camus, Craven, Dubus, Endo, Klay, Mason, Mishima, Sartre, Walker, Wiesel...

              01 W 10:10am-1:00pm 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 1:10-2:25pm 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 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50pm Cerequas (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 endeavors. 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 5:35-6:50pm Haltenberger


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 Tu, F 3:45-5:00pm Fleming


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 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Menguc (Room 205W)


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 9:45-11:00am 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 8:10-9:25am Breiner (Room 205W)


REL 326 Religious Meanings of the Qur'an

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 11:10am-12:25pm Breiner (Room 205W)


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 2:10-3:25pm Sproul


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 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Cerequas (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 11:10am-12:25pm Rhodes


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 2:45-4:00pm Long


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)



(Any of these courses can also be used to fulfill the Religion major)


ANTHC 307 Anthropology of Religion

Emphasis on non-Western societies; theories of religion, magic; functions and symbolic meaning.

              Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Staff (Room TBA)


HEBR 240 Introduction to Old Testament

Survey of the books of the Old Testament, their form, content and cultural background. Introduction to the tools and methods of modern biblical criticism.

               M, Th 11:10am-12:25pm Troen (Room TBA)


HEBR 292 The Hebrew Prophets

Study of phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israel and its contribution to historical, ethical and religious thought.

              Tu, F 9:45-11:00am Berger (Room TBA)


HEBR 294 Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Human Predicament

Study of form, content and religious significance of these two enigmatic masterworks.

              Tu, F 11:10am-12:25pm Berger (W408)


HEBR 296 The Dead Sea Scrolls, in English

Readings in the various genres of the scrolls; historical background of Qumran sect; significance of the scrolls for study of Judaism and Christianity.

              M, Th 2:45-4:00pm Troen (Room TBA)


PHILO 221 Indian Philosophy

Readings from classics of Indian philosophy, drawn from the Vedic, Buddhist and IndoTibetan traditions.

              M, Th 1:10-2:25pm Staff (W505)


SOC 205 Sociology of Religion

Comparative study of religion in human societies. Analysis of beliefs, myths and sacred attitudes.

              Tu, F 3:45-5:00pm Staff (W424)

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