University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies

Undergraduate

Courses

The Department of Religious Studies offers a wide and varying number of courses open to undergraduates. Not all of these courses are taught annually. Click on a course number for a description of the course and the general education requirements it fulfills.

See also Current Course Offerings (RELGST).

Regularly Taught Courses
  • 0025 Major Biblical Themes
  • 0083 Mythology in the Ancient World
  • 0090 Myth in the Ancient Near East
  • 0105 Religions of the West
  • 0115 Bible as Literature
  • 0135 Christian Bible
  • 0205 Introduction to Judaism
  • 0283 United States and the Holocaust
  • 0305 Classics of Christian Thought
  • 0405 Witches to Walden Pond—Religion in Early America
  • 0415 Religion in Modern America
  • 0417 The Black Church
  • 0435 Religion, Film, and Literature
  • 0455 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
  • 0505 Religion in Asia
  • 0525 Religion and Culture in East Asia
  • 0601 Varieties of Religious Tradition
  • 0625 Death, Dying, and Immortality
  • 0705 Approaches to the Study of Religion
  • 0710 Sociology of Religion
  • 0715 Philosophy of Religion
  • 0735 Wisdom
  • 1100 Israel in the Biblical Age
  • 1102 The History of God
  • 1110 Special Topics—Ancient
  • 1112 Bible as Literature 2
  • 1120 Origins of Christianity
  • 1130 Varieties of Early Christianity
  • 1132 Paul
  • 1135 Orthodox Christianity
  • 1140 Dualism in the Ancient World
  • 1142 Construction of Evil
  • 1143 Death in the Name of God—Martyrs and Martyrdom
  • 1144 Classical Mythology, and Literature
  • 1145 Greco-Roman Religions
  • 1148 Religions of Ancient Egypt
  • 1150 Body and Society in Late Antiquity
  • 1151 Death in the Mediterranean World
  • 1160 Jerusalem—History and Imagination
  • 1210 Jews and Judaism—Ancient
  • 1214 Rabbinic Texts and Traditions
  • 1220 Jews and Judaism—Medieval
  • 1222 Jewish Mysticism
  • 1225 Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain
  • 1232 Modern Eastern European Jewry
  • 1240 Jews and the City
  • 1241 Gender in Jewish History
  • 1250 Jews and Judaism—Modern
  • 1252 Holocaust History and Memory
  • 1254 After the Holocaust
  • 1256 Modern Israel
  • 1257 Russian Jewry
  • 1260 American Jewish Experience
  • 1266 Israel—State and Society
  • 1320 Medieval History 1
  • 1330 Medieval History 2
  • 1360 Introduction to the Renaissance
  • 1370 Global Christianity
  • 1372 Catholicism in the New World
  • 1405 Religion and Sexuality
  • 1415 Race and Religion in America
  • 1425 Popular Religion in America
  • 1427 Religion and Law
  • 1438 Religion and Politics
  • 1440 Religion and Politics in the Middle East
  • 1450 Islam, Law and Politics
  • 1452 Hymns and HipHop—Sounds of Islam
  • 1455 Islam in Europe
  • 1457 Contemporary Islam—Internal Debates
  • 1466 Sociology of Islam
  • 1475 Religious Diversity
  • 1500 Religion in India 1
  • 1510 Religion in India 2—Storytelling as a Religious Form
  • 1516 Temple, Icon, and Deity in India
  • 1518 Religion and Ecology
  • 1519 Religion, Nature and the Environment
  • 1520 Buddhism Along the Silk Route
  • 1540 Saints East and West
  • 1545 Mysticism East and East
  • 1550 East Asian Buddhism
  • 1552 East Asian Meditative Traditions—Chan/Zen Buddhism
  • 1554 Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures
  • 1557 Buddhist Lives
  • 1558 Buddhism and Psychology
  • 1560 Religion in China
  • 1561 Chinese Thought
  • 1562 Confucianism—Basic Texts
  • 1570 Religion in Japanese
  • 1572 Popular Religion in a Changing Japan
  • 1610 Myth, Symbol, and Ritual
  • 1620 Women in Religion
  • 1624 Women in Judaism
  • 1630 Ritual Process
  • 1640 Jews in the Islamic World
  • 1642 History of Christian-Muslim Relations
  • 1644 Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle Age
  • 1645 The Historical Jesus
  • 1650 Approaches to Antisemitism
  • 1665 Anthropology of Religion
  • 1675 Reading the Hebrew Bible
  • 1680 History and Memory in the Jewish Tradition
  • 1681 Inventing Israel—Zionism, Anti-Zionism, Post-Zionism
  • 1720 Religion and Culture
  • 1725 Death in the Healthcare Professions
  • 1730 Problems in the Philosophy of Religion
  • 1740 Meaning, Mystery, and Paradox
  • 1760 Religion and Rationality
  • 1762 Guide for the Perplexed
  • 1770 Science and Religion
  • 1780 Computational Methods in the Humanities
  • 1800 Special Topics in Religion
  • 1900 Internship
  • 1901 Independent Study
  • 1902 Directed Study—Undergraduate
  • 1903 Directed Research—Capstone
  • 1904 Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • 1905 Undergraduate Teaching Assistant
Descriptions of Regularly Taught Courses

