(for 2012–2013 academic year) Professors
Carter, Frank (Chair)
, Hicks, Kepnes, Martin, Sindima, Vecsey NEH Professor of Humanities
Deegalle Associate Professors
Cushing, Kent Assistant Professors
Musa, Reinbold, Spevack Senior Lecturer
The Department of Religion at Colgate offers a program of study of major religious traditions and introduces students to the enduring questions of human life. The program challenges students to examine the nature and expression of religiousness, and to think critically about rituals, practices, and theories of religion.
Making reflective use of the full variety of liberal arts methods, the study of religion is necessarily interdisciplinary; it engages related issues in philosophy, ethics, society, spirituality, science, gender, sexuality, arts, and politics. The department offers a variety of courses regarding diverse African, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American traditions and scriptures. Recognizing the multiple ways in which religion is embedded within human history and cultures, the department also offers focused courses on issues of historic and contemporary importance, such as religion and the environment, women, genocide, health and healing, and the relations among global peoples of faith. Religion’s courses offer training in a unique combination of skills, including close textual analysis, direct observation, critical thinking, and cross-cultural understanding.
A major or minor in religion may also serve as a natural complement to other majors. Students who major in history, international relations, peace and conflict studies, or political science will find that a minor or second major in religion allows them a better understanding of many of the longstanding ideological conflicts that have shaped the contemporary world. Students in the natural sciences who intend to enter the fields of medicine and health sciences will find that courses in religion equip them to evaluate the moral complexity of current scientific advances. Students in the arts and humanities will find that the study of religious texts and worlds affords them greater insight into much literature and visual art. A major in religion provides excellent preparation for a number of careers, including education, government, journalism, finance, law, social work, and professional service in non-profit organizations and religious institutions.
A major in religion consists of ten courses, a minimum of eight of which must be departmental courses. Normally no more than three of these courses may be at the 200 level. Only one of the total number of courses may be an independent study. Required Core courses cannot be counted toward religion requirements. All majors in religion are required to take RELG 202, Introduction to the Study of Religion
, and RELG 352, Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
. At least one 400-level seminar is also required of all majors. In consultation with the student’s adviser and the department chair, a student may elect to count up to two Colgate courses from outside the program in religion for religion major credit. These courses may be in the study of a language, provided that the student has planned these courses in advance and in consultation with his or her adviser and the department chair. A student who has received approval from the registrar to transfer credit for a language course not taught at Colgate (e.g., Biblical Hebrew, Hindi, Sanskrit), may petition the chair for the approved transfer credit to count toward the major. Relevance to the student’s program of study in religion must be demonstrated. For graduation, the religion department requires a minimum GPA of 2.00 in courses chosen to count toward the major/minor.
Building upon the knowledge gained in departmental courses, in consultation with a faculty adviser, majors will create an opportunity to convey publicly something of what they have learned while in the program. Before the end of the senior year, each major — individually or in collaboration with other majors — will make a presentation beyond the classroom: a public lecture, an exhibition, a conference paper, an op-ed essay, and so forth. This ungraded presentation, which is required of all students, will likely come out of a course (e.g., the senior seminar), but may synthesize insights gained from several courses. An honors thesis (and defense) satisfies this requirement.
A minor in religion consists of five courses in religion, no more than three of which may be at the 200 level. The structure of the minor can be designed in consultation with the student’s adviser. As RELG 202, Introduction to the Study of Religion
provides an excellent introduction to the study of religion; students are encouraged to take it in their first two years. The department strongly recommends that students undertaking the minor also take RELG 352, Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
A major in philosophy and religion consists of ten courses, eleven if seeking honors. Five of these must be in philosophy, and five must be in religion. No more than three of these courses may be at the 200 level. Only one of the ten courses may be an independent study, or two if seeking honors. Of these ten courses, three are normally required as follows:
a. PHIL 201, Introduction to Philosophical Problems
, or PHIL 213, Ethics,
or PHIL 226, Philosophy of Religion,
or RELG 202, Introduction to the Study of Religion
, as an entry to the major;
b. RELG 352, Theory and Method in the Study of Religion;
c. At least one 400-level seminar in either philosophy or religion, considered a capstone of the major.
At least five courses should be focused upon a particular area of interest, which a student enters into with a plan to follow through in an integrated manner. This approach is intended to give students several options while also giving them direction, so that the joint major brings disciplinary integrity to interdisciplinary study.
The department does not offer a minor in philosophy and religion.
All candidates for honors in religion and those majors in philosophy and religion who wish to write on a religious theme are required to take an advanced course in religion in the fall of the senior year. At the end of the course, the faculty member may recommend that a student’s paper be reworked into an honors thesis.
