Religious Studies Courses


101 Understanding Religion

An introduction to the structure, forms and functions of religion, with special attention given to the diverse approaches (anthropological, sociological, psychological, historical and philosophical) used to study religious phenomena. (Sometimes offered as FYS.) (3 credits) 

103 Religious Diversity in America

A survey of major and minor religious traditions found in the United States, covering the colonial era to present. (3 credits)

105 The Bible Goes to Hollywood

A comparison of well-known OT and NT stories with film depictions of those stories, critically analyzing plot, character, theme, and other aspects of storytelling. (Usually offered periodically during J Term as an FYS.) (3 credits)

106 World Religions

An introduction to the study of comparative religion, focusing on how such basic concepts as myth, ritual, gods and systems of purity are handled in the great religious traditions of the world. (3 credits)

107 Religion and Popular Culture

An exploration of the religious dimensions of American popular culture with emphasis on film, Broadway musicals, television, monster mythology and sports. (Generally offered during J Term.) (3 credits)

110 Introduction to the Bible

A survey of the collections of texts comprising the Bible, with the aim of identifying the key themes and concepts developed in these diverse writings. (3 credits)

115 Religious Cults 

An examination of alternative religions including treatment of historical and contemporary groups. Topics include formation and development of “new religions,” social and psychological motives for joining, leadership, relations with the mainstream, legal issues, and violence. (3 credits)

123 Pluralism and Fundamentalism 

This course explores the diversification of American religion and the social and intellectual challenges that arise from religious pluralism. It also examines the role of Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals in American life. (3 credits, First Year Seminar)

146 Sacred Space in America

A exploration of the concept of sacred space, including an introduction to theories and methods used to study sacred spaces, religious architecture, monuments and memorials, and spiritual beliefs related to American landscapes. Includes various field trips to sacred sites. (Usually offered during J Term.) (EL) (4 credits) 

150-450 Topics in Religion

From time to time, the department offers new courses that examine selected topics in Religious Studies. The subjects of these courses vary, and have included philosophical theology, religious literature, the psychology of religion, social movements, religious architecture, and religious views of the natural world. The content and level of these courses will be announced in advance and all will include “TIR” (topics in religion) in the title.(3-4 credits)

Topical Courses

201 Ancient Egypt 

A six-week mini-course on the history, geography, beliefs, and institutions of ancient Egypt, offered only in the Fall Term as a prerequisite for RELS 360. (0.5 credit)

206 The Ancient Near East

An examination of the history, literature, and religions of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Syria-Palestine, up to the arrival of the Greeks in the 4th century BCE. (3 credits) 

208 Ancient Egypt

An examination of the history, literature, and religion of the ancient Egyptians up through the Greco-Roman period. (3 credits)

210 Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament

An historical examination of the formation of the Hebrew Scriptures in ancient Israel, focusing on the major themes of the historical, prophetical, and other writings in the Old Testament. (3 credits)

211 The New Testament

An historical examination of the development of the early Christian tradition reflected in the four Gospels and in the other New Testament writings. Attention will be given to the cultural world in which the New Testament was written. (3 credits)

221 Hinduism 

An exploration of the world of Hinduism, a religion originating in India that includes not only a multitude of gods and goddesses and powerful techniques of meditation, but also some of the world’s most subtle philosophies. (3 credits)

222 Buddhism 

An exploration of a religion that grew from the experience of a prince who lived in India 600 years before Jesus, examining how his influential teachings spread throughout South and Southeast Asia.(3 credits)

223 Religions of the Far East 

A close look at the Buddhism of Tibet, China and Japan, and at the other indigenous religious traditions of the Far East, including Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto. Recommended prerequisite: RELS 222. (3 credits)

225 Native American Religions 

An introduction to the spiritual traditions of North America’s indigenous populations, from the earliest times up through the present, focusing on “the sacred” as experienced in the day-to-day life of these people.(3 credits)

235 Judaism 

An examination of the historical development of the Jewish cultural heritage from antiquity up to the modern day, focusing on the diverse forms in which it has been expressed, and the role that religion has played in its development. (3 credits)

237 Christianity

An examination of the Christian tradition from its beginnings as a Jewish movement through its establishment as a world religion. Attention will be given to the religious, literary, liturgical, and theological trends that have defined Christianity across the centuries. (3 credits) 

239 Islam

An introduction to the life and career of Muhammad, the Quran, the history of Islamic civilization, Islamic mysticism, the struggles between traditional Islam and modernization, and the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism, focusing on issues of unity and diversity within the faith. (3 credits)