RELGST 0025: Major Biblical Themes
Benjamin Gordon

This course introduces students to the dominant themes of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Beginning with the biblical concept of God, we examine major biblical themes as elements of a broader system of ancient belief and practice. We look at how these ideas changed over time, and how they continue to resonate in today’s world. Our source material consists of excerpts from the Bible itself, as well as contemporary works of literature, poetry, film, and art. Special attention is given to sources that creatively reshape or challenge biblical themes. Original sin, holy war, prophecy, sacrifice, covenant loyalty—these are but some of the themes that are the subjects of the course.

RELGST 0083: Mythology in the Ancient World
Cross-listed with CLASS 0030
Meets requirements: REG
Nicholas Jones, Staff

Our subject is the traditional stories—myths, legends, and folktales—of the Greeks and Romans. Traditional stories are ones that, by virtue of some compelling attraction, manage to survive from generation to generation, so our main task is to discover just what that "compelling attraction" was. The creation of the universe, the first woman Pandora, the Twelve Gods and Goddesses, the theft of fire by Prometheus, Helen and the Trojan War, the foundation of Rome by Aeneas, and Ovid's fanciful metamorphoses are examples of the stories from our modern illustrated reader Classical Myth by Barry B. Powell. By way of providing a context for our stories, the instructor also devotes much attention to such topics as popular belief and superstition, cult rituals, sanctuaries of the gods, oracles and prophets, the conceptualization of male and female, sexuality, and the social and cultural basis of myth in general. Throughout, we examine the many theories about the meaning of traditional stories from antiquity down to our own day.

RELGST 0090: Myth in the Ancient Near East
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Benjamin Gordon

The myths of the ancient Near East are among the earliest written interpretations of the natural world. What is the purpose of humankind? How was the universe created? Why does evil exist? In this course, we think about how the ancients tackled these questions, and others like them, through the stories they told one another. These are tales of lost heroes, divine wars, angels, and charlatans. Through their careful study, we journey together into the ancient cultures of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, and Egypt. We reflect upon the earliest conceptions of the divine, long before the rise of biblical monotheism. We discuss the role of myth in religious systems, including Israelite religion. And we explore ways in which the ancients sought out meaning, truth, and happiness in their everyday lives.

RELGST 0105: Religions of the West
Cross-listed with HIST 0125
Meets requirements: COM, HS
Adam Shear, Staff

This course is a historical introduction to the religious traditions that developed in ancient Near East and the Mediterranean. Our major emphasis is on the history of the religious traditions that emerged in late antiquity in this area and which continue to be major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. We focus on key concepts, historical developments, and contemporary issues. Throughout the course, we also examine interactions among these religious traditions. In the last part of the course we examine the issue of globalization and the spread of these religions around the world as well as the presence of "non-Western" religion in the "West." The course also serves as an introduction to the academic study of religion and provides a foundation for further coursework in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. No prior knowledge of any of the religions studied is expected or assumed.

