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2019 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 8:10-9:25am Troy (Room 205W)

02 M,W 4:10-5:25pm Foote (Room 205W)

03 Tu, Th 8:25-9:40pm Kelly-Nacht (Room 205W)

04 Tu, F 2:10-3:25pm Grass (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, Th 7:00-8:15pm Silver

02 M, Th 4:10-5:25pm Long

03 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Grass (Room 205W)

04 M, W 8:25-9:40pm Foote


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 Raver (Room 205W)

REL 205 Faith and Disbelief

Many people say they have faith in something or someone; others lose their faith or never had faith to begin with. This course examines the nature of faith and disbelief in the modern world. What does it mean to have faith? Why is faith difficult today? What happens when faith is lost? We will look at a range of responses to these questions from modern philosophers (especially existentialists) and thinkers in the Abrahamic traditions. Readings will include Camus, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heschel, and Iqbal.

01 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50pm Silver (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 Mattew, Wiesel, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich.

01 Tu, F 3:45-5:00pm Grass

REL 208 Religion and Social Justice

While religions usually agree that securing a socially just world is a goal, there are disagreements, within religions and among them, about exactly what goals and how to achieve them.  This course explores connections between religions and justice issues related to the natural environment, oppression and equality in society, war and peace.  We use readings from a range of traditions to illustrate various views. 

01 Tu, F 9:45-11:00am 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, W 5:35-6:50pm 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 Tu, F 2:10-3:25pm Sproul

02 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Kelly-Nacht (Room 205W)


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, Th 1:10-2:25pm 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 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm James

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 Tu, F 9:45-11:00am Picayo

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 M, Th 2:45-4:00pm Raver (Room 205W)

REL 26160 Religion and Healing
Various cultures hold different attitudes in their approaches to healing.  What are the shared characteristics of people who have been considered healers?  How does one's own suffering shape his/her idea of God?  What is the role of the Earth?  Is there a difference between curing and healing?  How have the scientific revolution and the development of Western Medicine shaped the way we understand healing today?  Through the use of religious texts, fiction, guest speakers and art we will examine approaches to the body, suffering, death and healing.

01 W 10:10am-1:00pm Picayo (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 Tu, Th 4:10-5:25pm Silver (Room 205W)

02 M,W 7:00-8:15pm Foote


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 1:10-4:00pm 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 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 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 8:10-9:25am 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, Th 9:45-11:00am 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, W 5:35-6:50pm Rahman

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 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 11:10am-12:25pm Breiner (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, 3 cr.)

HRSTBA Staff (Permission Prof. Sproul required) (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)


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 4:10-5:25pm Troen (HW412)


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 (HW409)


HEBR 294 Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Human Predicament

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


M, Th 2:45-4:00pm Troen (HW 412)


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 (HW405)


PHILO 221 Indian Philosophy

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

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



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