(For 2014–2015 academic year)
Frank, Hicks, Kent, Kepnes (Chair
), Martin, Sindima, Vecsey
NEH Professor of the Humanities
Musa, Reinbold, Spevack
Visiting Assistant Professor
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 in the arts and humanities, for instance, will find that the study of religious texts and worlds affords them greater insight into much literature and visual art. Some students may seek to make stronger interdisciplinary connections. In consultation with an adviser, students may elect to create a track through the religion major or minor that brings their work in religion into dialogue with their work in other departments or programs. Possible tracks include: Religion, Politics, and Law
The department offers courses that examine the intersection of religion and politics in today’s world and historically, explore the legal frameworks of a variety of religious traditions, and ask students to think about the role of ethics and morality in public life. Students interested 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. Religion and Health
Students interested 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. A host of religion courses probe questions that are central to medicine and health: questions of body and soul, psychic states and mindfulness, sex and sexuality, life and death. These are treated in a variety of religious traditions, offering the pre-med student a comparative approach to health and healing.
The success of our graduates indicates that 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.
Major in Religion
A major in religion consists of ten courses, a minimum of eight of which must be departmental courses. At least three of these courses must be RELG courses at the 300 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 101, The World’s Religions
, 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. Capstone Experience
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.
Minor in Religion
A minor in religion consists of five courses in religion. Normally, no more than three courses at the 100 or 200 levels are permitted. The structure of the minor can be designed in consultation with the student’s adviser. As RELG 101, The World’s Religions
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
Major in Philosophy and 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 101, Introduction to Philosophical Problems
; or PHIL 111, Ethics
; or PHIL 226, Philosophy of Religion
; or RELG 101, The World’s Religions
, 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.
Honors in Religion or 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 re-worked 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. Advanced Placement
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 in Israel, Japan, and Sri Lanka. See “Off-Campus Study” and “Extended Study” in Chapter VI.
RELG courses count toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement, unless otherwise noted.
101 The World’s Religions
This course is an academic introduction to the variety of the world’s religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and the indigenous faiths of Africa and America. The class explores and compares religious beliefs, values, practices, rituals, texts, images, and stories, in their historical, cultural, and political contexts. It examines diversity and concordance within each tradition, encouraging students to reflect thoughtfully on the nature of religion and the ways it shapes communities and individuals throughout the world. Enrollment is limited to first-year and sophomore students. (Formerly RELG 202, Introduction to the Study of Religion.)
102 Religion and the Contemporary World
This course explores the mutual impact between religions and contemporary global issues. How do diverse religious individuals and communities address the prominent moral concerns of our times? What do religions offer the contemporary world, especially in an era in which secular, atheistic, and spiritual critics alike have singled out religion as a noxious influence in human society? Potential topics of focus include terrorism, genocide, religion and politics, war, gender and sexuality, health and medicine, poverty and class disparity, environmental justice, science and technology, and secularization. In examining such questions the class serves to sharpen our present-day understanding of religion and to provide students with a framework for making sense of some of today’s most controversial political, social, and philosophical issues. Enrollment is limited to first-year and sophomore students. (Formerly RELG 201, Contemporary Issues and Values: Moral Conflicts in the 21st Century
203 Comparative Religious Ethics
This course examines the ethical dimensions of a variety of religious traditions and considers them in light of one another. As a comparative course in the study of religion it aims to give students a better sense of what role religious traditions play in cultivating forms of moral thought and behavior, and how specific traditions might begin to think about ethical issues. That is, this course investigates how these traditions envision morality as such but also how they think concretely about violence, gender, poverty, and the value of human life. This comparative approach to the study of religion ultimately hopes to prompt students toward a consideration of what is, as well as what is not, ethical about these traditions.
204 Hindu Mythology
This course is an exploration of the Hindu gods and goddesses of India through their myths. For centuries Indians have been telling stories about the gods through sacred scripture, folklore, and pilgrimage traditions, and more recently in comic books, television series, and films. Through close readings of India’s mythic and epic texts communicated through diverse media, students gain an introduction to Hinduism as a dynamic, living religious tradition. Anyone attempting to understand the complexities of Indian culture, politics, and society soon encounters the gods and goddesses of the Hindu tradition. Besides introducing student to these fascinating figures and their stories, the course seeks to explore broader questions in the study of religion including the politics of gendered visions of the divine and the effects of the medium on the transmission of religious messages.
208 The Hebrew Bible in America
The Bible is not only the best-selling book in America, but is arguably the book that has most profoundly shaped the United States. This course is an introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its American contexts, particularly American public life. In reading the Hebrew Bible, students ask themselves how these scriptures have shaped American politics, culture, history, and literature. Who has used the Bible and how? To whom does the Bible now speak, and what does it say? In what sense is the Bible understood to be an American text? This course has no prerequisites and presumes no knowledge of the Christian or Jewish Bibles. This course is crosslisted as JWST 208
209 New Testament
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.
213 The Bible as/and Literature
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 213
214 Introduction to the Qur’an
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
216 Life of Muhammad
This course is a historical study of the life of Muhammad, from his birth in 570 CE to his death in 632 CE. The course includes (1) an in-depth introduction to the genres of hadith
literature, as well as the major works in those genres, the history of their compilation, and an evaluation of various authors and their works, from the perspectives of both Islamic and Western scholarship; (2) a biographical study of the life of Muhammad and his position in Muslim thought as the ideal exemplar: and (3) an examination of the lives of the women around Muhammad. This course is crosslisted as MIST 216
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.