RELGST 0115: Bible as Literature
Cross-listed with ENGLIT 0597
Meets requirements: LIT
H. David Brumble

We read the Bible as literature. This is to say that we discuss, for example, the story of Adam and Eve, the story of Noah and the flood, and the story of the crucifixion of Jesus as stories. We try to understand these wonderful stories in their historical contexts, and so we discuss a wide range of background materials—arts, anthropology, history, and more.

RELGST 0135: Christian Bible
Meets requirements: HS
Rebecca Denova

This course introduces the text, history, and interpretations of the Christian Bible.

RELGST 0205: Introduction to Judaism
Cross-listed with JS 0205
Rachel Kranson, Adam Shear

This course offers students a broad overview of the major beliefs and practices of Judaism from ancient Israel to the modern period. Emphasis is on the historical development of Jewish religion and culture in relation to the social, intellectual, and political experiences of Jews in different contexts. No previous background in Jewish studies is required. This course provides a basic framework for further academic study in Jewish texts and Jewish history.

RELGST 0283: United States and the Holocaust
Cross-listed with HIST 0678 and JS 0283
Meets requirements: HS
Barbara Burstin

In recent years, more and more attention has been focused on the Nazis and their policy of mass murder. Along with that interest, there has come a spate of questions regarding the perception and response of the Allies to Hitler. This course is an attempt to look at the situation on this side of the Atlantic before, during and after WWII. We explore the Holocaust in Europe, but focus on American policy and American policy makers such as F.D.R. in the 1930s and 1940s and look at those factors that influenced our reaction. There is an opportunity to explore some of the issues and questions that the Holocaust raises for Americans today. In addition to selected films, there is an opportunity to meet survivors and liberators of the camps.

RELGST 0305: Classics of Christian Thought
Brock Bahler

In this course we read and discuss several of the most important works of Christian thought: Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians, Augustine’s Confessions, Anselm’s Why God Became Man and Proslogion, Aquinas’s Summa Thelogiae (selections), The Cloud of Unknowing (anonymous), Luther’s Christian Liberty, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (selections), Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, and Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Our discussions cover such topics as justice and righteousness, conversion, reason and revelation, Jesus, the existence of God, analogy and metaphor, sin, grace, free will, faith, love, compassion, and predestination.

RELGST 0405: Witches to Walden Pond—Religion in Early America
Cross-listed with HIST 0675
Meets requirements: HS
Paula M. Kane

Why did the prosecution of witches become a priority for the Puritan rulers of New England? What religious ideals convinced Henry David Thoreau to lead a life “off the grid” in Walden Pond? How did non-Protestant immigrants make their way in the new nation? And how did religious rhetoric undergird the debates over slavery that led to the civil war? These are some of the questions that we will explore in this course, which traces the religious history of the United States from the era of colonization to through the Civil War.

RELGST 0415: Religion in Modern America
Cross-listed with HIST 0676
Meets requirements: HS
Paula M. Kane, Rachel Kranson

This course examines the impact of religion as a moral, intellectual, and institutional force in America from 1865 to the present. We seek to understand how religions have both shaped and reflected economic, social, and cultural conditions in the United States. The course format combines lecture with student discussion of religious conflicts and critical moments of cultural change. Documentary films, slides, and local sites are also used. Major emphases include religious responses to intellectual, scientific, and economic change, including Biblical criticism, evolutionary theory, immigration, urbanization, industrialization, Marxism, fascism, racism, feminism, and globalization.