241 Religion and Science

An examination of the key ideas, events, individuals and movements that have shaped the interaction of religion and science from the Scientific Revolution to the present. Emphasis on the varied models of interaction between science and religion, as well as current ethical, educational, and political debates.(3 credits)

243 Religion and Politics in America 

Explores the influence of religion in American politics from the late 18th century through the present. Topics include the views of the founders on religion, the First Amendment and its interpretation, voting patterns of key religious groups, religiously motivated political activism, and the religious views of political elites. Crosslists as POSC 243. (3 credits)

245 Studying Religion: Vodou/Voodoo 

An introduction to basic theories and methods used by scholars to study religious phenomena. Emphasis on both classic theories from anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as more recent scholarship that focuses on race, class, gender, and popular culture. Includes case studies of vodou in Haiti and voodoo in the United States. (3 credits)

247 The Spirit of the Railroads

This research seminar explores the patterns of religious and spiritual interpretation that Americans developed in response to the pervasive influence of the railroads. (1 credit, Honors Seminar)

Special Studies and Seminars

307 Religion and Literature 

“Who am I?” We take this question as the starting point for religious enquiry into the nature of human identity. What if I’m not really a fixed, unchanging thing, but rather nothing more than a fictional construct, an imaginary character in an unfinished narrative? Through a close reading of several short stories and novellas, we will see how a strong sense of self is both essential to our well being and, simultaneously, the single largest obstacle to religious experience. (ILS) (4 credits)

311 Hebrew Storytelling

A literary- and historical-critical examination of the well-known (and not- so-well-known) stories of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament that recount the history of Israel up to 586 BC. Recommended: RELS 110 or 210. (3 credits)

312 The Prophets of Israel

A historical-critical approach to the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, focusing upon the socio-political aspects of prophecy and its place and role in the Israelite religious tradition. Recommended: RELS 110 or 210. (3 credits) 

313 Jesus in Myth, Tradition and History 

A historical-critical approach to the various Gospel texts, focusing upon the synoptic tradition and the quest to recover the reality of the historical person (Jesus) behind those texts. Recommended: RELS 110 or 211. (ILS) (3 credits)

341 Religion and Medicine

An interdisciplinary survey of the various dimensions of the relationship between religion and medicine. Topics include healing practices of traditional shamanic societies, healing in major Western religious traditions, alternative healing groups, ritual aspects of modern medical practice, biomedical ethics, illness narratives, and groups that reject mainstream medicine. ILS (3 credits)

345 Religion and Technology 

Examines the relationship between religious beliefs and technological development in various historical and contemporary contexts. Topics include the religious response to the atomic age, artificial intelligence, ethical debate over new technologies, the technological sublime, the use of the internet by religious groups and the religious dimensions of computer games. ILS (3 credit hours)

347 Religion and Nature

An interdisciplinary seminar that explores the relationships between human beings, their religious traditions, and the Earth’s living systems. ILS  (4 credits)

360 The Religious Culture of Ancient Egypt

An off-campus course offered in Egypt during J Term, exposing students to a more advanced understanding of the religious culture of ancient Egypt by focusing on its expression in its ancient monumental art, artifact, and architecture. Prerequisites: either RELS 201, 206, or 208, and permission of the instructor.(4 credits) 

363 The Philosophical Religion of Yoga

In this course we will closely examine some of the major Indian theories associated, in particular, with the Yoga tradition of Patanjali. The Indian view of consciousness will be carefully compared and contrasted with theories of consciousness in Anglo-American analytic philosophy and contemporary neuroscience, with particular attention to the assumptions governing current Western ideas about consciousness. In conjunction with our reading and discussion, students will spend some time each day actually practicing Hatha Yoga and seated meditation under the guidance of qualified teachers. (4 credits) 

365 Near Death Experience

People are dying all around us, just outside the range of our vision. We don’t see them because, in our world, if you are nearing the end of life chances are that you will be hidden away in a hospital or nursing home. Americans approaching the end of life are hidden, and we have grown up without knowing how to behave in their presence. What do you say to a person who knows she will soon die? What do you ay to yourself about dying and death? (3 credits) 

490 Senior Project

Required of all majors. Students either complete a Capstone Seminar on current issues in the field of Religious Studies, complete a Senior Thesis advised by one or more of the Religious Studies faculty. (3 credits)