In the spring of the senior year, candidates for honors normally take an independent study (RELG 490
) with their honors adviser. The honors thesis — a substantial piece of research, analysis, or critique — is turned in to the adviser several weeks before the end of the term. If the adviser decides that the thesis can stand for honors, the honors candidate meets during exam week with his or her adviser and two other faculty readers and fields questions: the honors defense. Ideally the question and answer session becomes a forum for intellectual exchange between the student writer and the faculty readers. A student is awarded honors on the basis of both the quality of the written thesis and the conduct of the honors defense. No student can be awarded honors, however, who does not have at least a GPA of 3.40 in his or her major.
See “Honors and Awards: Religion” in Chapter VI.
cannot be presumed since examinations in this area are not given.
Transfer credit for graduation requirements may be awarded by the registrar on the basis of course syllabi and requirements and advice from the department. To assess transfer credit for major requirements, however, the same documents plus the student’s written work in the course (i.e., exams, papers) must be submitted to the faculty adviser for evaluation. The department chair receives a recommendation and is responsible for deciding whether to award major credit. Normally no more than two transfer credits may count toward major or minor requirements. Seminar credit is not transferable.
During the spring semester the Department of Religion, in conjunction with the Department of Philosophy, offers a study group at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland’s first university, founded in 1413. Other than the director’s course, which is taught by a Colgate faculty member, students take courses of their choice from among those offered by the University of St. Andrews, at which they are enrolled for the semester. The department has also organized extended study programs to Israel, Japan, and Sri Lanka. See “Off-Campus Study Group Programs” and “Extended Study Programs” in Chapter VI. RELG courses count toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry/humanities distribution requirement, unless otherwise noted.
201 Contemporary Issues and Values: Moral Conflicts in the 21st Century Staff
Many issues confronting us today raise profound value questions. Some issues have roots in the past; others have emerged in our times. Resources to address these issues are likewise both ancient and contemporary. This course explores dimensions of several moral concerns, many of which challenge democratic values, social justice norms, and human rights. Themes of power, justice, human flourishing, and compassion thread through the topics addressed by the course. Issues addressed may include genocide, terrorism, war, and torture; environmental injustices; gender and sexualities; race issues; immigration and refugee dilemmas; reproductive issues; sexual violence; concerns about the “other” and valuations of difference; the effects of poverty and class disparity. In learning about these topics students examine religious and philosophical texts, ideas, and values which suggest resolutions. A central focus is how to live meaningfully in light of the problems in our society and world. 202 Introduction to the Study of Religion Staff
This course seeks to introduce students to the academic study of religion, emphasizing a variety of approaches. Instructors touch on such themes as differing interpretations of texts and scriptures, religion’s role in organizing communities, religious constructions of gender and sexuality, and humanity’s converse with natural and supernatural worlds. Students are encouraged to think about both the nature of religion and approaches to its study. In what ways is religion a basic response to and expression of the human condition? How are conceptions of the sacred shaped by societal institutions and structures? How do these conceptions reshape and, in turn, contest the societies that shape them? A common aim of the course is to open the concept of religion to critical scrutiny and prepare the way for advanced work in religious studies. 208 Hebrew Bible L. Cushing
This course acquaints students with the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and to Christians as the Old Testament. The course offers an understanding of the cultural world out of which the Bible came and of the modern cultural world it helped create. The primary approach to the text is literary, with the syllabus roughly following the canonical order of the Hebrew Bible and class discussion focused primarily on the text itself. Another emphasis is the ways the Bible has been interpreted by subsequent religious communities and the role of the Bible in American life. This course is crosslisted as JWST 208
. 209 New Testament G. Frank, C. Martin
This course explores the writings collected in the New Testament and related ancient literature as sources for the history of early Christian communities in the first century of the Common Era. The origins of the Jesus movement within Judaism and its growth in various religions and cultural settings of the Graeco-Roman world are considered.
