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Photos of books from a religious studies class.

Course Offerings

Below is a list of available courses offered by the Political Science Department. Consult the Registrar’s Office and the College Catalog for registration information.

Course List

RELG 111 - HEBREW BIBLE

The Hebrew Bible is an anthology reflecting the religious life and thought of ancient Israel and a primary source for beliefs, desires, and norms that underpin Western civilization. Students study and employ a wide range of strategies proper to scholarly analysis of the diverse textual traditions enshrined in the Hebrew Bible. Topics include founding legends, prophecy, wisdom, and apocalypse. Special emphasis on resettling the Bible into its ancient Near Eastern milieu. Hours credit: 3.

RELG 112 - NEW TESTAMENT

Scholarly analysis of the canonical anthology of the early Christian movement, emphasizing its origin in provincial Palestinian culture and efflorescence in Asia Minor of the first two centuries CE. Students study and employ a wide range of strategies for ascertaining the origin, setting, transmission, and aims of New Testament writings. Topics include scholarly reconstructions of the historical Jesus, diverse perspectives on Jesus among early Christian communities, the thought-world and ministry of the apostle Paul, formation of the New Testament canon, and the evolution of orthodoxy. Hours credit: 3.

RELG 128 - HINDUISM & VISUAL CULTURE

This course examines the creation and transmission of those religious traditions of South Asia commonly labeled "Hinduism" via visually mediated interactions such as film, comic books, murti, puja, and darshan. Topics to be examined include caste and class, brahmanical and renouncer traditions, women and gender, diaspora, and the continuing relevance of visual renderings of great epics such as the Ramayana. Hours credit: 3.

RELG 147 - RELIGIONS OF ASIA

This course provides a thematic and historical overview of Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. To accomplish this ambitious goal, students focus on the major themes of each tradition, paying attention to how traditions developed in dialogue with each other, and how they crystallized into distinct traditions in reaction to each other. Hours credit: 3.

RELG 168 - DEATH, DYING, AND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

What happens after we die? Is death an end, an interruption, or a beginning? How should the living relate to the dead? This course explores several Asian religions' answers to these questions. By surveying a variety of beliefs, rituals, and cultural practices about death and the afterlife, this course demonstrates how views about death intimately shape our understanding of life. Hours credit: 3. Alternate years.

RELG 172 - JESUS TO JERRY:TWO THOUSAND YEAR CHRIST

From Jesus to Jerry Falwell, inquisitors to snake-handlers, martyrs to mystics, orthodoxy to ‘full gospel’ Pentecostalism, this course surveys the first two millennia of the diverse global family called Christianity. Attending closely to historical context, students consider major theological innovations (from creeds to the black Jesus), spirituality (from desert ascetics to tent revivalists), modes of authority (from charisma to papal infallibility), and institutional formations (from monasteries to comunidades eclesiales de base). Hours credit: 3.

RELG 183 - FAITH AND DOUBT

Is ‘faith’ a desperate pitch to gain influence over a world ill-suited to human desires? Is it a by-product of fear, resentment, wishful thinking, and/or a primitive stage in human intellectual development? Is it immoral? Is it coherent? This course investigates several historically significant instances of ‘doubt’ as representative of four general approaches to the critique of ‘faith.’ Special attention to repercussions for believers and to responses and strategies of response to critics. Identical with Philosophy 183. Hours credit: 3.

RELG 185 - AMERICAN GODS

Immigrants to the United States brought with them spirits and gods. New gods have arisen, reflecting the changing currents of American life. This survey course explores the colorful, contested history of religion in American culture from the colonial era to the present, exploring the tensions between a quest for an American religious consensus and an abiding religious and cultural pluralism. Hours credit: 3. One time only.

