Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

You are here: Home » Religion » Course Offerings » By Semester » 2018 Spring


Document Actions

2018 Spring

Course offerings for the Spring 2018 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 Tu, F 11:10am-12:25pm Sproul

02 Tu, F 8:10-9:25am James

03 M, W 4:10-5:25pm Grass (Room 205W)

04 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Herrera (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 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Menguc

02 Tu, F 8:10-9:25am Grass

03 Tu, F 2:10-3:25pm James (Room 205W)


REL 204 Religious Experience (sec 01)
What is "religious" experience? In what various ways is it manifested? How does it affect people and religious traditions? Readings concern individuals and communities and include The Epic of Gilgamesh, biblical narratives, the Enlightenment of the Buddha, accounts by mystics, and Etty Hillesum's An Interrupted Life and Australian, Native American and Islamic rituals.

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

REL 204 Religious Experience (sec 02)

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.

02 M, W 7:00-8:15pm 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 M, Th 1:10-2:25pm Long


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 Mattew, 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, Th 5:35-6:50pm Bruinius

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 Tu, F 2:10-3:25pm 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 5:35-6:50pm Raver (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 M, Th 8:10-9:25am Breiner (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 M, Th 8:10-9:25am Rhodes

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 2:45-4:00pm 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 7:00-8:15pm Raver (Room 205W)

REL 258 Religions of Early Europe
Both Greek and Roman classical authors described the peoples north of the Danube River “barbarians,” tribes uncultured and illiterate, warlike and unmatched in their banality.We know from what they left behind, however, that this was far from true.We know very little about the tribes of ancient Europe, and even less about their religious systems. This course,therefore, is a course in guesswork. We examine these early religious systems found in Europe, long before the classical Greeks, the Romans, and the Christian world redefined their existence, and attempt to consider them for what they actually were.

01 M, Th 2:45-4:00pm 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 10:10am-1:00pm Cerequas (Room 205W)

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

02 Tu, Th 4:10-5:25pm 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 M, Th 1:10-2:25pm 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 4:10-5:25pm 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 11:10am-12:25pm Tirana (Room 205W)

REL 313 Spirit and Nature

Was the world created for people?  (Does it have any purpose at all?)  Are people superior to animals and the rest of nature? (And what do we mean by ‘animals’ and ‘the rest of nature’?)  Is there a separation between spirit and body, one immortal and the other mortal?  (And what is ‘spirit’?  And what is ‘body’?) Presumptions about the meanings and purpose of life—personal and universal—abound, as do our assumptions of anthropocentrism, dualism, and separateness. In this course, we shall seek some of the sources of these most foundational ideas and trace some of their effects, investigating how they shape our self-understandings, our ethics and even our scientific inquiries.  We shall also look at how such ideas influence our understandings of space/place and of time/seasons/ages.  Finally we shall study some of the most recent findings concerning consciousness in plants and animals, considering their implications for our understanding of ‘spirit and nature’ and their effect on our whole way of being in the world.


01 W 10:10am-1:00pm Sproul

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 M, Th 11:10am-12:25pm Rhodes

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 M,W 8:25-9:40pm Kelly-Nacht (Room 205W)

REL 322 Islam (sec 01)

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

REL 322 Islam (sec 02)

This class is designed to familiarize students with both the theological and historical issues regarding the religion of Islam and its followers. The aim of this introductory course is to provide students with a solid background on the studies of Islam and Islamic cultures. The course will first focus on the historical emergence of Islam, and how a network of empires was built using the religion as a central ideology. Afterwards the course will focus on key tenets of the religion and its thought structure. The latter part of the course is dedicated to Islamic scholars, in order to showcase the variety of theological, philosophical, scientific and cultural issues which they tackled. The reason for this structure is to conclude that Islam is not a monolithic religion. Islam is considered a Western religion, and it shares the same prophetic genealogy of Judaism and Christianity. Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam is not a homogenous religion, meaning that the theological and cultural interpretations of the teachings of the Qur’an and of the Prophet Mohammed are not singular or uniform. Perhaps the most important goal of this course is to explain that contemporary Islam is a multicultural and heterogeneous phenomenon.

02 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Menguc

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 9:45-11:00am 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 11:10am-12:25pm Breiner (Room 205W)


REL 360.01 Modern Theories of Religion: Alternative Canon

For every book, author, and approach covered in a course, there are several more that are set aside. While there are good reasons for many of the cuts that are made, some texts go overlooked largely as a matter of tradition. The unfortunate result is that many important, influential, and inspiring works have long gone without the recognition and study they deserve. In response to student requests, the Program in Religion offers this special-topics course on modern theories and methodologies in religious studies, focused on vital yet overlooked thinkers such as J. Kristeva, S. de Beauvoir, C. Clement, and H. Arendt.In a curious coincidence, it turns out that the vast majority of these marginalized voices just happen to belong to women. Though the possible reasons for that fact will not be an entirely avoidable topic of discussion, we will focus much more on the ideas in the texts than the identities of their authors.

01 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50pm Cerequas (Room 205W)

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

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

REL 450.68 Honors Seminar in Religion

01 W 4:10-6:40pm Sproul (1241W)

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

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



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


AFPRL 323 Islam & Christianity in Africa

Examination of relationship of Islam and Christianity to primary African religion and their political role in African history.

Su 9:10am-12:00pm Staff (HW 706)

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 9:45-11:00am Troen (HW 413)

HEBR 259 Old Testament Religion

Comprehensive survey of ancient Israelite religious practice, expression and thought as reflected in Hebrew Bible.

M, Th 1:10-2:25pm Troen (HW 413)


HEBR 292 The Hebrew Prophets

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

Tu, F 11:10am-12:25pm Berger (HW 623)

HIST 25003 The World of the Bible

The Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) is a library of works that reflect much more than one thousand years of ancient Jewish history that has attained immense spiritual authority in history and still in our time.· The Bible is a collection of many writings -- narratives, laws, poetry of various kinds, prophetic oracles, proverbs, reflections on life, wisdom, etc. These works were influenced by almost all the ancient civilizations of the Middle East from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Greeks and Romans.· Biblical writing relates to many great themes of human self-exploration: why there is a universe at all, what is the goal of history and why it full of turmoil, what are the supreme values, the meaning of collective and individual existence -- and suffering, the relation of faith, revelation, and spiritual redemption.· Biblical authors were reacting not only to internal problems of the people of Israel.· They not only borrowed from the surrounding cultures but viewed them critically. A historical concern of the course is how the biblical writings came in to be written down against a background of social turmoil, military upheavals, and power politics.· We will also discuss how the Hebrew Bible became a ground of ancient Christianity and rabbinic Judaism (and indirectly Islam).· Study of "the biblical world" is almost the study of world history in miniature.· No prior religious knowledge is required. A student who does have some background should find it challenged by the historical analysis of this course.

M, Th 1:10-2:25pm Ruben (HW 508)

HIST 320 Jewish History in the Modern World

From the 18th century to the present: Enlightenment, Jewish emancipation and nationalism, a Jewish state; anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; recent trends.

M, Th 11:10am-12:25pm Ruben (HW 508)

PHILO 219 ·Chinese Philosophy

Readings from the classics of Chinese philosophy found in Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist traditions.

Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Staff (HW207)

PHILO 262 Philosophy of Religion

Philosophical examination of some religious questions and beliefs.

Tu, Th 4:10-5:25pm Muyskens (HW 505)

SOC 205 Sociology of Religion

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

Tu, F 3:45-5:00pm Staff (HW 404)


« June 2024 »