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Religious Studies

Religion has played, and continues to play, a central role in virtually all societies. It is intimately related to such key aspects of communities as the structure of political power, economic organization, class structures, conceptions of gender, marriage, work and war. In short, religion shapes both the institutional order and the thought and behavior of individuals who inhabit it.

The study of religion, therefore, is basic to the liberal arts and helps prepare students for a variety of career paths, including journalism, law, business, education and work in philanthropic and religious institutions.

The department offers a major and a minor in Religious Studies; it also offers a bridge major, which involves the combination of work in religion with courses in another or other fields. Key to the program are courses on the history, scriptures, thought, practices and institutions of both Western and Asian religious traditions. Attention is also given to the interaction between religion and society and to the comparative study of religions.

Courses in Religious Studies

REL 130 Introduction to Religions. (1 course, Arts and Humanities)
A basic cross-cultural survey course of major religious traditions, usually Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Chinese and Japanese religions with comparative references to major Western religions. Particular attention is paid to the thought, scriptures, practices and institutions of these traditions. Not open to students with credit in REL 130E.

REL 130E is a version of REL 130 that focuses on Asian religions. In this course we will survey some of the core teachings, practices and institutions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. Our twin goals will be to secure a basic understanding of the worlds of meaning that are created, expressed, and sustained by these religions and to learn how to reflect critically upon the function of religion in the lives of individuals and communities. We will begin the semester by reading selections from a classic theoretical text to orient ourselves toward a critical and analytical approach to religious phenomena cross-culturally. We will proceed by introducing ourselves to a number of religious traditions through primary and secondary literature as well as audiovisual material--the latter to get a sense of the ritual and material dimensions of religious expression globally. Most important will be the close reading and discussion of representative primary texts in English translation for each of the traditions under consideration. Over the course of the semester we will be introduced to a variety of methodological issues in the academic study of religion and we will address them as they arise naturally from our discussions of the material under consideration. By the end of the course students will have developed a vocabulary for understanding religious phenomena cross-culturally and with an interdisciplinary focus. Not open to students with credit in REL 130

REL 141 Hebrew Bible. (1 course, Arts and Humanities)
This course surveys the diverse literature of Ancient Israel, read in English translation, that came to be recognized as sacred scripture by Judaism and Christianity (known alternatively as Tanakh or Old Testament). The texts are studied within the historical and cultural context of Ancient Israel with an interest in the history and methods of interpretation.

REL 142 New Testament. (1 course, Arts and Humanities)
The literature and faith of the New Testament communities studied in the context of the early church and the Judaic and Greco-Roman world.

REL 258 Buddhism. (1 course, Arts and Humanities)

Examines the development of Buddhist thought, scriptures, practices and institutions in India and the religion's spread to China and Japan.

REL 290B Topics: The Letters of Paul. (1 course, Arts and Humanities)