RELG 201 - CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM

A historical overview of the principal religious traditions of Western civilization through close study of primary and secondary sources, with attention to the internal logic of each religion and to their respective views of cosmic order, divine and human natures, human community and responsibility, and divine service or worship. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

RELG 202 - SONS & DAUGHTERS OF THE BUDDHA

What is an ideal Buddhist life? Beginning with an examination of the life-narrative of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, this course uses biographies, autobiographies, and narrative films to examine how Buddhist traditions in various historical periods and cultural contexts have come to understand what constitutes an exemplary human life. The course assumes no prior experience studying Buddhism or religious studies. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

RELG 238 - IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MUHAMMAD

What is Islam? Concerned about shari'a? In love with Rumi? Angry with Orientalists? An introduction to the symbolic world and enduring venture of 'Islam,' to the shared grounds of all subsequent historical expressions of Islam and to alternative paradigms of authority and interpretation that underlie the historically and culturally diverse expressions of Islam. Readings from the Qur'an, Rumi, Edward Said, Tayeb Salih, Ziauddin Sardar, Fatima Mernissi, and others. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisites: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 240 - THE MAN FROM NAZARETH

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Until recently the ‘historical Jesus’ was hidden by the transhistorical Christ, whose legacy was shaped in the centuries after Easter. Is the distinction between Jesus and Christ legitimate? Can the sediment of tradition be excavated in order to arrive at the ‘real’ life of Jesus? Analysis of ‘primary’ sources supplemented by readings in the field of historical Jesus research. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisites: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 250 - GOD AFTER AUSCHWITZ

Should ‘Auschwitz’ revolutionize how Jews think of God and covenant? Is poetry ‘after Auschwitz’ an obscenity? Is Christianity? This course seeks to fathom the impact of the Holocaust (Shoah) on contemporary Jewish thought through analysis of theological, literary, testamentary, and filmic responses to it. Special attention to the dialectic between responses that reaffirm traditional forms of fidelity and those that question all prior securities. Abrahamic. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 253 - IN MEMORY OF HER

Luce Irigaray asks, “In what way are women subjects in our cultures and religions?” This seminar poses that question through analysis of women and gender in canonical and non-canonical Jewish and Christian literature of late antiquity. Students will practice feminist and other strategies for remembering ‘her’ in ancient traditions and omissions. Special attention to women’s participation in Mediterranean religions to the 6th century and the imprint of ancient formations on contemporary outlooks. Abrahamic. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 261 - REEL RELIGION

Many films expressly or subtly treat religious themes and subjects. This course uses film to open up a discursive space wherein to think critically about religious desire and imagination, to reflect on the nature of film and representation, and to assess the strange progeny of ‘Hollywood’ and the ‘Holy.’ Films include Nattvardsgästerna, The Exorcist, Blade Runner, Jésus de Montréal, Breaking the Waves, Jesus Christ Superstar, among others. Abrahamic. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 264 - TIBET:RELIGION IN THE LAND OF THE SNOWS

This course is a survey of Tibetan Buddhism and its role in shaping Tibetan religion and culture throughout the Himalayas. In addition to surveying the foundations of Buddhist thought, this course will explore the history of Tibetan Buddhism, and the role of Buddhist beliefs in the shaping of Tibetan worldviews and religious and political institutions. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

RELG 266 - HINDU TRADITIONS OF INDIA

Is Hinduism one religion or many? This question guides our historical exploration of those South Asian religious traditions commonly labeled “Hinduism.” Concentrating on the classic Hindu religious ideals of dharma or duty, karma or action, and bhakti or love for the lord, we explore ritual in early Vedic texts, philosophical speculations in later Upanishads, Purana literature, and devotional poetry. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 268 - GENDERING ENLIGHTENMENT

The historian Caroline Walker Bynum wrote, “Religious experience is the experience of men and women, and in no known society is this experience the same.” Taking this claim as our point of departure, this course uses scholarship from religious studies, anthropology, and gender studies to examine Buddhist philosophical conceptions of gender and the status of historical Buddhist women. Eastern. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisites: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

