Classes in Religion 

​These are not the official university descriptions of these classes. For these, and for a more complete listing of department offerings, see the Religion Department listings in the CMU Bulletin.

Several University Program Groups and Subgroups include Religion courses. University Program courses are clearly marked in the list below. Religion courses also fulfill free elective requirements for all degree programs. None of the courses listed here has prerequisites.


REL 101: Introduction to Religion
REL 130: Religion in America
REL 140: Religion, Race, and Discrimination in America
REL 207: Women in Religion
REL 220: Religious Traditions of China
REL 221: Religious Traditions of Japan
REL 222: Religious Traditions of India
REL 235: Religion and Social Issues
REL 240: African-American Religion
REL 250: The Old Testament and Its Age
REL 260: The New Testament and Its Age
REL 304: Religion and Psychology
REL 313: Christianity
REL 314: Islam
REL 320: The Buddhist Tradition
REL 334: Death and Dying: Religious Dimensions
REL 101: INTRODUCTION TO RELIGION (UP Group I. A.)

Religion is intimately involved in the ways that people come to know
themselves, each other, and the world around them. Introduction to
Religion examines topics such as: how sacred stories provide
people with a worldview; how religious claims and values shape and
legitimize social structures and behavior; how various types of
rituals function; and how, ultimately, religion serves as a
reality-defining institution. These topics are studied in light of
religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,
and the traditional religions of Africa and North America.

REL 130: RELIGION IN AMERICA (UP Group I-A)

This course explores issues in American religion such as church/state relations, nativism and anti-Semitism, and religion in the popular culture.  In the process, it presents case studies of a variety of religious communities in America, including Native Americans, Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Buddhists, and new religious movements.   Throughout, we consider how religion both shaped and was shaped by variables like immigration, racial and ethnic conflict, wars, gender, class, region, science, and politics.

REL 140: RELIGION RACE & DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA (UP Group IV.C.)
Religion has been a major factor in the lives of groups that
have experienced racism and discrimination in America. Sometimes
religion has served as a tool of racism, but it has also been a
means by which oppressed groups have adapted to their conditions
and struggled to overcome them. This course will explore the
various roles religion has played in the lives of Native Americans,
African Americans, Hispanic Americans and others as they have
struggled to work out their identities in American society.
Through reading, discussion, and documentary films, we will work to
achieve insight into the culture of each group, a grasp of the
wider dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in American life, and an
appreciation of the way the religious creativity of these groups
has helped to shape the ideal of America as a multicultural
community.
REL 207: WOMEN IN RELIGION (UP Group IV.A.)
This course will examine the images of women and the roles they
have played in various religious contexts, studied against the
background of broader social and cultural realities - particularly
patriarchy. Patriarchal structures have tended to oppress those
defined as "other" (on the basis of race, class and gender). While
at times religions have criticized that oppression, at other times,
religions have offered sacred legitimation for that oppression. We
will explore women's responses to the dual role religions have
played in oppression, leading some to argue for reform, others to
argue for rejection of traditional religions. We will also explore
the challenge to religion and society presented by feminist and
womanist thought, especially in the areas of theology and ethics.

REL 220: RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF CHINA (UP Group IV.B.)
The traditional culture of the world's most populous nation is
full of rich religious dimensions. This course will consider
topics such as: the humanistic social and ethical values of
Confucius; Taoist teachings on nature, spontaneity, and alchemy;
Buddhism meditation; popular cults, folk religion, and geomancy.
We will conclude with reflections on religion in contemporary
China, including the relationship between religion and Maoist
communism.

REL 221: RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF JAPAN (UP Group IV. B)
The flavor of Japanese culture includes a refined and heightened
sense of beauty co-existing with pain and death, intense loyalty
and a driving will to succeed, the way of the samurai and the way
of the tea ceremony. All of these elements of the Japanese spirit
come together in our study of Shinto, Confucianism, Zen, and Pure
Land Buddhism, and the "new religions" of 20th century Japan. Our
goal is to explore these traditions as dynamic cultural forces; our
guides will be philosophical and popular literature, poetry, art,
and film.

REL 222: RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF INDIA (UP Group IV. B)
This course will explore the religious mosaic of India, with
special focus upon the Hindu tradition. It will attempt to come to
some understanding of the faith and practices of Hindus through the
study of such elements as their sacred texts, myths, philosophy,
rituals, and quest for liberation.

REL 235: RELIGION AND SOCIAL ISSUES (UP Group IV. A.)

Topics will vary. Recent offerings have included "Religion and Violence" and "Religion and Freedom in America."

REL 240: AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGION (UP Group IV-C)

African American religion is the creative synthesis which American of African descent have constructed out of African traditional religions and European Christianity in the American context of slavery and segregation.  Through readings, videotapes, music, lectures, and discussion, this course will examine the influence of Africa upon the religion of the slaves and their descendants in the New World; the religious culture of slaves and masters in the pre-Civil War South; the development of independent black churches; the rise of Islam and of new religious movements; the impact of migration and urbanization upon African-American religious life; and the relation of African-American religion to various movements for social change and racial justice.

