Religious Studies Courses

The religious studies major and minor are composed of a variety of classes across the disciplines. Below, you will find a description of both the core REL courses and those from other disciplines, composing the Global Perspectives, Disciplinary Approaches, and Electives categories.

Core Courses

REL 100: Religions of the World:
An interdisciplinary study of multiple world religions in their cultural, historical and political context. Students will investigate topics including belief structures, ritual systems, sacred literature, social dimensions and historical development of various religious traditions. The course will include identification and comparison of key aspects of religion across traditions. Fulfills one of the Foundation - Social and Behavioral Sciences. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Offered every semester.

REL 200: Introduction to Religious Studies: Concepts, Methods & Traditions
An interdisciplinary introduction to the history and traditions of major world religions, identifying and applying basic terminology and conceptual frameworks in the field of religious studies. Offered fall and winter semesters.

REL 300: Contemporary Theories and Issues in Religious Studies
An analysis of how contemporary religions have been reframed in response to the secular and scientifically-oriented world, including the religious response to globally diverse religious perspectives. Topics may include religion and spirituality, fundamentalism, nonWestern religions, feminist perspectives, and religion and environmentalism. Offered winter semester.

REL 380: Special Topics in Religious Studies
Various topics courses emphasizing the practice of religious studies in relation to a contemporary problem, issue, or theme. If content differs, may be repeated for credit. Credits: 3

Winter 2016: Religion and the Sciences of Origins. We will examine the claims of the Abrahamic traditions about the origins of the world and life and the relationships of such claims to scientific theories on the origin of the universe, life, humans, morality, and even the gods themselves. Students interested in taking this course for  3 hours of elective credit in the REL program should register for Winter 2016 MW 3-4:15 in HON 214.

REL 399: Independent Readings in Religious Studies
An interdisciplinary and scholarly or creative project initiated by the student who has special interest in religious studies not available in the current curriculum. Student, faculty, and advisors agree on the scope of the study, its components, and methods of evaluation. May be repeated for credit if content differs. Credits: 1-4

REL 495: Religious Studies Senior Seminar
An integration of various disciplinary and/or contemporary approaches to the academic study of religions, including the role of religious studies in professional and cultural settings. Students will develop and present a problem-based senior thesis on a contemporary problem or issue. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisites: Senior status, REL 200, and REL 300.

REL 499: Independent Studies in Religious Studies
Independent research and investigation in religious studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. May be repeated for credit if content differs. Credits: 1-4

Global Perspectives on Traditions Courses Credits

LIB 300: Jewish Scriptures and Traditions

Focusing in the textual heritage of Judaism, the ancestor of Islam and Christianity as well as a vibrant religion today, this course explores Jewish traditions and rituals as they originated throughout history and as practiced today in the world’s diverse Jewish Communities. Offered alternate years.

MES 350: Islam: Scripture and Ritual

The purpose of this course is to deepen the students’ understandings of Islam in its religious, social, and historical contexts, i.e. to understand how Muslims live and what they believe. Offered winter semester.

PHI 210:  Eastern Philosophy

Because the world is getting smaller, the scope of our knowledge and vision must expand. This course introduces students to major philosophies of the East, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, through the study of classic texts. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Offered fall and winter semesters.

REL 305: Christianity: Scriptures and Tradition

This course examines the sacred stories, rituals and historical development of the three major traditions of the Christian religion: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. It surveys the development of Christianity from its Jewish and Hellenistic roots through contemporary attempts to translate the Christian faith for the 21st century. Offered fall semester.

Disciplinary Approaches Courses Credits

ANT 315: Comparative Religions

A crosscultural study of contemporary religions. Examines the diversity of religious meanings through the lived experiences of cultures, traditions, and sects around the world. Exposes students to anthropological interpretations of religion through a range of methods, including ethnography. Themes include symbolisms, ritual, death, shamanism, healing, magic, pilgrimage, and interfaith movements. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Part of the Identity Issue. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

LIB 335: Sacred Texts - Global Contexts

A comparative study of sacred texts as literary masterpieces that shape and influence their respective cultural expressions and literary traditions. This interdisciplinary course will examine the multiple intersections of sacred texts with the many faces of globalization. Readings may include selections from: Rig Veda, Upanishad, Bible, Qur’an, and Tao Te Ching. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Part of the Globalization Issue. Offered fall semester. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

PHI 343:  Philosophy of Religion

Does God exist? Is there a life after death? How did evil enter the world? Is there any place for reason in religion, or is religious faith only a matter of subjective experience? Questions like these will be considered, as well as the answers that have been given to them by some important religious philosophers. Prerequisite: Prior work in philosophy or permission of instructor.