210 Torah (The Five Books of Moses) L. Cushing
The Torah/Pentateuch (the first five books of the Jewish and Christian scriptures) was the first part of the Bible to be regarded as scripture and has played a central role in modern debates over the nature of scripture. This course explores the theological import of the Torah for Jews and Christians, and investigates critical issues in the modern study of the Torah, including its composition, literary form, canonization, and interpretation in modern biblical criticism. This course is crosslisted as JWST 210
. 211 Nevi’im (The Prophets) Staff
This course focuses both on the phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israelite society and on the texts concerning this prophecy within the Hebrew scriptures. Students wrestle with questions regarding functions, genres and forms, compositional history, historicity, and theology (nature of God, inspiration, etc.) in the prophetic writings. The scriptures are the primary source material for understanding the social and religious phenomenon of Hebrew prophecy; outside material is also considered. This course is crosslisted as JWST 211
. 212 Ketuvim (The Writings) L. Cushing
The Hebrew Bible is often thought of as univocal, presenting itself as the word and the law of the God of Israel. The Writings, known in Hebrew as Ketuvim, constitute the third part of the Hebrew Bible and show just how varied the Bible can be. The literature in this group is diverse: it comprises religious poetry (Psalms, Lamentations), love poetry (Song of Songs), wisdom writings (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), theological history (Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah), didactic fiction (Ruth and Esther), and apocalypse (Daniel). In reading these books, students consider the cultural, historical, and social worlds that shaped these writings. Particular emphasis is placed on the interrelationships between the writings’ literary forms and their theological meaning. This course is crosslisted as JWST 212
. 214 Introduction to the Qur’an Staff
This course is designed to introduce students to the various ways in which the Qur’an has been received in history and continues to be received today. Students examine the theological, legal, literary, historical, mystical, and modern approaches to the Qur’an in an attempt to understand holistically various methods of exegesis and their ramifications. Throughout, the class engages in the debates that have historically surrounded the Qur’an and explore methods of interpretation both classical and modern, especially those of fundamentalists, reformists, and feminists. No prerequisites. This course is crosslisted as MIST 214
226 Reason, Religion, and God S. Kepnes, B. Stahlberg
This course examines the similarities and differences between rational and religious understandings of God. By pursuing close readings of classic texts in the field of philosophy of religion, this course considers how both philosophical and religious ideas are often developed together. The course explores various arguments about the rationality of God as responses to wider intellectual, cultural, and historical contexts in which they are made and to the specific shape and needs of a particular religious tradition (e.g., Catholicism, Protestantism, or Judaism). The course also explores the “rationality” of religious forms such as scripture, symbol, ritual, and prayer. In different semesters, select themes such as revelation, theodicy (the justification of God in the face of human suffering), providence and free will, or the theism/atheism debate are investigated.
232 Health and Healing in Asian Religions E. Kent
This course explores several Asian medical systems and practices, including yoga, Ayurveda, Indian shamanism, Japanese new religions, and Chinese medicine, all of which are grounded in the belief that the body is a microcosm of universal, macrocosmic processes. Students begin their investigations of these “exotic” healing traditions by reflecting on how illness functions as a metaphor in 20th-century North American culture. How does one’s own conceptualization of disease affect one’s experience of it? Does the way one imagines disease reflect larger social processes, such as those based on gender or class? These questions inform students’ investigations of health and healing in Asian religions. The course is organized around a systematic examination of the models of the body that people in China, Japan, and India have used for centuries to heal from illness, maintain good health, and, in some instances, aspire to a state of super-health that transcends the limitations of bodily existence altogether.
234 Women and Religious Traditions L. Cushing, E. Kent
This course examines autobiographical, biographical, descriptive, and historical materials that present and analyze the lives of women in the context of various religious traditions. In a given term, the course focuses upon specific geographical areas, historical periods, and/or religious traditions. 235 Religion, War, Peace, and Reconciliation H. Sindima
This is a course on the role and function of religion toward peace and reconciliation. Students examine the scriptural, theological, and ethical teachings of various religions on justice, conflict resolution, peace, and reconciliation. Students also examine the theological writings on justice, war, and peace by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Schleiermacher. Using concrete case studies of conflict and reconciliation, students explore the teachings of African religion, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam on nonviolence, peacemaking, relationship of peace and justice, as well as evaluate the negative and positive contributions of these religions toward conflict. Students examine religious and interreligious conflicts (Northern Ireland, India/Pakistan), religious language and symbols (Rwanda), current attempts at peace reconciliations (Bosnia, Liberia), and the role of religions and the causes of situations of conflict (the Middle East). Of particular interest is an examination of situations in which the political process was shaped and defined to a greater degree by religious leaders and their communities (South Africa). 236 Religion, Science, and the Environment H. Sindima
In the 17th century, religion lost its claim to the cosmos; the religious knowledge of the order of nature ceased to possess any legitimacy in the new paradigm of science that came to dominate the West. Until the 1960s, Christian thinkers considered it the great glory of Christianity that it alone among the world’s religions had permitted purely secular science to develop in a civilization in which it was dominant. After several centuries of an ever-increasing eclipse of the religious significance of nature in the West and neglect of the order of nature, humans are now experiencing environmental crisis: global warming; the destruction of the ozone layer; climatic and weather pattern changes; soil erosion; death of animals, birds, and marine life; and the disappearance of some plant species. Today the very fabric of life is threatened and the future of our world hangs in the balance as nature is threatened by destruction caused by an environmental crisis that has gone unchecked for several centuries. What can be learned from religions of the world that will save humanity and nature? What is the relationship between religion, nature, science, and technology? Discussions include views from various religious traditions concerning nature, the concept of the human, notions of progress and destiny, faith and science, ecological theology, ecofeminism, justice and sustainability, and spirituality. 243 Religion in America E. Kent, C. Vecsey
