- Professor Don Braxton (Good Professor) - ext. 3530
- Professor Bob Miller (Rosenberger Professor)- ext. 3629
- Associate Professor Susan Prill (Chair) - ext. 6673
The Religious Studies department engages in the interdisciplinary academic exploration of Religious phenomena. We do not assume that our students will have or desire a personal religious commitment, but instead study religions both for their own intrinsic interest and to understand how they shape the lived experience of religious and nonreligious people. Religious belief and practices impact the world in numerous ways: through historical events, philosophical debates, political transformations, and by shaping worldviews through sacred texts and ritual. We approach religious phenomena through a variety of methods from the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Our program fosters both specific specialization in various domains of competence and general theories and methods for the study of religion. Our students learn to write and communicate persuasively, engage in close reading of texts and learn about the physical, biological, psychological and social dynamics governing religious behavior. Our graduates are well prepared for graduate school, seminary and law school.Special programs, facilities, or equipment:
- Religious Studies club
- Opportunity for studying abroad in one of the college exchange partners, including Universidad San Francisco (Quito, Ecuador), Madras Christian College (Chennai, India), and Université Catholique de Lille (Lille, France)
- Field trips to Hindu and Sikh temples
Programs of Emphasis:
- Religious Studies
- Philosophy and Religion
Individualized Programs of Emphasis in Religious Studies:
Many of our students include Religious Studies in Individualized POEs with other departments including Anthropology, Biology, Environmental Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, and Theater. Recent examples include:
- Cultural Environmentalism
- Evolutionary Psychology of Religion
- Religious Peace-Building
- 18 credit hours
- All students must complete RL 110, RL 120, either RL 202 or RL 203
- Other courses of the student's choosing with at least 2 of them at the 300 or 400 level.
RL-110 What Is Religion (Fall; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H,CW) This course serves as an introduction to religious studies. It engages some of the most important questions which preoccupy students of world religions. How do religions work? What kinds of issues does religion address?
RL-115 Viking Religion (Variable; Variable; 4.00 Credits; H) This course introduces to the student the religion of the Vikings through literature, archeology, and historical portraits. It explores the uses and misuses of Viking lore in current culture.
RL-120 World Religions (Either Semester; Yearly; 3.00 Credits; H,I) An introduction to most of the major religious traditions of the world (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and a few of the smaller religious traditions (such as Zoroastrianism and Sikhism). This course also examines how our own beliefs and attitudes affect our understandings of religion.
RL-140 Jesus Through the Ages (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) This course examines the different ways in which Jesus, the most talked about man in history, has been portrayed throughout Christian history and seeks to understand why he has been described so differently. The purpose of this course is not to determine which beliefs about Jesus are true, but rather to understand how and why those beliefs differ and why they matter so much to so many. This course studies the New Testament (especially the gospels), early church controversies over the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the modern debate over the " historical Jesus, " newly discovered ancient gospels, and the portrayal of Jesus in movies. (This course is a seminar, restricted to freshman and sophomores.)
RL-170 Origins of Evil (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) Introduces the student to traditions of religious thought on the experience of evil and suffering in one or more of the following manifestations: so-called natural evils such as death, predation, disease, and natural disasters; moral evils such as racism, sexism, militarism. Explores the psycho-social origins of violence.
RL-199 RL Special Topics (Variable; Variable; 1.00-4.00 Credits) An examination of an area of study not regularly included in the departmental offerings. Titles will vary. Students may take each special topics course for credit.
RL-202 Old Testament As History and Literature (Spring; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H,I) An introduction to the historical-critical reading of the Old Testament against the background of the history, politics, religion, literature, and culture of the ancient Middle East. This course studies how these Israelites texts were written and how their literary qualities shape their religious meanings.
RL-203 New Testament As History and Literature (Fall; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H,I) An introduction to the historical-critical reading of the New Testament against the background of the history, politics, religion, literature, and culture of the ancient Mediterranean world. This course studies how these early Christian texts were written and how their literary qualities shape their religious meanings.
RL-210 Sacred Landscapes (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) This course explores the relationship between the experience of geography and religious ideology. We take various environments-mountainous, oceanic, desert, forest, plains-and try to connect the religious thoughts of their inhabitants to the geography.
RL-230 Religions of India (Either Semester; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H,I,CW) An introduction to religions originating in or having a major impact on India, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam.
RL-241 Cyborg Salvation (Variable; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H) This course introduces the student to the transhumanist movement, a technology-driven philosophy that seeks to drive the evolution of the species toward its " next stage " A core question of the course is whether this is a new, " upgraded " religion or a replacement for traditional religious hopes. Various proposals for human-technology hybridizations will be explored.
RL-246 Modern Culture and Religion (Spring; Yearly; 3.00 Credits; H) Studies religious themes in modern culture as reflected in literature, philosophy, ethics, science, religion, etc. Focus is on the most recent issues of religion and culture.
RL-263 The Divine Feminine (Spring; Variable; 3.00 Credits; I,H) While the majority of religious people worldwide are women, their experiences and practices do not receive the same level as attention from academics as those of men. This class looks at women's religious experiences and the veneration of female divinities by both men and women.
