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.
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.
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.
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.
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 receive 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 approaches 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 Islam, the religion of 1.2 billion people living on nearly every continent. Islam 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 dimensions of Islamic thought and practice. This course also examines how women of Muslim societies experience their daily lives and their sense of identity, 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.