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100-level courses are open to all students. They are either broad-based introductory courses that address multiple traditions or courses that have a more narrow focus.

200-level courses are specific to a tradition or methodology. They are open to all students and do not have prerequisites, unless otherwise indicated.

300-level courses have prerequisites as specified.

A reading knowledge of foreign languages, both modern and classical, is highly desirable for those students planning to major in religion. For more information on language study, see Language Courses under the requirements for the major.

100-Level Courses

REL 161 Introduction to Buddhist Thought
Jamie Hubbard
MW 2:40 - 4 pm

Enduring patterns of Buddhist thought concerning the interpretations of self, world, nature, good and evil, love, wisdom, time, and enlightenment as revealed in a careful reading of two major Mahayana texts. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits

200-Level Courses

Religious Studies: Philosophical, Critical, and Comparative

REL 205 Philosophy of Religion
Carol Zaleski
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am

Classic and contemporary discussions of the existence of God, the problem of evil, faith and reason, life after death, mysticism and religious experience, myth and symbol. Readings from Plato, Anselm, Kant, Kierkegaard, James, and others. {H} 4 credits

REL 206 Heaven, Hell and Other Worlds: The Afterlife in World Religions
Carol Zaleski
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm

How do the world's religions picture the journey beyond death? This course examines conceptions of heaven, hell, and purgatory; immortality; rebirth; and resurrection; the judgment of the dead and the life of the world to come. Readings include classic and sacred texts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato's Phaedo, the Katha Upanishad, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Dante's Divine Comedy, Newman's Dream of Gerontius, and a variety of philosophical and theological reflections on the meaning of death and the hope for eternal life. Enrollment limited to 35. {H}{L} 4 credits

REL 207 Religion in the Marketplace: A Sociological Demystification
Rick Fantasia and Andy Rotman
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm

Same as SOC 207. Many view the marketplace and religion as discrete spheres of activity, not recognizing the important ways that religion functions as a marketplace, with merit and salvation to be earned or lost, and the ways that the marketplace itself functions as a religion, with its own creeds, rituals, sacred texts and unquestioned truths. This course takes this proposition seriously, for it provides enormous insight into the workings of markets, from the logic of gift exchange to the metaphor of the invisible hand, from the interest in apparent disinterestedness to the status of economics as a master discipline. This course draws upon the concepts and methods of sociology and religious studies to examine the logic, practice and mythology of markets, their institutions, and the faithful, with particular emphasis on the United States. Readings include classic works of sociology, economics and religious studies, as well as recent work in economic sociology, economic anthropology and cultural studies. (E) {H}{S} 4 credits

Cross listed course:

ANT 274 The Anthropology of Religion
Pinky Hota
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm

What can anthropologists teach us about religion as a social phenomenon? This course traces significant anthropological approaches to the study of religion, asking what these approaches contribute to our understanding of religion in the contemporary world. Topics include religious experience and rationality; myth, ritual and magic; rites of passage; function and meaning; power and alienation; religion and politics. Readings are drawn from important texts in the history of anthropology and from contemporary ethnographies of religion. {S} 4 credits

Biblical Literature

See REL 310 below.

Jewish Traditions

REL 221 Philosophers and Mystics
David Seidenberg
TTh 9 - 10:20 am

The rise of Jewish philosophy and mysticism (Kabbalah) in the Islamic world and in medieval Spain, and the development of these theological and intellectual trends as decisive influences upon all subsequent forms of Judaism. Analysis of Jewish philosophy and mysticism as complementary yet often competing spiritual paths. How did Jewish philosophers and mystics consider the roles of reason, emotion and symbols in religious faith and practice? What interrelations did they see between the natural and divine realms, and between religious, philosophical and scientific explanations? Expressions of philosophy and mysticism in religious texts, individual piety, popular practice and communal politics. Readings drawn from the works of the great philosopher Maimonides, the mystical classic the Zohar and other thinkers, as well as personal documents of religious experience and thought. All readings in English. {H} 4 credits

REL 225 Jewish Civilization
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 11 am - 12:10 pm

Same as JUD 125. An introduction to Jewish civilization from a variety of perspectives (religion, history, politics, philosophy, literature and culture) organized around different themes; the theme for Spring 2017 is Text and Tradition. Consideration of core ideas, texts and practices that have animated Jews and Judaism from antiquity to the present, with attention to both classical and modern formulations. {H}{L} 4 credits