This course studies selected significant religious questions, themes, and texts from American religious history. While the specific issues and topics vary, the course is typically organized around an investigation into the challenges and opportunities presented by America’s extraordinary religious pluralism. Issues examined may include: inter-religious encounter from Columbus to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, religion on the American “frontier,” the counter-cultural appropriation of Asian religions, the experience of migration, church-state relations, religion and media, and religion and social justice movements in America. 247 Death and Afterlife G. Frank
This course examines the many ways humans have attempted to anticipate, accept, deny, defeat, or transcend death. Does one have a soul and does it survive? Is immortality possible? What techniques have people used in efforts to achieve it? Is there a “good” way to die? The focus is on scriptures and rituals of Buddhists, Hindus, ancient Greeks, Jews, and Christians, and their legacies for contemporary America. Topics include body and soul, heaven and hell, spiritism, ghosts, reincarnation, resurrection, near-death experiences, relics, funerals, cremation, and cemeteries. 248 Christianity, Islam, and Political Change in Africa H. Sindima
The course explores how Christianity and Islam have caused or influenced conflict and division or greater political and social freedoms in Africa. Select countries are examined as case studies: Nigeria and Sudan for conflict and division; South Africa and Malawi for democratization of society. The course covers the spread of Christianity and Islam, colonial (British, French, and German) policy and Christian missionaries’ attitude toward Islam, separation of religion and state (the debate over Islamic Law, Shar’ia), and religion and politics. Movements within Islam (Islamic brotherhoods, Madhist movement) and Christianity (liberation, black, womanist/feminist theologies) are also studied. 251 Faith after the Holocaust S. Kepnes, B. Stahlberg
The death of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis in the Second World War represents a radical challenge to faith in Judaism, in Christianity, and in humanism. The course begins with a historical overview of the Holocaust and uses accounts of Holocaust survivors to articulate the challenge of the Holocaust to faith. It then reviews philosophical and theological responses to this challenge by Jewish and Christian authors. The weak as well as the heroic human figures in the Holocaust are studied. Those Jews who survived with their humanity intact and those non-Jews who helped them are the most important witnesses to the resiliency of the human spirit which we now have. This course is crosslisted as JWST 251
. 253 Sex, Love, and God: Religion and Queer Studies E. Kent
This course takes a cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary approach to the questions of how the social and cultural significance of sexuality has been shaped by religious discourse, myth, doctrine, and ritual. How have various forms of sexual expression come to be seen as normal, while others are seen as deviant? How has passionate love served as metaphor for the expression of religious experiences, such as the union of the soul with God? How have people thought to “channel” sexual energy to pursue spiritual projects, as in tantra and religious celibacy? Topics of study may include marriage, different- and same-sex love, virginity, celibacy, sacred prostitution, ecstasy and mysticism, and the role of transvestites, transsexuals, androgynes, and third-gender people in religious myth and ritual in contexts such as Christianity, Hinduism, Native American religion, and Islam. No prerequisites. Juniors and seniors need permission of instructor. 255 Church, State, and Law in America J. Reinbold
The question of the proper relationship between religion and politics within the United States is deeply complicated and, beginning in the 20th century, has been a topic of intense political and social contention. This course presents an exploration of this question from three interrelated perspectives: classical and contemporary political theory, 20th- and early 21st-century Supreme Court jurisprudence, and current dilemmas surrounding the foundation and enforcement of universal human rights values. This course familiarizes students with a variety of influential theories and church-state separation as well as a number of key Supreme Court cases pertaining to the meaning and scope of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The final portion of the course brings these questions of religion to bear upon today’s quest for international legal standards. 264 Religion and Disability Bioethics C. Martin
Religious texts, ideologies, and practices have for centuries been profoundly implicated in the stigmatization, pathologization, and normalization of disability as deviance. Near Eastern and biblical ideological constructions legitimating the exclusion of cultic leaders with disabilities in liturgical practice, religious traditions certifying disability as divine punishment by the gods (God), disability as moral failing, and medieval theoretical concepts of the impaired body as reflecting an “impaired soul” receive close analysis. Enjoining Disability Studies as a burgeoning and interdisciplinary academic field of critical inquiry, the course also incorporates insights from disability historiography to examine the broad continuum of attitudes about disability as a socially constructed category of embodiment and experience, including the genocidal results of eugenic idealism and the repressive effects of America’s late-19th and 20th century “Ugly Laws” — notorious legal precepts restricting people with disabilities from inhabiting public spaces. The course concludes with an analysis of pressing philosophical and religious debates about bioethics and disability (e.g., the moral permissibility of killing people with disabilities, and the ethics of prenatal screening, selective abortion, and genetic engineering). 283 Living Judaism: The Jewish Year
This course is crosslisted as JWST 283
. For course description, see “Jewish Studies: Course Offerings.”
286 Living Catholicism C. Vecsey
Central to this study is the understanding of Roman Catholicism as a living, dynamic religious tradition. The time frame is mainly from the Second Vatican Council to the present. Topics include the Church’s self-understanding, the historical context of American Catholicism, cultural pluralism within the United States and globally, and contemporary issues such as social and economic justice, sexuality and reproduction, grassroots liberation efforts, environmental concerns, ordination of women, and inclusive language and images.
