Academics > Curriculum

Religion Curriculum

The philosophy and religion department offers courses designed to lead students to reflect on their views concerning fundamental issues in life and thought. Since both the philosophical and religious traditions have had a central place in and an enormous influence upon the development of human culture, any student seeking a liberal education, whatever the major discipline, will profit from the departmental offerings.

Religion Major

A grade of "C" or higher must be earned in all courses counted toward a major in religion.

  1. One of the following:
    REL-010 Introduction to Religion
    REL-015 Belief and Unbelief
  2. REL-036 Eastern Religions
  3. REL-048 Western Religions
  4. One of the following:
    REL-105 Introduction to Hebrew Bible
    REL-115 Introduction to New Testament
  5. One of the following:
    REL-116 Buddhism
    REL-196 Hinduism
    REL-136 Religions of China
  6. Five additional religion courses, at least three of which are numbered 300 or above

Religion Minor

    1. One of the following:
      REL-036 Eastern Religions
      REL-048 Western Religions
    2. Four additional religion courses

      Courses in Religion

      Special attention should be given to the numerical ordering of the courses listed below:

      1. Courses numbered below 100 offer general introductions to religion: Belief and Unbelief, Eastern Religions, Western Religions.
      2. Courses numbered 100-199 are introductory courses focused on specific traditions: Introduction to Hebrew Bible, Introduction to New Testament, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese Religions.
      3. Courses numbered 200-299 are topical courses especially suitable for sophomore level and above.
      4. Courses numbered 300-399 are advanced courses with prerequisites.

      Recommended beginning courses for those contemplating a major in religion are: Introduction to Religion (REL- 010), Belief and Unbelief (REL-015), Eastern Religions (REL-036), or Western Religions (REL-048). However, other courses numbered below 200 are also suitable introductory courses.

      SURVEY COURSES

      REL-010 Introduction to Religion
      Introduces students to thinking about religion as a category of human experience, both in terms of foundational beliefs and how those beliefs are situated in practice. The course examines methods of studying religion as well as essential questions regarding the nature of religion.

      REL-015 Belief and Unbelief
      Discussion oriented course focusing on the dynamics of faith and of atheism. Special attention to traditional proofs for God‘s existence, the problems of evil and the afterlife, and the nature of religious experience.

      REL-036 Eastern Religions
      An introductory survey of some of the major religions of the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. Religions to be discussed include Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

      REL-048 Western Religions
      An introductory survey of the three major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), both in their historical development and their contemporary expressions.

      INDIVIDUAL TRADITIONS

      REL-116 Buddhism
      An introduction to the Buddhist religion, including its history, philosophy, ritual, meditation, and popular practice. Course materials include Buddhist histories and religious texts, as well as contemporary anthropological materials and film.

      REL-128 Judaism
      The basic beliefs and practices of Judaism, from the prophetic period to the present. This course and the Modern Judaism course form a program in Jewish Studies which is supported by The Sinaiko Endowment.

      REL-138 Modern Judaism
      A study of selected issues in Enlightenment or post Enlightenment Judaism as reflected, for example, in the history of the Jewish people, rabbinic teachings and Jewish theological scholarship, or Jewish literature. This course and the Judaism course form a program in Jewish Studies which is supported by The Sinaiko Endowment.

      REL-148 Islam
      An introductory overview of Islam as an Abrahamic faith, a global civilization, and an integral facet of the American religious experience.

      REL-196 Hinduism
      An introduction to the Hindu religion, including its history, philosophy, ritual, meditation, and popular practice. Course materials include Hindu histories and religious texts, as well as contemporary anthropological materials, literature, and film.

      REL-136 Religions of China
      An introduction to religion in China, with particular focus on the three major traditions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Course materials include readings from major texts of each tradition, as well as histories, anthropological studies, literature, and film.

      REL-178 Christianity
      A study of the beliefs and practices of Christianity from its earliest formulations to the modern world. Special attention is paid to essential tenets of Christian faith, elements of Christian practice, and divergences between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christianities.

      REL-206 Buddhist Thought
      See also Philosophy (PHL-206)
      A survey of major issues in Buddhist philosophy, including ethics, emptiness, idealism, the nature of mind, and the nature of reality. The course focuses on Indian Buddhist philosophical schools and also explores distinctive philosophical ideas from Buddhist traditions in China, Japan, and Tibet. Prerequisite: Eastern Religions (REL- 036), or Buddhism (REL-116), or consent of instructor.

      REL-215 The Rise of Christianity
      An examination of how Christianity grew from a small band of Jewish followers of Jesus to the dominant religion in the Roman Empire. Attention is paid to crucial figures such as Paul of Tarsus, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Augustine of Hippo, among others.