RELG 270 - BUDDHISM

This course introduces Buddhist thought and practice, from its roots in ancient India to its efflorescence in Asia and elsewhere. Analysis of central Buddhist narratives and tenets are balanced with a study of the ‘lived religion’ in several diverse cultural contexts. Shared and distinctive commitments and practices of the three major living traditions, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, will receive close attention. Sources include classical texts, memoirs, scholarly essays, and documentary and feature films. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

RELG 275 - TRUE RELIGION

A study of modern and postmodern philosophical reflection on religions, centering on modern efforts to distill ‘true religion’ from story and postmodern efforts to reclaim the truth of story beyond supernaturalism and scientism. Course themes include the relationship between ‘faith’ and reason, religion and sex, religion and gender, religion and violence, the logic of religious discourse, the nature of religious experience, and the death of God. Abrahamic. Identical with Philosophy 275. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

RELG 287 - RELIGION IN NATIVE NORTH AMERICA

This course examines the rich cultural, ceremonial, and ideological diversity of Native American religious practices and beliefs from pre-European contact to the present. Topics covered include sacred landscapes, sweat lodge practices, the Ghost Dance, peyote, Christian missionary efforts, the dispossession of tribal lands and cultural genocide, and the development of hybrid and revitalization movements. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. One time only.

RELG 289 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

RELG 301 - IMMORTAL LONGINGS: FORM MYSTICAL CONSCIO

Seminar on ‘mystical’ traditions in world religions. Approaching these traditions in their native historical, cultural, institutional, and textual settings, the course will consider the logic of esoteric and exceptional uses of language in service of insight, the cultivation of ecstatic and special somatic states, and the relationship between masters of esoterica and the ‘establishment.’ Is ‘mysticism’ simply a scholarly fiction for assessing texts/practices that bypass ‘company’ gatekeepers? Does ‘mysticism’ name a transcultural core that transcends religious particularity? What did Eckhart mean: “I pray God that he rid me of God”? Abrahamic. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.

RELG 317 - TOPICS IN MOD/CON RELIGIOUS THOUGHT

A seminar on a topic in modern and contemporary religious thought. Topics vary from year to year. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: open to sophomores with permission of the instructor. May be repeated for credit when topic differs.

RELG 390 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

RELG 493 - METHODS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES

This is the first part of a two-part senior program sequence, in which religious studies majors explore ethnographic method and discipline-specific theory, develop an individual research proposal, obtain approval from Randolph College’s Institutional Review Board for work with human subjects, and begin fieldwork and observation in a religious community. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: permission of the Department.

RELG 494 - WRITING WORKSHOP

This is the second of a two-part senior program sequence. In this semester, religious studies majors finish collecting textual and ethnographic data, before working with fellow department majors and professors to craft a senior project in completion of their major requirements. Hours credit: 3. Prerequisite: permission of the Department.

RELG 497H - HONORS IN THE MAJOR

RELG 498H - HONORS IN THE MAJOR

RELG 5043 - ASIAN RELIGIONS

This course offers an introduction to Asian religions, exploring the basic tenets and practices of the non-Abrahamic traditions, in an attempt to gain an understanding of how Asian religions work, what part they play in people’s lives, and why the very word ‘religion’ is called into question by their sometimes joyous expression, in practice and in theory. With an emphasis on Hinduism and Buddhism, we will examine the notion of caste, ‘aims’ in life, the Indian background and key concepts such as karma and rebirth. During the course there will be a trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to see the Indian and Asian collections of religious pictures, artefacts and ritual objects. This is an essential component to the course, and the class will examine what it is to practice a religion, what makes a space or an object ‘sacred’, and how, in an Asian context, where what you do is as important as what you believe, ritual activity, as perhaps everywhere in the world, is often key to understanding underlying assumptions. For these traditions, a ‘text’ may be visual or aural, a ‘meditation’ a recitation, a dance or a sitting practice, and a ‘theory’ is seen as a skill in means, designed to encourage and awaken particular aspects of the mind and develop them on a spiritual path. No previous knowledge of the subject is expected.

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