287 Reformation and Revolution: The Spirit and Forms of the Protestant Vision in Europe and America H. Sindima
This course considers the Protestant tradition in Europe and the United States. The great theological doctrines of the Reformation of 16th-century Europe are examined: salvation by grace, the authority of scripture as opposed to ecclesiastical edicts, freedom of conscience, the priesthood of all believers, and separation of church and state. The great themes articulated by Luther, Calvin, and others constituted a challenge to established authority that involved the Church, the monarchies, and the dissenters. The Protestant tradition that emerged gave rise to new conceptions of political order that profoundly impacted the ideological, social, and political foundations of the United States. Protestant vision contributed heavily to biblical metaphors shaping American self-understanding. Protestant vision and Protestant thinkers gave rise to various forms of Christian communities, such as the Society of Shakers, and provided the impetus for reform movements such as abolition of slavery, the Social Gospel, Prohibition, and the Civil Rights movement. 301 The Christian Tradition H. Sindima
This historical study of the development of the central Christian beliefs examines the development of the early creeds, the emerging of ecumenical consensus, and philosophical elaborations. The course highlights African contributions and involvement in the ecumenical councils (the first 500 years) that made major decisions concerning the central elements of the Christian tradition.
305 Heresy and Dissent in Ancient and Medieval Christianity G. Frank
This course explores the understandings of the terms “heresy,” “heterodoxy,” and “orthodoxy.” Students focus on writings from the second through the seventeenth centuries excluded from the Christian Bible (e.g., the “gnostic gospels”). The second part of the course shifts attention to heresy in medieval and early modern Europe, with a focus on English and Scottish movements (e.g., Lollards, witch-hunts) and the verbal as well as violent opposition to their ideas and practices. In addition to reading primary sources in translation, students also consider the relation of heterodoxy to ideas of gender, class, authority, power, and ethnicity. 306 Dying for God: Martyrdom and Noble Death in Judaism and Christianity C. Martin
This course examines the intrinsically linked discourses and practices of violence, martyrdom, and noble death from the 8th century BCE to the 13th century CE. Theorizing the social constructions of martyrdom and noble death within their discrete classical and medieval context (what make one a martyr, what make a narrative a “martyr text”), the course foregrounds the sobering and heroic experiences of Jews and Christians who experienced the spectacle of suffering and public self-sacrifice in the face of political and religious persecution with resolute determination and impassioned certitude. Selected readings combining primary documents (in translation) and modern scholarly reconstructions are used to undertake critical analyses of the wide-ranging continuum of motives inspiring men, women, and children to die invicti (unconquered by the fear of death), paying the penultimate price to advance the interests of divine justice, to enlarge the ranks of those engaged in radical counter-imperial resistance, and to sanctify the name of God. Close analyses of the developing mythic frameworks, rhetoric, artistic, and iconographical representations, and other textual records that coalesced to render suffering redemptive and meaningful receive particular scrutiny. The course concludes with assessments of the institutional and communal models of commemoration that emerged and have persisted in the collective memory of the admirers of early martyrs and heroes through the centuries. No first-year students admitted. 307 Jewish Religious Traditions L. Cushing, S. Kepnes
This course is an introduction to the Jewish religion in its various historical contexts and in relation to the academic study of religion. The course moves through four key eras in Judaism: the biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern periods. The foci of the biblical section are ideas of nation and covenant, law and community, priesthood and prophecy. With the rabbinic period, students examine Judaism after the destruction of the Temple when the locus of religious life turns to the synagogue, Torah study, and the home. The treatment of the medieval period touches on issues such as Torah commentaries, Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), philosophy, and relations with non-Jews. Central topics in the modern period include Haskalah (Jewish rationalism), Holocaust, and the creation of the state of Israel; the flourishing of American Jewry; and the trend toward humanistic and egalitarian movements in Judaism. Throughout the course, students focus on the dynamics of Judaism as a religion that generates multiple expressions and “traditions” in which innovation and change emerge through asserting continuity with the past. No prerequisites. This course is crosslisted as JWST 307
. 314 African Religious Traditions H. Sindima
This course is an exploration of the nature and varieties of indigenous African religions. Issues examined include cosmology; concepts of divinity; ancestors; person; meaning of sacrifice; symbols and ritual practice; the relationships among art and religion, politics, and religious institutions; and the challenge of social change, Christianity, and Islam to indigenous religions. In addition, students examine the different methods used in studying African religions. 317 The Bible as/and Literature L. Cushing, C. Martin
What role does literary art play in the shaping of biblical narrative? How does the construction of the sacred text reflect its theological meaning? The religious vision of the Bible is given depth and subtlety precisely by being conveyed literarily; thus, the primary concern in this course is with the literature and literary influence of the received text of the Bible rather than with the history of the text’s creation. As students read through the canon, they establish the boundaries of the texts studied, distinguish the type(s) of literature found in them, examine their prose and poetic qualities, and identify their surface structures. Students also consider the literary legacy of the Bible and the many ways that subsequent writers have revisited its stories. This course is crosslisted as JWST 317
