Religious Studies (REL)

Course meets General Education Aims Curriculum Requirement(s) in specified area(s).

Religion Program of Study

Link to Religion Program of Study

REL 111 – Exploring Religions 4cr

Exploring Religions is a survey course designed to introduce students to selected religions of the world and to the academic study of religion. This course carefully examines a wide variety of primary and secondary sources to help students understand and appreciate the diversity of ways in which human beings have asked, answered, and responded to questions of life and death, values and ethics, power and danger. This course does not aspire nor pretend to cover all religions but instead will focus on a few selected religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Daoism. Students learn how to employ research methods in the academic study of religion through their textual research and possibly on-site field experiences.

REL 209 – Introduction to Islam 4cr

This course is a historical and thematic survey of the origins and development of Islam. The primary historical period covered is the so-called “classical period” of Islam (700 – 1300 CE). Students study the life and career of Muhammad as the Prophet of Islam in the 7th century and the rise of the early Muslim community. Formation of the Islamic polity and its struggles and challenges in terms of succession, cohesion, and expansion are surveyed. Central themes in this course include traditional hadith (known as “The Hadith of Gabriel”), islam (“submission”), iman (“faith”), and ihsan (“excellence”). Exploration of these dimensions of Islam is anchored on the Qur’an – its historical, theological, intellectual, juridical, and ritual aspects – and on Islamic “mysticism” as represented in the various Sufi movements. This course also examines the enduring significance of Islam in the modern world.

REL 213 – Religion and Environmental Justice 4cr

This course explores the ethical responsibilities of people who work to ameliorate environmental degradation as well as end oppression of human beings. Students explore the religious tenets of environmental justice movements internationally and in the United States. Course topics focus on Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, indigenous East African beliefs in Kenya, Catholic social teachings in the United States farmworkers’ movement, and black liberation theology in the United States movement against toxic waste dumping in politically marginalized communities. Finally, students gain understanding of the cultural symbols and negotiated relationships that are critical for successfully countering environmental degradation in complicated political contexts.

Aim 2 Research and Academic Discourse, Aim 13 Philosophical Inquiry, and Aim 15 Social Justice

REL 238 – History and Literature of Buddhism 4cr

This course introduces students to the history, fundamental doctrines, and practices of Buddhist traditions. It pays close attention to how Buddhism influenced the collective histories and personal lives of the people who identify themselves as “Buddhists” across the expanse of time and space. Readings of translations of Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan primary texts will be complemented with biographies, ethnographies, and documentary films. Special attention will be given to Thai, East Asian, and Tibetan Buddhism.

REL 254 Critical Race Theory 4cr

This course examines the origins of race-thinking and the myriad ways in which race has been constructed and deconstructed. Students focus on a critical interpretation of what race is, what it does, and how contemporary racial meanings are produced and reproduced. Course readings are drawn from the fields of religious studies, philosophy, social theory, and legal studies, in order to draw on a broad vocabulary and set of references when engaging the meanings of race and racial presentation.

Aim 2 Research and Academic Discourse, Aim 13 Philosophical Inquiry, and Aim 15 Social Justice

REL 310 – Race, Morality, and the Politics of Crime 4cr

This course examines the historical antecedent of the present-day prison system and the multiple dimensions in which criminal justice policies impact particular communities today. The first half of the semester focuses on philosophies of punishment, theologies of race, and nineteenth-century economies of plantations, jails, and prisons. Over the second half of the semester, students examine present-day patterns of punishment, specifically addressing moral discourse in contemporary politics, the school-to-prison pipeline, and successful activist challenges to the pervasiveness of exploiting criminalized persons.

Aim 13 Philosophical Inquiry and Aim 15 Social Justice

REL 321 – Religion, Peace, and Social Justice: Seminar 4cr

This advanced seminar examines key religious values and practices, sacred and classic writings, and case studies of religious leaders and cultures where religions have contributed significantly to the making and sustaining of peace. Movements include the 19th-century abolitionist movement, the 20th-century Social Gospel movement, and the movement for civil rights.

Aim 3 Research and Disciplinary Discourse, Aim 13 Philosophical Inquiry, and Aim 15 Social Justice

Prerequisite: One prior course in Religious Studies or permission of the instructor.

Course meets General Education Aims Curriculum Requirement(s) in specified area(s).