228 Jerusalem: City of Gods
L. Cushing, S. Kepnes
This course is an introduction to the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In learning about the three Abrahamic religions and their sacred spaces, students are exposed to key themes in the study of religion (scripture and interpretation, feasting and fasting, pilgrimage, sanctuary and sacred space, ritual and worship) and to the particular theme of each religion’s conceptions of Jerusalem. The course foregrounds the ways that each tradition understands the city as a symbol — as a holy city, a city of God, a centre of the cosmos. As importantly, it explores how religion is lived within the city’s sacred geography, investigating the religious practices and sacred sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Jerusalem. This course is crosslisted as JWST 228
230 Feasting and Fasting: Religion and Food
This course examines a range of religious and cultural attitudes about food. What foods are celebrated? What foods forbidden? Who can eat what and when? Through a comparative approach to food restrictions and injunctions, feasts and fasts, and food-based rituals and liturgies in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu traditions, this course investigates the role food plays in defining religious boundaries and identities.
232 Health and Healing in Asian Religions
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, A. Musa
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
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
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 History of Religion in America
E. Kent, J. Reinbold, 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.
245 Religion in Contemporary America
C. Martin, J. Reinbold, 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). (Formerly RELG 330
247 Death and Afterlife
G. Frank, A. Musa
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, Muslims, 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
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
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
What do we mean when we talk about “the separation of church and state?” Where does this principle originate? Are there exceptions? This course explores the relationship between religion and law in the United States. Students consider the question of what Americans mean when they speak of the separation of church and state, and then explores the manner in which the US Supreme Court has attempted to implement this principle within American law. This course examines a variety of influential theories of church-state separation, and it covers some of the most important First Amendment cases of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Since the question of religion and law also touches upon issues outside of the scope of the First Amendment — issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage — students also read a series of important Fourteenth Amendment cases. Ultimately, this course familiarizes students with some of the most influential voices within today’s church-state debate, and it provides them with the tools for an ongoing understanding of religion and law in the United States. This course does not assume any prior knowledge of American religion or American law.
264 Religion and Disability
Religious texts, ideologies, and practices have for centuries been profoundly implicated in the stigmatization, pathologization, and normalization of disability as deviance. Ancient 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, religious, and policy 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).
276 Psychology of Religion
B. Stahlberg, Staff
This course examines the ways in which religion has been understood from a variety of psychological perspectives, and inquires into the merit of these various approaches. By surveying a wide range of psychological literature on the subject, students strive to get a better sense of the ways psychology has understood religion, humanity, and the ways in which people find meaning in the world. Ultimately students consider why human beings are religious and what psychology has to offer in answering this question. No prerequisites.
281 Experiencing Hinduism
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.
282 Experiencing Islam
A. Musa, 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. (Formerly RELG 328
283 Experiencing Judaism
This course is crosslisted as JWST 283
. For course description, see "Jewish Studies: Course Offerings.”
284 Christian Traditions
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.
285 Living Buddhism
This course is an introduction to Buddhist life and practice that emphasizes unity within Buddhist traditions as it explores diversity and complexity both in theory and practice. It considers examples from Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka to Mahayana Buddhism in China, Japan, and Korea. Significant time is devoted to an introduction to different Buddhist meditation practices. The course also considers contemporary issues that arise in social ethics, politics, war, and governance.
286 Catholic Traditions
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 Protestant Traditions
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.
288 American Indian Religions
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. (Formerly RELG 318
289 African Religious Traditions
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.
293 Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism
An introduction to the mystical elements in Judaism beginning with the Bible and Rabbinic texts and through Hasidism to contemporary Kabbalah in America. Significant time is devoted to the central book of Jewish mysticism, “The Zohar,” along with a study of Lurianic Kabbalah and Hasidic stories. The course engages students in Jewish meditation practices as well as a study of Hasidic music and popular expressions of Kabbalah in American culture. This course is crosslisted as JWST 293
306 Dying for God: Martyrdom and Noble Death in Judaism and Christianity
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 makes one a martyr, what makes 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.
310 Islamic Jurisprudence
This course is crosslisted as MIST 310. For course description, see “Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization: Course Offerings.”
321 Religion in Modern India
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 281,
or ARTS 244
is advised. 324 The Teachings of the Buddha: Theravada — The Way of the Elders
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
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.
329 Global Islam in the Modern World
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. Muslim responses to modernity in the US, East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Turkey represent the core focus of the course. A significant portion of the class is spent examining 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, as well as exposure to multimedia resources that have played a key role in recent events, such as the Arab Spring.
331 The Problem of Evil
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 global human communities. 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
D. Hicks, 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
337 Islamic Mysticism
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 Religion and Its Critics
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.
342 Our Secular Age
Do we live in a secular age? Most of us would assert that we do, but what do we mean when we make this claim? Are we referring to the political separation of church and state, to a decline in religious beliefs and practices, or to something else? These questions have recently come to occupy a central place within the study of religion. This course explores the topic of secularism from a variety of angles, including differing notions of what is meant by the term “secular”; an examination of the historical development of secular ideas and institutions; a comparison of different secular political projects; and a series of important critiques of secularism. This course encourages students to think critically and creatively about the relationship between “the religious” and “the secular,” and it thus enhances students’ understanding of religion, secularism, and modernity more broadly.
343 Gender and Judaism
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
352 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
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
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
420 Religion, Nature, and Environmentalism in South Asia
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
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
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.
291, 391, 491, 591 Independent Study
are normally open only to majors, and RELG 591
to graduate students.