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2020 Fall

Course offerings for the Fall 2020 semester. (Note: All courses meet in room 206W unless otherwise indicated.) *Updated on 08/04/20*


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,W 4:10-5:25pm Stoloff (Room 205W)

02 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50pm Foote (Room 205W)

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

04 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm 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 M, W 7:00-8:15pm Stoloff

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

03 M, Th 11:10am-12:25pm Long

04 Tu,F 8:10-9:25am Picayo

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, F 2:10-3:25pm Grass (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 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, F 3:45-5:00pm 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 7:00-8:15pm 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 M,W 5:35-6:50pm Stoloff


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, Th 7:00-8:15pm Kramer

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 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 Tu, F 12:45-2:00pm Picayo


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,Th 8:10-9:25am Zurich (Room 205W)

02 Tu, Th 7:00-8:15pm Foote (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 2:45-4:00pm 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 M,W 5:35-6:50pm Raver (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 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 9:45-11:00am 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 11:10am-12:25pm 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 Tu, F 8:10-9:25am 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 2:45-4:00pm Raver (Room 205W)

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 Staff (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 11:10am-12:25pm Staff (Room TBA)


HIST 309 Jewish History in the Ancient World

The Jewish people from its origins to late antiquity; social and intellectual developments from Biblical to Talmudic eras.

M, Th 1:10-2:25pm Ruben (HW508)


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 (Room TBA)


PHILO 221 Indian Philosophy

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

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


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