. 318 American Indian Religions C. Vecsey
The course introduces students to the variety of American Indian traditional religions and historical religious movements. After an evaluation of the methods used in understanding Indian religions and a survey of culture areas, students look at American Indian concepts of the supernatural, mythology, ceremonialism, dreams and visions, medicine, witchcraft, shamanism, nature-relations, and conceptions of the soul. Navajo, Lakota, Skagit, Inuit, Hopi, and Ojibwa religions are described in some detail, in order to show how the individual characteristics are integrated; then the class examines the effects of Christian missions and the most important religious movements among American Indians since white contact: Handsome Lake’s Religion, Ghost Dance, Peyote Religion, and others. First-year students are admitted by permission of instructor. 321 Religion in Modern India E. Kent
Through close readings of 19th- and 20th-century tracts and debates, mythological and ritual texts, oral traditions, novels and scholarly studies, this course examines the wide-ranging social effects of colonial rule on Indian religious traditions, especially Hinduism, and the creative responses of Indians to the challenges and opportunities of modernity. Emphasizing the political and social dimensions of religion, the course engages topics such as religious change and social mobility, the changing role of women in religion, the religious roots of the movement for Indian independence, religious violence and Gandhian non-violence, the rise of religious nationalism in India, and the development of Hinduism in diaspora. No prerequisites, although familiarity with the religions of India through courses such as CORE 166C
, RELG 322,
or ARTS 244
is advised. 322 Hinduism: History of a Tradition E. Kent
As one of the world’s most ancient, complex, and fascinating religious traditions, the study of Hinduism provides an ideal arena for examining central questions in the study of religion. Through close readings of primary texts in translation, this course focuses on the history of Hindu traditions from their origins to the development of devotional movements in medieval and early modern India. Following a chronological order, these texts include the hymns of the ancient Vedas, the investigations into salvific reality in the Upanishads, the religious epics, devotional poems in praise of gods, religious philosophy (Yoga and Advaita Vedanta), and classical mythology. While exploring the variety of forms Hinduism has taken, the class engages broader questions in the study of religions such as the construction of religious authority, the definition of the good life, conceptions of the soul, differences between elite and non-elite styles of religiosity, and the significance of gender in conceptualizations of the divine. 324 The Teachings of the Buddha: Theravada — The Way of the Elders Staff
This course is a study of the teachings of the Buddha as cherished in the Theravada Buddhist tradition in India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Southeast Asia. This “tradition of the elders” is one of the oldest religious traditions known to humankind, a tradition that has formulated responses to fundamental human issues, quite different from those proposed within theistic movements. Emphasis is placed on key expressions of the human predicament, the make-up of the individual, the life context as morally significant (karma), conceptions of salvific truth, the practice of meditation, and the notion of liberation, among others, that have arisen as a result of responses in faith made by men and women in India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Southeast Asia.
325 The Path of the Buddha: Mahayana — The Great Vehicle Staff
The path of the Buddha, the “Great Vehicle” (Mahayana), one of the most profound manifestations of religiousness in the experience of humankind, developing in and emanating from India, has spread to and continued to develop among persons living in China and Japan. This course investigates the formative structure of this path in India, considering such notions as “emptiness,” bodhisattva, buddhaness. It traces the development of that structure in China, leading to a consideration of forms, from Zen to the Pure Land school, among others, that the path has taken as a result of responses in faith made by men and women in Japan.
328 Experiencing Islam A. Spevack
This course conceives of Islam as a cumulative tradition beginning with the event of the Qur’an and the paradigmatic example of Prophet Muhammad. The unfolding of this religious tradition is traced through the formation of Shi’i and Sunni schools of Islamic thought, the schools of law, the subtleties of Islamic mysticism, nuances of philosophical thought, and creative artistic expression in the form of calligraphy, music, and poetry. The course concludes with two sections: an overview of the multi-faceted responses of Muslims to the challenges of modernity and post-colonialism, and the contemporary debates about the status of Muslim women and their self-understandings.
329 Islam in the Modern World Staff
This course examines the key issues with which Muslim thinkers in the modern period (defined here as the colonial and post-colonial periods) have been concerned. A significant portion of the class is spent examining liberal Islamic thought, in the sense of intellectual responses that have taken the engagement with modernity seriously. As such, students critically examine some Muslim responses to post-colonialism, feminist and womanist constructions, democratization of politics, pluralism, religious violence, extremism, and authoritarianism. The class consists of close reading and discussion of texts.