PLS 330: Religion and Politics in America

Explores the interaction of politics and religion in the United States. Surveys the political beliefs, behaviors, and organizations within major religious traditions. Other topics include the role of religion in crafting public policy, the politics of church and state, and general theories of religion and public life. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisite: PLS 102 or junior standing.

PSY 385: Psychology of Religion

A systematic study of psychological theories and empirical data on religious phenomena. Consideration will be given to various definitions of religious belief; the psychological explanations of religious behavior; the dynamics of religious thought, the relationships between religion, positive mental health, and psychopathology; and the social functions served by religion. Offered every academic year. Prerequisite: PSY 101.

SOC 357: Sociology of Religion

Critically analyzes religion as an institutional structure and belief system and explores the relationship of religion to social change and organization. Emphasis on religion in the contemporary United States; includes attention to nonWestern influences. Offered fall semester.

HNR 312: The Terror of Monotheism (SWS)

This course analyzes the ideological and material formation of monotheistic religious identities, historical and modern, and how those identities restrict forms or types of social engagement with the surrounding world. It starts with this basic hypothesis: monotheism, in its different forms, is a product of a contest for authority that begins in the material world. This course is only offered in Winter 2016 and needs instructor permission to add the course and advisor permission to count the course in the category.

Electives Credits

ANT 316: Death, Burial, and Culture

This course examines how different cultures approach issues and customs surrounding death. Drawing on evidence from biological and cultural anthropology and archaeology, students learn from the dead by exploring the experience of death and how it illuminates life in different cultures around the world and through time. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Offered fall semester. Prerequisite: ANT 204, ANT 206, ANT 220, or permission of instructor.

CJ 405: Terrorism

A survey of modern domestic and international terrorism. Examines the structure and dynamics of terrorist groups, types of terrorist violence, and justification of violence. Analyses of geographical regions, religion, ideology, technology, counter measures, media, and mass destruction. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

CLA 315: Ancient Religion

A study of the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient world, emphasizing the religious traditions of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Near East. Topics include views of the afterlife, temples and sanctuaries, religion in daily life, “mystery” religions, and the rise of the monotheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity. Offered fall semester. Prerequisite: WRT 150.

ENG 204: World Mythology

A comparative look at myths, folk tales, and fairy tales and how they derive from, and work on, the mind of a culture, both socially and aesthetically. Examines these tales as works of art in their own right and also as metaphors expressing a society’s major values, themes, and preoccupations. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisite: WRT 150.

HST 211: History of Islamic Civilization

An introduction to the history of Islamic civilization and the development of its relationships with Western Europe and the United States. Supplemental writing skills course. Fulfills Cultures - World Perspectives.

HST 311: History of Religion in the United States

This course is a study of the major developments in the religious history of the United States from the first North American colonies to the start of the twenty-first century, concentrating on the relationship between religion and other aspects of American history.

HST 337: The Age of Islamic Empire

A historical and cultural examination of the Islamic peoples from pre-Islamic Arabia to the end of World War I. Emphasis on social, religious, economic, and political factors during each phase in Islam’s development since the eighth century.

HST 342: History of East Asian Religions

Introduces the major East Asian religious traditions and their modern developments through historical perspectives; also explores religious interactions among East Asian countries as well as their indigenous traits. Readings include primary materials and interpretative secondary scholarship.

HST 376: History of Witch Hunts

Examines witch trials in various places and times across history, from a variety of perspectives, with emphasis on the marginalization of the accused witches within their communities. Geographical and chronological focus will vary, but may include early modern Europe, colonial North America, or contemporary Africa. Part of the Identity Issue.

MGT 340: Ethics and Business, Social Justice and Sustainability

This course explores the relationship between business development, social justice, and the growing emphasis on sustainable business practices (e.g. “conscious capitalism”). Business will be studied in a way that includes the study of community, commitment to the common good, and ones own values. Part of the Sustainability Issue. Offered each semester.

PHI 306: Eastern Great Philosophers

A study of one or several Eastern great philosophers, such as Lao Zi, Chuang Zi, Confucius, Mencius, The Buddha, Nagarjuna, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming. Focus will be on the philosophers’ writings, but attention also will be given to context and tradition. Offered Winter semester. Prerequisite: Prior work in philosophy or permission of instructor.

PHI 312:  Medieval Great Philosophers

A study of one or several medieval great philosophers, such as: Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Maimonides. Focus will be on the philosophers’ writings, but attention will also be given to context and tradition. May be repeated for credit, if content differs. Prerequisite: Prior work in philosophy or permission of instructor.

PHI 341: Philosophy of Death and Dying

A philosophical exploration of ethical, religious, and metaphysical questions about death and dying, such as care for the dying, euthanasia, suicide, life after death. What is a human being? The meaning of life? Our place in the universe? Classical and contemporary writings, East and West, will be examined. Offered fall semester.