RL-265 U.S. Religous Diversity (Fall; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; CA,H) This course looks at the history of conflict and cooperation between different religious groups in the United States, as well as how religious diversity has impacted, and been impacted by, American politics.
RL-270 Sinners and Saints (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) This course surveys the genre of religious biographies and human fascination with demonic characters. We analyze self-reports of religious lives and how those testimonies construct demonic forces.
RL-299 Special Topics (Variable; Variable; 1.00-4.00 Credits) Allows the department to offer special topics not normally offered. Departments may offer more than one special topic. Prerequisites vary by title.
RL-301 The Afterlife (Fall & Spring; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; H) This course explores questions like these: What do major world religions teach about afterlife? How did the Bible's afterlife beliefs develop historically? Can the soul survive without the body? If so, what would a non-bodily life be like? What do near-death experiences prove about the afterlife? What is the meaning of life if there is (or is not) an afterlife?
RL-302 Atheism (Fall; Yearly; 3.00 Credits; H) This course explores questions like these: What are the arguments both for and against the existence of God? What motivates atheists to live morally? What is the meaning of life for atheists? How and why do some atheists practice religion, and how does a religion function without belief in God? How does atheism affect the well-being of individuals and societies?
RL-311 Bring Out Your Dead (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; CA,H) Introduces the student to the ideologies, rituals, sociology, and psychological mechanisms involved in dealing with the dead and dead bodies. The course covers mortuary rituals, the preparation and treatment of dead bodies, the psychology of death, and the sociological consequences of the public manipulation of the dead.
RL-321 Women in the Bible (Either Semester; Yearly; 3.00 Credits; CA,H) This course focuses on the female characters in the Bible and on its teachings about the social and religious roles specific to women. The course studies those texts in both their ancient and modern contexts, with special attention to how they interact with culture, and explores what meanings those biblical passages can have for women (and men) today. Prerequisite: at least Sophomore standing.
RL-341 Religion and War (Variable; Yearly; 4.00 Credits; CA,H,CW) This course explores the role of religion in warfare. It looks at the evolution of religion and war in our species, modern anthropological investigations of religion and war, religious discussions of war in Western and non-Western religions.
RL-352 The Hebrew Prophets (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; CA,H) This course combines a historical-critical study of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible against the background of the religion, politics, and society of ancient Israel and a theological appraisal of the relevance of the prophets' messages in today's world. Prerequisites: At least Sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.
RL-353 End Times Prophecy (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) A historical-critical study of ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, especially the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation and the influence of this biblical tradition on American Christianity and popular culture. Prerequisites: Sophomore standing and either RL202, RL203 or RL352.
RL-360 Sikhism (Fall; Variable; 4.00 Credits; H,I,CW) Because of the turban worn by many male Sikhs, Sikhs have become a visible minority (and often the target of hate crimes) in both the U.S. and India. But who are they and what do they believe? This course is and introduction to the Sikh religion, from the beginnings in North India to the present day. Focus will be on the development of Sikh identity and relations with Hindu and Muslim India. Prerequisites: RL120 or RL230.
RL-399 Special Topics (Variable; Variable; 1.00-4.00 Credits) Allows the department to offer special topics not normally offered. Departments may offer more than one special topic. Prerequisites vary by title.
RL-430 Religion and Science Seminar (Variable; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) This course serves as an advanced study of religion in a scientific world. It takes some of the most important issues in religious life and looks at them through the lens of scientific investigations. What is the human organism in light of modern cosmology? Why did religious behavior evolve in our species? What does science say about how religion works? What is the future of religion in our species?
RL-440 Yoga Studies (Spring; Variable; 4.00 Credits; CA,H,I,CW) In the past fifty years, Yoga has become one of India's best-known exports, primarily in the form of physical (Hatha) Yoga. This class will examine the history and varieties of Yoga and Yoga philosophy. We will examine many of the numerous varieties of Yoga philosophy and explore their intersection with devotional movements. Prerequisites: RL120 and Junior or Senior standing.
RL-450 God, Evil & the Holocaust (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) If God is so powerful and so good, why is there so much Evil in the world? This course examines this problem from Jewish, Christian and agnostic perspectives, with special attention to the Holocaust, and studies ancient and modern attempts to confront this problem, including readings from the Bible, philosophers, theologians, Holocaust survivors, modern fiction, and contemporary films. Prerequisites: Junior or Senior standing.
RL-490 Religion Internship (Fall & Spring; Yearly; 2.00-9.00 Credits; H) See " Internship " in catalog. Corequisite: RL495. Prerequisites: Jr. or Sr. Standing.
RL-495 Internship Seminar Religion Internship Research Seminar (Fall & Spring; Yearly; 2.00-6.00 Credits; H) See " Internship " in catalog. Corequisite: RL490.
RL-499 Special Topics (Variable; Variable; 1.00-4.00 Credits) Allows the department to offer special topics not normally offered. Departments may offer more than one special topic. Prerequisites vary by title.
RL-TUT Religion Teaching Assistant (Variable; Variable; 1.00-3.00 Credits; H)