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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 125 The Jewish Tradition
Lois Dubin
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm

Same as JUD 125. Who are the Jews? What is Judaism? How have Jews understood core ideas and texts, and put their values into practice, from biblical times until today? An interdisciplinary introduction to the dramatic story of Jewish civilization and its conversation with different cultures from religious, historical, political, philosophical, literary, and cultural perspectives, organized around different themes; the theme for spring 2018 is Food and Foodways. {H}{L} 4 credits

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 through major primary texts, contemporary writings and films. {H} 4 credits

200-Level Courses

Religious Studies: Philosophical, Critical, and Comparative

REL 204 Blasphemy
Vera Shevzov
TTh 1 - 2:20 pm

Commonly associated with pre-modern societies, the term “blasphemy” has taken on new life in today’s global and technologically-connected world. This course examines the notion of blasphemy - its meanings, the invisible boundaries it invokes in some of the world’s major religious traditions and the different ways of seeing it often signifies - and the contemporary public uses of this term. Based on case studies, it explores the challenges the term poses and the nature of the emotional responses it often triggers. The course considers the implications of the charge of blasphemy in light of such issues as religion and secularism, religious tolerance and intolerance, ethics and civility, religion and human rights. Religious, philosophical, literary and legal texts, as well as media accounts, images and film. (E) {H/L} 4 credits

REL 208 The Inklings:Religion and Imagination in the Works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Circle
Carol Zaleski
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am

The Inklings were a group of Oxford intellectuals who met in the Magdalen College rooms of the literary historian, apologist and fantasist C.S. Lewis to read aloud and discuss their works in progress. This course examines the Inklings’ shared concerns, among them mythology, philology, recovery of the Christian intellectual tradition, and resistance to “the machine.” Readings include essays and letters by Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield and quasi-Inkling Dorothy Sayers, as well as selections from their major works of fiction, theology and criticism. {H/L} 4 credits

Cross-listed course:

ANT 274 The Anthropology of Religion
Pinky Hota
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am

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

REL 213 Social Justice in the Hebrew Bible
Jason Gaines
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm

An exploration of biblical prophecy with a focus on how the prophets called for social and religious reform in language that continues to resonate today. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 215 Introduction to the Bible II
L. Scott Brand
MW 2:40 - 4 pm

An introduction to the New Testament and its many genres (Gospel, Parable, Epistle, Apocalypse), its ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts, and to an array of modern methods (historical criticism, sociological and ideological analysis, feminist approaches) for studying perhaps the most influential set of books in the Western world. {H/L} 4 credits

Jewish Traditions

REL 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History
Lois Dubin
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am

An exploration of Jewish women’s changing social roles, religious stances and cultural expressions in a variety of historical settings from ancient to modern times. How did Jewish women negotiate religious tradition, gender and cultural norms to fashion lives for themselves as individuals and as family and community members in diverse societies? Readings from a wide range of historical, religious, theoretical and literary works in order to address examples drawn from Biblical and rabbinic Judaism, medieval Islamic and Christian lands, modern Europe, America and the Middle East. {H/S} 4 credits

Christian Traditions

REL 235 The Catholic Philosophical Tradition
Carol Zaleski
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm

Faith and reason, worship and the intellectual life, the meaning of redemption and the nature of Catholicism according to major thinkers in the Catholic tradition. Readings from Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Simone Weil, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre and others. {H} 4 credits

Islamic Traditions

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

Major themes addressed by Muslim thinkers since the 18th century, such as Islamic reform and revival, the encounters with colonialism and imperialism, nationalism and other modern ideologies; and Islamic discussions of modernity, liberalism, conservatism, fundamentalism and militancy. Reading of primary sources in translation. {H} 4 credits

REL 248 Islamic Thought and the Challenge of Modernity Topics in Modern Islam
Topic: Jihad
Suleiman Mourad
MWF 11 am - 12:10 pm

The persistence of the ideology of jihad in modern Islam drives revivalists and apologists to disagree over the meaning of “jihad” and whether it should be understood to necessitate violence or as an interpersonal spiritual struggle. This course examines the most important modern debates about jihad and how each position engages and appeals to the foundational Islamic sources (e.g. Qur’an, Muhammad, Sharia/Islamic Law) and Islamic history for legitimacy. It also explores the factors that make the rhetoric used by modern jihadists popular among certain Muslim constituencies, inspiring them to wage holy war against “infidels” as well as fellow Muslims. {H} 4 credits

Buddhist Traditions

None offered this semester. For more Buddhism courses, see the Buddhist Studies program courses page.

South Asian Traditions

None offered this semester. For more South Asia courses, see the South Asia concentration courses page.

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 Philip Peake (Psychology)
Th 3 - 4:50 pm

Same as PSY 304. What is happiness? What is personal well-being? How are they achieved? This course will examine 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 111 or REL 105; or one course in Buddhist traditions; or permission of an instructor. Enrollment limited to 15 juniors and seniors. {S/N} 4 credits