330 Religion in Contemporary America C. Vecsey
Religion continues to exert major influences upon the shape of American life at the beginning of the 21st century. This course studies themes and controversies in American culture for the past few decades, focusing upon the study of religious diversity and the changing religious landscape of America; issues of church and state; religion and politics; and religious ideas and values as they have shaped, and been expressed in, popular culture (art, the new media, music, television, and sports). 331 The Problem of Evil C. Martin
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does a benevolent, all-powerful God permit evil? How do thinkers who reject religious understandings of human perversity theorize about the genesis and manifestations of moral error and evil? Human suffering and evil disrupt and disorient people’s lives and interpretations of the world. Experiences of genocide, terrorism, epidemics, natural disasters, and personal and systematic experiences of violence, oppression, and injustice have compelled people to address the problem of evil in every age. This course explores historical, philosophical, and religious perspectives on the etiology, manifestations, and functions of human suffering and evil within human societies. Particular attention is given to 1) explanatory theories about the problem of evil by post-Enlightenment philosophers, 2) explanatory theories arising from the theological problem of evil (Why does God permit evil?), and 3) constructions of the etiology of evil and responses to evil by feminists, womanists, and men and women within different societies and religions. Thinkers include Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, the Marquis de Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Augustine, and Hannah Arendt, Nel Noddings, John Mbiti, Toni Morrison, Eli Wiesel. 332 Contemporary Religious Thought H. Sindima, B. Stahlberg
The course begins with selected historical perspectives on the connections among religion, violence, and power as a context for contemporary studies of the role of religion in society. Most of the course focuses on liberation theologies, with their emphasis on hope, empowerment, and right relationships. Voices of liberation theologians may be drawn from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as marginalized people in the United States. The latter include womanist, mujerista, Latino/a, Asian-American, African-American, Jewish, homosexual, and feminist groups; most integrate personal experience with theological reflection. 333 Religious Faith and Social Ethics S. Kepnes, B. Stahlberg
Social ethics pursues questions about how human societies ought to organize themselves and their relations to other communities in order to realize human values. For many people around the world, religious faith provides the ultimate framework for value decisions. Texts include works by earlier religious leaders of movements for social-political-economic justice (e.g., Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.) as well as very recent works addressing current issues such as ethnic/international/religious conflict, environmental devastation, globalization, and religious terrorism. In addition, one or two texts develop basic models for religious social ethics. This course is crosslisted as PCON 333
334 Women and Religious Thought C. Martin
The rising awareness of women’s experiences in religious traditions within the last 30 years has deeply revised and enlarged the religious thought, practices, and commitments of women and men alike. This course in contemporary religious thought examines reconstructions of religious meaning and spirituality by feminists from multiple religious and ethnic/racial contexts. Students review the emergence of womanist (“black feminists, feminists of color”), mujerista (Hispanic), and Asian feminist theologies. The course foregrounds notable thinkers who revise established religious traditions and practices (e.g., Jewish, Christian, Islamic), inclusive of radical feminist and/or goddess spiritualities that break with mainstream traditions. 337 Islamic Mysticism A. Spevack
This course seeks to engage the mystical interpretations of Islam (Sufism) as simultaneously one of the most important historical manifestations of the Islamic experience and one of the most pertinent ones for understanding Islam in the contemporary situation. Themes explored in this class include the tradition of love mysticism embodied by Rumi, the metaphysical formulations of Ibn al-Arabi, the formation of Sufi orders, the various meditative techniques, and Sufi poetry. The class also explores the controversies surrounding Sufism in the contemporary scene, ranging from attacks on Sufism from Muslim fundamentalists to the role of Sufism in the spread of Islam in Europe and North America. This course is crosslisted as MIST 337
. 339 Modern Jewish Philosophy S. Kepnes, B. Stahlberg
This is a course on European and American Jewish thought, covering a spectrum of liberal and traditional figures. The course studies the ways in which Jewish thinkers have responded to the challenges of modern philosophy, religious pluralism, and feminism. Modern reformulations of traditional Jewish ideas and religious practices are discussed as well as contemporary theological exchanges between Jews and Christians. Readings are taken from such figures as Mendelssohn, Buber, Rosenzweig, Heschel, Fackenheim, and Plaskow. Previous courses in the Jewish tradition and/or philosophy are recommended. This course is crosslisted as JWST 339
. 340 The Land of Israel
This course is crosslisted as JWST 340
. For course description, see “Jewish Studies: Course Offerings.”
