Spring 2021 Courses

RELS 104 Religion and Violence
Paul Powers TTH 2:15PM - 3:45PM
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 224 Jewish Origins
Robert Kugler MWF 9:10AM - 10:10AM
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 255 American Religion Through the Small Screen: Religious Themes in Contemporary Television
Susanna Morrill MWF 11:40AM - 12:40PM
Exploration of key themes in American religious history as these are revealed in contemporary American television shows. These themes will include millennialism, exceptionalism, revivalism, restorationism, apocalypticism, freedom of religion, religious pluralism, fascination with the exotic “East,” and exploration of paranormal topics.
Prerequisites: None.

RELS 335 Gender, Sex, Jews, and Christians: Ancient World
Robert Kugler MWF 10:25AM - 11:25AM
Study of the genesis of modern Jewish and Christian attitudes toward gender and sexuality, exploring the ways in which Greek and Roman attitudes toward gender and sexuality shaped Judaism and Christianity at their origins. Assessment of the extent to which the two religious traditions shaped broader cultural attitudes and practices relating to gender and sex, using the study of sex and gender in early Judaism and Christianity to take a critical look at how we define “religion” in the premodern world.
Prerequisites: At least one course in religious studies, classics, or history.
Restrictions: Sophomore standing required.

RELS 490 Senior Thesis
Paul Powers TTH 9:50AM - 11:20AM
Advanced readings and major works in religion. In consultation with faculty, selection of a thesis topic and further reading in the discipline and research in the topic area. Substantial written document demonstrating mastery of theory and methodology in the study of religion and the ability to integrate these into the thesis topic.
Prerequisites: None.
Restrictions: Senior standing required.