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2021 Fall

*All courses HYBRID 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 Tu, Th 4:10-5:25 Foote 

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

03 M, Th 8:10-9:25am Rhodes (IN PERSON)

04 M, W 7:00-8:15 pm Raver


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 4:10-5:25 Long 

         03 M, Th 1:10-2:25 Raver 

         04 Tu, F 11:10-12:25 Grass


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 Tu, Th 5:35-6:50  Foote


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 12:45-2:00pm  Grass


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 W 10:10-1:00 Muyskens (ONLINE)


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 Picayo (ONLINE)   


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 5:35-6:50 Bruinius (IN PERSON)


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 8:10-9:25 am Finn (ONLINE)


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 2:10-3:25 Sproul 

        02 M, W 7:00-8:15 pm Long


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 2:45-4:00 Raver


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 11:10-12:25 Wyman


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 8:25-9:40 pm Kramer


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 2:10-3:25 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, W 4:10-5:25 Herrera


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 7:00-8:15pm  Foote


REL 311 Women and Religion

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 9:45-11:00 Tirana


REL 313 Spirit and Nature:  Ecospirituality

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 4:10-6:50  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 11:10-12:25  Rhodes (IN PERSON)


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 9:45-11:00 Rhodes (IN PERSON)


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 5:35-6:50 Breiner


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 9:45-11:00 Long


REL 324 Islam and 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 11:10-12:25 Breiner


REL 410 Independent Study in Religion

         01 HRSTBA  Sproul 


REL 490 Honors Tutorial in Religion

        01 HRSTBA  Sproul

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