341 The Enlightenment and Religion H. Sindima
Is religion based on rational ideas or deepest human fears and projections — mere feelings? What is the nature of truth? Is philosophical truth different from religious truth? The debate between faith and reason has been going on for a very long time, dating back to the early church. Many people today still wonder whether a sensible, rational person can be religious — that is, have faith in God. While this debate goes back in time, it was the Enlightenment, the age of reason, that articulated and sharpened the question concerning the nature of truth; hence, the debate on faith and reason. In this course students are exposed to the array of ideas and views concerning religion since the Enlightenment. Issues include the nature of truth, miracles, faith, sin and evil, and the nature of Christian religion. Works by Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Marx, Hegel, Feuerbach, Schleiermacher, and Kierkegaard are examined. 343 Gender and Judaism L. Cushing
The focus of this course is the creation and conception of gender within Judaism. Students explore the ways in which gender is built into the scriptures, structures, institutions, and ideologies of Judaism, into Jewish religious, cultural and social life. According to Genesis, from the beginning there were male and female. To what degree are these two categories essential? To what degree artificial? How do religion and tradition enforce the gender divide, and in what ways can they be used to blur the distinctions between male and female? This course is crosslisted as JWST 343
. 349 Hermeneutics: The Theory of Interpretations H. Sindima
This course is on the theory of interpretation of written, oral, or social text. The main focus of the course is to trace the history of hermeneutics from the earliest times to the present. Attention is on the crisis of meaning, or the problem of explanation and interpretation in modern European science and philosophy, a problem that gave rise to the development of modern hermeneutics. Students explore the universality of hermeneutics from biblical hermeneutics through philosophical hermeneutics to almost all branches of disciplines of learning. 352 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion Staff
This course takes a critical look at the history of religious studies in the modern West and proceeds to chart some contemporary developments. Some of the issues that may come under investigation include, but are not restricted to, the quest for a science of religion, the impact of gender and race theory on religious studies, theories of religion and violence, the secularization of academic approaches to religion, and the nature of religion itself. The broad aim of this course is to deepen reflection on the ways in which religion can become an object of study. 405 Sacred Texts Staff
This course offers an intensive study of a corpus of sacred texts from a religious tradition, considering the nature of sacred texts and their functions in a religious tradition. The course may be repeated for credit on different texts, e.g., a book of the Bible, the Qur’an, the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the Navajo Creation Myth. Recommended: prior coursework in religion, or permission of instructor. 415, 416 Advanced Topics in Religion Staff
417 Religion, the Body, and the Senses G. Frank
This seminar explores the problem of knowing God through the body, words, and images. What can be said about God? What must be left unsaid? Topics include the nature of religious language, sense perception, and religious knowledge, verbal and visual imagery, and meditation techniques. 420 Religion, Nature, and Environmentalism in South Asia E. Kent
Religious thought in South Asia is replete with images of sacred rivers, trees, mountains, stones, animals, plants, stars, and planets. From the extraordinarily strict vegetarian diet of Jainism, to the daily tending of Tulsi plants, regarded as the incarnation of a Hindu goddess, many Indic religious practices and rituals demonstrate reverence for the earth and nature. And yet, virtually all the countries of South Asia, from Tibet to Sri Lanka, are facing environmental crises of monumental proportions. Is it possible to transform people’s religious reverence for elements of nature into concrete action to protect and conserve natural resources? Religion is one of the most powerful motivating forces in the world today; it is also among the most divisive. Can and should activists seek to enlist religious sentiments in the service of environmental projects? The course begins by examining the environmental history of South Asia paying particular attention to how the landscape and environment have shaped religious thought, and how religion has shaped people’s relationship to the land. Students investigate several religious traditions found in South Asia, which may include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, tribal religions, Christianity, and Islam. Through case studies, students examine how religious leaders have responded to various ecological crises to generate support for particular environmental projects and campaigns.
426 Faith in a Religiously Plural World Staff
This seminar investigates a dimension of human self-consciousness that has been addressed by means of the English word faith. Specifically, this seminar considers what leading authors have meant by the term faith and whether the notion communicated by this term might represent a generic category for understanding human religious history and our religiously plural world today. The seminar recognizes that faith is a word having been informed by the Western (European) intellectual heritage. It inquires whether faith might be global in its applicability: how, and to what extent. Consequently, the starting point for consideration is Christian, and an attempt is made to see whether a sense of faith might be extrapolated to indicate a core dimension of religiousness found in the major religious traditions of the world. Students are expected to have completed some study of at least two religious traditions, normally determined by successfully completing at least two courses offered in the department, each dealing with a different religious tradition or heritage, prior to enrolling in the seminar. 446 Philosophy and Faith Staff
The course explores the complex relations among God/spirituality, world/politics, and self/embodiment. Central to understanding their meaning and connections are underlying philosophies/world views, the nature and practice of faiths and theologies. Included are readings from classical theologians, 19th- and 20th-century philosophers of religion, and contemporary liberation spiritualities from the United States (focusing on race and/or gender), Latin America, and other cultures. Throughout the course students are encouraged to examine the readings — and themselves and their world — to ascertain the interrelationships among spiritualities, politics, and embodied selfhood. Preference is given to majors and seniors. 490 Honors
291, 391, 491, 591 Independent Study RELG 490
are normally open only to majors, and RELG 591
to graduate students.