RELGST 0417: The Black Church
Cross-listed with AFRCNA 0013
Wilbert Austin, staff

This course examines the Black Church within the broader context of the African American religious experience in the United States. We survey and analyze the development of the Black Church from its historical roots and earliest manifestations through its development into contemporary institutional forms. We study its historical and theological development by examining the variety of its distinctions, praxis, experience, outlook, and historical personages through critical consideration of various readings, lecture, and class discussion. The role of black churches in establishing and providing connectivity and community in Black life will be examined as well as the trends toward new expanded roles for the church in an increasingly technological and non-religious-oriented age. A critical reading of texts, class discussion and written reflection and analysis are fundamental to our approach.

RELGST 0435: Religious Themes in American Literature
Paula M Kane

Among other things, religions speculate about what resides (or does not reside) beyond the limits of human perception, knowledge, and understanding. This course draws on two related themeshauntedness (ghosts, yes, but also seemingly inescapable legacies, destinies, or inheritances) and nothingness (or "nada," as we shall call it)—that characterize religious speculations about such uncertainty. In the process we'll consider how the variety of beliefs, suppositions, anxieties, and fears associated with religious faith (or the lack thereof) contribute to our understanding of a diverse selection of American literary texts. How do the religious elements of these texts generate (and find themselves generated by) social and political contexts in the United States and the Americas beyond? What do these
themes suggest about the relationships between literary expression (broadly construed) and the expression of religious belief, thought, and practice? In addition to shorter readings in religious thought and American religious history, the literary selections will include works by Ralph Ellison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oscar Hijuelos, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, and August Wilson (in addition to other "readings" in music and film).

RELGST 0455: Introduction to Islamic Civilization
Cross-listed with HIST 0756
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Jeanette Jouili

This course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of Islam as a heterogeneous religious tradition and to develop their ability to critically work through some of the common representations of that religion. While we can identify some shared fundamentals, which constitutes the necessary background knowledge for this class, much emphasis is put on how these ‘fundamentals’ are debated, contested, and put into practice in myriad ways in different regional contexts, and how they become the background to a diverse range of social realities. The course first tackles some major themes that are relevant to understand Islam as a religious tradition, such as the figure of the Prophet, the Hajj, Prayer, Sufism, or Shi’ism. Second, the course discusses some of the more present-day issues regarding Islam: from the question of ‘political Islam,' to the ‘women’s question’, to the situation of religious minorities in Muslim majority societies, to Islam as a diasporic experience in the West, and to the very recent phenomenon of an Islamic pop culture. The course takes a strongly interdisciplinary approach combining literature from Islamic studies and anthropology with readings from political science and history.

RELGST 0505: Religion in Asia
Cross-listed with HIST 0755
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Clark Chilson, Linda Penkower

This course introduces students to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Shintō, Confucianism, and Daoism. It focuses on two basic questions: What have been the key concerns of these traditions? How have they addressed those concerns? To answer these questions and to understand what people in Asian religions have said and done, we use primary sources, the textbook, and scholarly articles, and films.

RELGST 0525: Religion and Culture in East Asia
Cross-listed with HIST 0475
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Clark Chilson, Linda Penkower

Words have consequences. How a society defines “religion” and “culture” have much to say about how they balance individual freedom and collective responsibility. This course focuses on how religion has been and is practiced in East Asia in modern and contemporary times. We begin with an overview of the major religions in the region (e.g., Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Shintō, folk traditions), and examine various themes to help us learn how religion influences the lives of individuals and the wider societies in which they live. Themes dealt with include the relationship between religion and politics, nationalism, terrorism, secularization, gender and the family, the life cycle and ritual calendar year, healing, ethical behavior, and the environment. By looking at how these issues unfold in modern China and Japan and at their global significance enable us to better understand how religion shapes our world.

RELGST 0601: Varieties of Religious Tradition
Staff

This course surveys the diverse forms of religious experience and expression in both European and Asian contexts. Traditions and themes vary with the instructor.

RELGST 0625: Death, Dying, and Immortality
Staff

This course examines the ways in which humanity has dealt with the reality of death.

