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Religious Studies (RL)
- Professor Don Braxton (Chair) (Good Professor) - ext. 3530
- Professor Bob Miller (Rosenberger Professor)- ext. 3629
- Associate Professor Susan Prill - ext. 6673
Religious Studies is a secular, interdisciplinary program. It approaches a socially defined phenomenon such as “religion” and brings to bear upon this phenomenon the methodological orientations of the human, social, and natural sciences.
Courses are designed around methodological and topical criteria. For example, the course RL 110 “What is Religion?” is an introduction to the anthropology of religion looking at the physical and biological context of religious behavior, the psychological and social dynamics governing the formation of religious belief and behavior, and the artifacts produced by religion such as statuary, ritual spaces, and texts. By contrast, a course such as RL 360 “Sikhism” is a topical introduction to a specific cultural domain, namely the history and development one religious tradition. Our program fosters both specific specialization in various domains of competence and general theories and methods for the study of religion.
Programs of Emphasis:
- Religious Studies
- Philosophy & Religious Studies
The POE will consist of a minimum of 49 credit hours and the senior thesis for 4 credits. All students must take our three introductory courses to be offered at least once a year:
RL 110 What is Religion?
RL 120 World Religions
Either RL 202 (Old Testament) or RL 203 (New Testament)
All students must complete a 4-credit hour senior thesis under the guidance of the designated instructor for the year of their graduation. The remainder of the POE must be distributed according to this template of 8 courses. Of these, at least 4 have to be at the 300 or 400 level
One course from the following list of Philosophy Department offerings:
PL 115: Human Nature
PL 201: Plato and Aristotle
PL 245: Chinese Philosophy
PL 255: Philosophy of Religion
PL 304: Existentialism
Two courses from the following list of History Department offerings:
HS 104: Middle Ages 500-1300
HS 105: Modern Europe to 1815
HS 151: World Civilization to 1500
HS 152: World Civilization from 1500
HS 206: China and Japan to 1800
HS 235: Islam: Origins and Modernity
All students must complete one year of college-level foreign language study in one language. No limits are placed which language is chosen or how the student meets this requirement.
- 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; 1.00 Credit; 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, Bahai, and native American religions). 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 (Fall; 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 (Spring; 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-240 Religion and Film (Either Semester; Variable; 3.00 Credits; H) Introduces the student to religious themes in film. Explores film as art and how this art form is suited to engaging religious questions in contemporary culture. Surveys the history of film, the analytical tools of film theory, and specific film genres as they relate to religious questions.
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-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-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: At least 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-410 The Lotus and the Cross (Variable; Yearly; 3.00 Credits; H) The purpose of this course is to bring into dialogue two prominent traditions on the contemporary American religious landscape. Christianity and Buddhism represent popular religious orientations in the United States. What do Christians think and how do they respond to the growing presence of Buddhism? And what do Buddhists think and how do they respond to the beliefs and practices of Christians? Prerequisites: One prior religion course at 200 level or lower or permission of the instructor.
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)