      REL-226 Daoism
      An introduction to China‘s Daoist tradition, beginning with its early literature like the Dao-de-jing and the Zhuang-zi and examining several later Daoist movements in China. The course also examines other Chinese religious and intellectual traditions that have influenced Daoism, including Confucianism and Buddhism. Course materials include histories, translations of Daoist literature, accounts of contemporary Daoists, and film.

      REL-236 Zen
      An introduction to the Zen tradition of Buddhism beginning with its origins in China and also examining its traditions in Japan. The course examines other Chinese religious and intellectual traditions that helped shape the Zen tradition, with particular influence on Daoism. Course materials include histories, translations of Zen literature, autobiography, and film.

      REL-336 Tibetan Buddhist Culture
      Introduces students to the lived experience of Buddhists on the Tibetan plateau and in Nepal. The course discusses the history of religion in Tibet, as well as the major doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism. Particular attention is also paid to Tibetan religious culture and popular religious practices. Course materials include Tibetan literature, histories, biographies, and film, as well as anthropological studies of Tibetan societies.

      JUDEO-CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES

      REL-105 Introduction to Hebrew Bible
      A literary and theological overview of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (the Pentateuch or Torah) in the context of their historical development and their formative impact on the rest of Israelite scripture (the Prophets and Writings). It is recommended that this course be taken prior to other Biblical studies courses.

      REL-115 Introduction to New Testament
      A literary and theological overview of the Christian scriptures (the Gospels and Acts, the Pauline, Johannine and catholic epistles, and the Apocalypse of John) in the context of the origins and early historical development of Christianity.

      REL-310 Early Christian Gospels
      An examination of the literary genre in early Christianity, focusing on both canonical (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) and non-canonical Gospels, including the Gospel of Truth and the Gospel of Thomas.    Why did early Christians utilize this genre to communicate traditions about Jesus of Nazareth? Prerequisite: Introduction to Hebrew Bible (REL-105) or Introduction to New Testament (REL-115) or consent of instructor.

      REL-330 Topics in Hebrew Bible
      An advanced course in an aspect of critical study of the Hebrew Bible. Potential topics include Prophecy, Wisdom Literature, and Women in the Bible. Prerequisite: Introduction to Hebrew Bible (REL-105) or consent of instructor.

      REL-365 The Letters of Paul
      An examination of the 13 letters attributed to Paul of Tarsus in the New Testament as well as biblical and extra- biblical sources for the life of this crucial figure who spread Christianity around the Roman Empire. Prerequisite: Introduction to Hebrew Bible (REL-105) or Introduction to New Testament (REL-115) or consent of instructor.

      TOPICAL COURSES

      REL-217 Religion in America
      Examines the varieties of American religious experience, from the religion of the Puritans to the 21st century. Attention is paid both to normative and minority traditions, with a look at the growing Evangelical and Muslim communities in America today.

      REL-295 Topics in Religion
      An examination of a selected topic in religious studies. Content varies from year to year. May be taken more than once for credit. Prerequisite: one course in religion or consent of instructor.

      REL-296 Topics in Religion: Non-Western Perspectives
      Same as Topics in Religion (REL-295) except the course focuses on topics related to non-Western cultures. Content varies from year to year. May be taken more than once for credit. Prerequisite: one course in religion or consent of instructor.

      REL-338 Modern Religious Thought
      A survey of the religious thinkers and themes of the 20th century. Various religious outlooks, ranging from conservative to radical, are explored, as are alternative conceptions of God, religion, and salvation. Prerequisite: one course in religion or consent of instructor.

      REL-385 Advanced Topics in Religion
      Seminar examining a selected topic in religious studies. Content varies from year to year. May be taken more than once for credit. Prerequisite: one course in religion or consent of instructor.

      REL-396 Advanced Topics in Religion: Non-Western Perspectives
      Same as Advanced Topics in Religion (REL-385) except the course focuses on topics related to non-Western cultures. Content varies from year to year. May be taken more than once for credit. Prerequisite: one course in religion or consent of instructor.

      REL-815 Independent Study in Religion
      Independent study under the direction of a faculty member of the department in an area selected by the student. May be taken for an X status grade with consent of instructor prior to registration. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

      REL-845 Directed Readings in Religion
      A course of directed readings designed by the student and instructor to fit the individual student‘s particular interests and educational needs. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

      REL-895 Internship in Religion
      An experiential course in religious ministry (e.g. hospital or college chaplaincy, parish ministry, etc.), under the direction of a faculty member of the department. A minimum of 140 hours on-site experience is required. S/U basis only. This course does not satisfy any of the requirements for a major in religion. Prerequisite: consent of department chair.