RELGST 0705: Approaches to the Study of Religion
Staff

This course introduces students to a wide range of theories and methods applied in the academic study of religion and explores broad themes in religious thought. It examines recent religious theories and their role in providing an understanding of the psychological, social, cultural, and ecological processes in our lives. Readings are drawn from several disciplines.

RELGST 0710: Sociology of Religion
Cross-listed with SOC 0339
Staff

Religion has always been one of the most important elements of human society. Why? Sociologists have long turned their attention to religion—from classic sociologists like Durkheim and Weber struggling to understand the importance of religion, to the predictions of the coming death of religion in the 1960s. Along with these analyses we consider how political and economic structures both shape and are shaped by religion, examine the impact of secularization and fundamentalism on the world, the impact of mass media, fringe movements, and consumer culture. Students read a number of classic and contemporary works on religion.

RELGST 0715: Philosophy of Religion
Cross-listed with PHIL 0473
Meets requirements: PH
Brock Bahler

Are there good reasons for thinking that God exists? Are there good reasons for thinking that he doesn't? In this course we examine the chief arguments for and against the existence of God, as well as other topics central to philosophy of religion: the nature of religious language and attempts at describing God, the problem of evil, and religious experience. Members of the class develop a working knowledge of the issues by reading and discussing traditional and contemporary authors from a variety of faith traditions. Lectures are used to initiate and focus discussions.

RELGST 0735: Wisdom
Staff

We live in a time when there is no single tradition of wisdom that all Americans hold in common. As a result, many of us are searching to find—or reclaim—a wisdom to live by. Fortunately, the resources of the world’s traditions are now available as never before, and there has also been an outpouring of wisdom literature in our own culture. Of course, not all of this "wisdom" is really wise, but some of it is—hence the need to think critically about it. This course, then, is a consumer guide to wisdom. Using examples from several traditions, we talk about how to evaluate sayings, stories, and practices that present themselves as "wise." Some of our readings come from the western tradition, some from other traditions, and some from contemporary spiritual and self-help literature. Readings also include theoretical writings on religious language, metaphor, and ritual. The principal readings are drawn from the following works: Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (Chuang Tzu), Tao te ching (Lao Tzu), Metaphors We Live By (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson), “Betwixt and Between” (Victor Turner), The Cloud of Unknowing (Anonymous), The Road Less Traveled (M. Scott Peck), Protagoras (Plato), Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle), Ecclesiastes (in the Bible), Enchiridion (Epictetus), Mencius (Mencius), The Guide of the Perplexed (Maimonides), Philoctetes (Sophocles), and The Heidi Chronicles (Wasserstein).

RELGST 1100: Israel in the Biblical Age
Cross-listed with HIST 1765 and JS 1100
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Ben Gordon

This course explores the history and development of the people of Israel in ancient times. What do we know about the Israelites and how do we know it? Students will read both biblical and extra-biblical materials and study the remains of key archaeological sites. They will learn about everyday life in ancient Israel, the role of class and gender, life-cycle events, religious festivals, political institutions, systems of belief, and famous personages in history and lore. The trajectory of the course will begin with the Near Eastern origins of the people, continue through the rise of the Israelite and Judahite monarchies, and end with the post-exilic reestablishment of the Second Temple commonwealth in the Persian period.

RELGST 1102: The History of God
Cross-listed with ANTH 1703, HIST 1731, and JS 1102
Meets requirements: HS
Ben Gordon

Who invented God? The existence of a supreme, unitary, exclusive, invisible deity is one of the most influential ideas in the history of religion. Yet the history of the idea is shrouded in myth. Students in this course use archaeological and textual evidence to trace the evolution of the God of Israel from a mountaintop deity of the southern Levant in the late second millennium BCE to a supreme deity worshipped by a small group of absolute monotheists based in Jerusalem in the mid-first millennium BCE. The cultural milieu in which God arose was marked by fluid and highly ritualized religious experiences—a kind of religious diversity that would be stamped out by the authors of the latest strata of the Hebrew Bible. Students become more sophisticated readers of cultural artifacts and biblical texts relevant to the rise of monotheism. They also learn how deities were experienced in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. We end by exploring how the character of the deity worshipped by the Israelites has proven problematic to many contemporary religious interpreters, particularly on issues of LGBT rights, women’s rights, and the environment.

