Fall 2022 Courses

RELS 104 Religion and Violence
Paul Powers 
MWF 12:40-1:40PM

Investigation of the oft-made claim that “religion causes much of the world’s violence,” exploring the best arguments for and against this proposition framed by maximalist claims that religion is inherently prone to inspiring violence, and minimalist claims that religion is either peaceful or subordinated to other (e.g., economic or political) concerns. Consideration of various definitions of “religion” to see how it might motivate a range of behaviors both peaceful and violent. Attention given to pervasive religious phenomena (such as sacrifice, conversion, holy/just war, and apocalypticism) that might inspire violence, as well as theological and ethical frameworks that may counteract violence. In a multi-stage, guided research project, students will pursue case studies of specific instances of violence apparently related to religion, thereby testing and employing the analytical lenses developed in the course.

Prerequisites: None.                                                                      

RELS 105 Apocalyptic Imagination
Robert Kugler
MWF 9:10-10:10AM

Examination of the way religious and nonreligious human beings have sought to make sense of their world through apocalyptic speculation; exploration of the special relationship between end-time speculation and religious thought and practice. Sources include literature ranging from ancient Mesopotamian apocalypses to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, art and architecture from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon to Garden Grove’s Crystal (now Christ) Cathedral, and expressions of popular culture from ancient Greek curse tablets to “Zombieland.”

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 201 History and Theory
Susanna Morrill
MWF 12:40-1:40PM

History of the field. Psychological, literary, anthropological, sociological, and historical approaches to the study of religion. Readings by major theorists. Should normally be taken no later than the junior year.

Prerequisites: None. 

RELS 224 Jewish Origins
Robert Kugler
MWF 11:30-12:30PM

Exploration of early Judaism, from circa 450 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. Focus on the development of the religion in the multicultural, pluralistic context of the Greco-Roman world. Study of the archaeological and written evidence for Jewish origins (i.e., the archaeology and literature of pre-Jewish Israelite religion and of early Jewish communities in Egypt and Palestine, the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the related excavations at Qumran, documentary and literary texts of Jews in Egypt, and related archaeological evidence). Analysis of key themes in the study of early Judaism (i.e., gender, colonialism, multiculturalism and identity, early Judaism’s relationship to earliest Christianity).

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 254 Religion in Modern America, 1865 to Present
Susanna Morrill
MWF 10:20-11:20AM

Impact of religion in modern America from the end of the Civil War to the present day, emphasizing the interaction between America’s many religions and emerging American modernity. The fate of “traditional” religion in modern America; “alternate” American religious traditions; urbanization, industrialism, and religion; science, technology, and secularism; evangelicalism, modernism, and fundamentalism; religious bigotry; pluralism; new religions and neofundamentalism.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 274 Islam in the Modern World
Paul Powers
TTh 1:50-3:20PM

The religious, social, and political dynamics of the Islamic world, circa 1300 C.E. to present, especially the 19th through 21st centuries. Earlier developments (e.g., the Qur’an, Muhammad, Muslim dynasties) considered in relation to the modern context. European colonialism, postcolonial change, reform and “fundamentalist” movements, Sufism, Muslim views of “modernity,” and changing understandings of politics, gender, and relations with non-Muslims.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 376 Religious Fundamentalism
Paul Powers
TTh 9:40-11:10AM

The perceptions and realities of religious resurgence in a supposedly secularizing world. Focus on the historical, theological, social, and political aspects of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism. Themes include secularization theories and their critics; changing understandings of religion and modernity; connections among religion, politics, violence, sexuality/gender, and identity.

Prerequisites: None.

Restrictions: Sophomore standing required.