REL 250: THE OLD TESTAMENT AND ITS AGE (UP Group I.A.)
Prophets, priests, and poets, historians, law-givers, and sages-
they all have contributed to the Hebrew Bible. This ancient
literature, called by Jews the "Law, Prophets, and Writings" and
called by Christians the "Old Testament," has played a pivotal role
in the development of both Judaism and Christianity. Further, it
has also indirectly left its mark on the religion of Islam. Hence
the Bible has an abiding influence on religious life and self-
understanding in the western world.

In order to appreciate the content and significance of the
Bible, selected portions of it will be studied against the
background of the Ancient Near East out of which it arose. The
course will examine representative genres and major themes of this
religious literature. Students will become acquainted with current
approaches and central issues in biblical scholarship.

REL 260: THE NEW TESTAMENT AND ITS AGE (UP Group I. A.)
Jesus of Nazareth was executed at the hands of the state as a
political criminal. The New Testament writings claim that much
more occurred here than merely a travesty of justice. The New
Testament calls Jesus the Christ (= the Messiah, i.e. the one
anointed to be King of Israel and God's agent for justice and
transformation). The New Testament argues that in Christ are
revealed God's love, power, and justice.

To understand these claims of the New Testament, it is
necessary to see it in its first century setting. This course will
examine the New Testament against the background of its original
Jewish and Hellenistic world. Attention will be centered on the
Gospels and the letters of Paul. The students will be acquainted
with the history, literary forms, and religious thought of early
Christianity and also with current scholarly approaches to and
central issues of debate regarding the New Testament.

REL 304: RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY

While not everyone is "religious," religious beliefs and practices have been components of societies everywhere and, evidence shows, from the earliest times.  But why?  Why is there religion at all?  What is the origin of religious ideas and actions, what benefits do people receve from them, and why do they continue to persist through time, even in our highly educated, highly scientific age?  Throughout the semester students examine the ways that influential psychologists have variously answered questions about religion.  other influential views discussed include behavioral and comparative theories of religion and biologically based appreaches to religion, including the new "cognitive science of religion."

REL 313: CHRISTIANITY (U.P. GROUP I.A.)
Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, an insider or an outsider to the
tradition, Christianity is a powerful influence in your world. Chances are,
though, that you don't know much about how it got to be that way.
What are Christianity's leading ideas, what has shaped its history,
and what are the continuing controversies in which it is involved?
This course will explore these questions through primary source
readings, discussion, and films. The evolution of doctrine,
worship and social thought will be examined in a variety of
traditions--Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant--and in a
variety of historical contexts, ranging from the world of the earliest followers
of Jesus to contemporary theological trends.

REL 314: ISLAM (UP Group I-B)

This course explores Isalm, the religion of 1.2 billion people living on nearly every continent.  Isalm is the dominant cultural element of a region stretching from Morocco to Indonesia.  Its effects -- cultural, political and economic -- on all of world history continue to the present day.  The course will examine the development of Islamic institutions as responses to the event of the revelation of the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad.  Special attention will be given to the emergence of the Sunni, Shi'a, and Sufi traditions as three distinct yet interrelated dimensoins of Islamic thought and practice.  This course also examines how women of Muslim societies experience their daily lives and their sense of idintity, place, and personhood.

REL 320: THE BUDDHIST TRADITION (UP Group IV.B)
Siddhartha Gautama is called the Buddha ("the One Who Woke Up")
because he claimed to have awakened to the realities of the human
condition and to have discovered a way to escape the nightmare of
suffering. His teachings analyze how and why we suffer, and
present a "path" leading to perfect peace, nirvana. We will
explore how monks and ordinary Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Tibet,
Japan and the USA follow Buddha's path in their daily lives by meditating,
chanting, practicing non-violence, cultivating compassion, etc.
Video presentations will be a window into the real lives of
Buddhists teaching and practicing their religion.
REL 334: DEATH AND DYING: RELIGIOUS DIMENSIONS (UP Group IV.A.)
Death calls into question the meaning and purpose of human
existence. It challenges us to identify those values which we
believe make life humane and to analyze the relationship of those
values to our modes of living and dying. In particular, it
challenges us to examine the relationship of those values to such
elements of contemporary life as rapid social change,
transformation of traditional institutions, technology, law, modern
medicine and public policy on health care issues. In this course,
death will be explored in contexts such as these.


CMU (an AA/EO institution) encourages diversity and resolves to provide equal opportunity regardless of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or other irrelevant criteria.
The information on this page is maintained by David Smith, Department of Religion.
Document Revision Date: 17 August 2010

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