RELGST 1110: Special Topics—Ancient
Cross-listed with HAA 1100 and JS 1110
Rebecca Denova

This course takes up different topics and themes in the ancient world. Recent topics include Religion in Ancient Egypt; Death in the Name of God: Martyrdom and Spectacle in Ancient Rome and Beyond; Apocalypse Then and Now; and Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Roman Empire.

RELGST 1112: Bible as Literature 2
Cross-listed with ENGLIT 1797
H. David Brumble

This course is a continuation of RELGST 0115: Bible as Literature and provides an opportunity to consider more carefully some of the books considered in Bible as Literature. But for the most part, we read books such as Daniel, Job, and Judith B that were not covered in Bible as Literature. This second semester also allows us to consider more carefully the following fascinating problems: What happens to narratives as they pass out of the oral tradition and into written form? How did the formation of the canon come about? What is the nature of prophecy? Our approach is historical. We try to understand the books of the Bible in their historical context. We try to imagine ourselves in another time and culture.

RELGST 1120: Origins of Christianity
Cross-listed with CLASS 1430 and HIST 1775
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Rebecca Denova

This course is a historical-critical investigation of Christian origins. Special attention is paid to varieties of 1st-century Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism within the Greco-Roman world. Primary readings include selected Biblical passages and apocrypha, 1st-century historians and philosophers (Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Philo), the New Testament corpus (including Paul and the Pastorals), and selected readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition there are assignments from various modern New Testament critics, historians, and theologians.

RELGST 1130: Varieties of Early Christianity
Cross-listed with CLASS 1432 and HIST 1776
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Rebecca Denova

Through early Christian literature (such as non–canonical gospels and the writings of the Church Fathers) and various types of archaeological evidence, this course examines the many different and often competing forms of Christianity that developed in the first four centuries of the common era. Among the areas of examination are key theological issues, creedal formulation, Gnosticism, martyrdom, asceticism, Christian relations with pagans and Jews, and the battles over orthodoxy and heresy. We also assess the conversion of Constantine and the social and political implications of the Christianization of the Roman Empire.

RELGST 1132: Paul
Staff

The apostle Paul wasn’t the first Christian thinker, but he was the first theologian. That is, he was the first to try to answer explicitly the questions raised by the beliefs and values of the young movement. Indeed, in the years since, Paul’s example has been the model for later theologians such as Marcion, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Kierkegaard, and Rahner. He addresses issues of justice and righteousness, Jesus' death, resurrection, and return, spirit and flesh, law, sin, freedom, faith, love, and predestination. This course is an examination of these questions by reading both Paul’s own letters and the writings of theologians and scholars who have been influenced by him.

RELGST 1135: Orthodox Christianity
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Milica Bakić-Hayden

This course is designed as an overview of the history, teachings, and rituals of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in its multinational context. Geographically, this context refers primarily to Russia, southeastern Europe, and the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean, but there is also a large Orthodox Diaspora in the western hemisphere. Understanding Orthodox Christianity—its specific historical experience (from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires to the life under communism, and beyond), theological doctrines and spiritual practices, rich artistic, musical, and ritual expressions—has become increasingly relevant in the post-communist era with the emergence of religion as an important aspect of cultural identity and national self-definition. Through lectures, readings, discussions, visual presentations (films on rituals, monastic life, and art), and visits to local Orthodox churches, students gain an insight into the multifaceted world of Orthodox Christianity.