Christian Traditions

REL 236 Eastern Christianity
Vera Shevzov
TTh 1 - 2:20 pm

An introduction to the history and spirituality of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with focus on the Byzantine and Russian traditions. Topics include the meanings and markers of tradition; icons and ritual; the spiritual elder and monastic culture; points of difference with Catholicism and Protestantism. Given that Eastern Christianity has made an unexpected comeback in post-Soviet society and culture, this course also examines contemporary Orthodox discourse on such issues as human rights, modernization, globalization and church/state relations. Readings from ancient and contemporary mystical, philosophical, liturgical, literary and political sources. Occasional films. {H}{L} 4 credits

REL 238 Mary: Images and Cults
Vera Shevzov
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am

Whether revered as the Birth-Giver of God or remembered as a simple Jewish woman, Mary has both inspired and challenged generations of Christian women and men. This course focuses on key developments in the “history of Mary” since Christian times to the present. How has her image shaped Christianity? What does her image in any given age tell us about personal and collective Christian identity? Topics include Mary’s “life”; rise of the Marian cult; differences among Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians; apparitions (e.g., Guadalupe and Lourdes); miracle-working icons; Mary, liberation and feminism. Liturgical, devotional, and theological texts, art, and film. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits

Islamic Traditions

REL 246 Islamic Thought and the Challenge of Modernity
Suleiman Mourad
MW 9 -10:20 am

This course considers major themes addressed by Muslim thinkers since the 18th century. These include Islamic reform and revival; encounters with colonialism and imperialism; nationalism and other modern ideologies; as well as Islamic discussions of modernity, liberalism, conservatism, fundamentalism, and militancy. Readings will consist of primary sources in translation. {H} 4 credits

REL 247 The Qur’an
Suleiman Mourad
MWF 11 am - 12:10 pm

The Qur’an, according to the majority of Muslims, is God’s word revealed to Muhammad through angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years (610–632 CE). This course will introduce students to Islam’s scriptural text: its content, form, structure, and history. It will also situate the Qur’an in the larger frame of the genre of Scripture: What does it mean for a text to be revealed? As such the course will both study the Qur’an as a 7th-century product and as a text that has a history of reception among Muslims with variant levels of impact on the formulation of salvation history, law and legal theory, theology, ritual, intellectual trends, and art and popular culture. {H}{L} 4 credits

Buddhist Traditions

See REL 161 above.

For more Buddhism courses, see the Buddhist Studies program courses page.

South Asian Traditions

REL 282 Violence and Non-Violence in Religious Traditions of South Asia
Andy Rotman
TTh 1-2:30 pm

What are the implications of a nonviolent morality? When are war and sacrifice not murder? This course considers the rhetoric and phenomena of violence and non-violence in a variety of religious traditions in South Asia, both modern and premodern. Particular emphasis on the ethical and social consequences of these practices, and the politics of the discourse that surrounds them. Texts and films concerning Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, and Islam. {H} 4 Credits

Religion in the Americas

None offered this semester.

300-Level Courses


REL 304 Happiness: Buddhist and Psychological Understandings of Personal Well-Being
Jamie Hubbard and Phil Peake
Th 3 - 4:50 pm

Same as PSY 304. What is happiness? What is personal well-being? How are they achieved? This course examines the core ideas of the Buddhist science of mind and how they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and psychotherapists. The focus of the course is the notion of “happiness,” its cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary definition as well as the techniques advocated for its achievement by both the Buddhist and the psychologist. Prerequisite: PSY 100 or REL 105; or one course in Buddhist traditions; or permission of an instructor. {N}{S} 4 credits

REL 310 Hebrew Bible Seminar: Why Do the Innocent Suffer?
Joel Kaminsky
Th 1 - 2:50 pm

Many biblical texts question whether God consistently rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Prominent examples include Job, Ecclesiastes and certain Psalms, but similar ideas occur in the Torah and the Prophets. While focusing most deeply on Job, this course introduces students to an array of biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, as well as some post-biblical and even modern literature, to illuminate the Hebrew Bible’s discourse surrounding this issue. {H}{L} 4 credits