RELGST 1140: Dualism in the Ancient World
Cross-listed with CLASS 1434
Rebecca Denova

Dualism is a theory or system or thought that recognizes two independent and mutually irreducible principles, which are sometimes complementary and sometimes in conflict. We begin our survey with the monism of Hebrew Scriptures, then move to the changes brought on by Persian culture and the Hellenization of the Mediterranean basin after the conquests of Alexander. The focus is on the polarities of "good" and "evil," specifically highlighting the rise of Gnosticism in early Christianity and its legacy in the Western tradition. In addition, we analyze the role of "asceticism," or the idea of not indulging the body, in most Gnostic systems, and the influence of this asceticism in Christian society.

RELGST 1142: Construction of Evil
Rebecca Denova
Meets requirement: HS

Why is there evil in the world and who or what is responsible for it? How can we reconcile a belief in a good God with the existence of evil? Even without the theological underpinning, in secular terms, evil poses a problem about the world¹s intelligibility. This course undertakes a historical analysis of the various ways in which ancient and medieval minds pondered these questions and their solutions to the problem. We begin our survey with the monism of Hebrew Scriptures then move to the changes brought on by Persian culture and the Hellenization of the Mediterranean basin after the conquests of Alexander with the introduction of Dualism. Dualism is a theory or system of thought that recognizes two independent and mutually irreducible principles, which are sometimes complementary and sometimes in conflict. The course focuses on the polarities of "good" and "evil" (and the methods by which "evil" is defined), specifically highlighting the evolution of the emergence of the Devil in Judaism and Christianity and the social construction of good and evil in the Western tradition. At the same time, we consider the rationalization of "our" good against the evil of "others," or the issue of religious intolerance.

RELGST 1143: Death in the Name of God—Martyrs and Martyrdom
Rebecca Denova
Meets requirement: HS

The Roman Empire understood Christianity to be an illegal and superstitious movement, and a threat to the traditions of their ancestors. Subsequently, many Christians were charged with the crime of “atheism,” and put to death, as atheism was equivalent to treason. Who were these people who voluntarily embraced their own deaths as a vindication of their faith, and how did Rome justify their extinction? How were they understood by their pagan and Jewish neighbors? This course explores the cultural, political and religious context of Christian martyrs, beginning in Second Temple Judaism. We then analyze their stories (martyrologies), imperial transcripts and legislation, and examine the later (Christian) Imperial legislation against “heretics.” This background helps motivate discussions of contemporary “martyrs,” such as “suicide bombers,” the political ramifications of such behavior, who gets to decide if someone is a martyr, and reactions to the public spectacle of dying as the ultimate religious act.

RELGST 1144: Classical Mythology and Literature
Cross-listed with CLASS 1130
Meets requirements: EX, REG
Staff

This course is taught essentially as a literature course; that is to say, attention is focused on how various authors of classical (chiefly Greek) antiquity used the traditional figures and stories of their culture's mythology in order to say things of lasting value about the conditions and problems of human life. We begin with the emergence of the cosmos as recounted in Hesiod's Theogony and then take up each of the major Olympian dieties in turn, studying the ways in which they are depicted in other works of Greek literature, including the Homeric Hymns, various plays by Aeschylus and Euripedes, and Homer's Odyssey.

RELGST 1145: Greco-Roman Religions
Cross-listed with CLASS 1402
Meets requirements: REG
Rebecca Denova

What was/is a "pagan?" And what does "paganism" have to do with Christianity? This course introduces students to religious texts and traditions in a formative era of Western civilization and culture. Our focus is on the variety of religious expressions in Greco-Roman culture, which flourished in the geographical area of the Mediterranean basin during the first five centuries of the Common Era. By considering such topics as debates about the nature of the gods and access to them (through oracles, ritual, and magic), the emergence of the idea of the holy person, and a variety of religious traditions as expressed in prayer, ritual, and art, students encounter a rich religious imagination that is truly different from contemporary understandings of religion and yet strangely familiar. We also explore the integration of religion and politics in the ancient world.

RELGST 1148: Religions of Ancient Egypt
Cross-listed with HAA 1103
Meets requirements: REG
Rebecca Denova

This course introduces students to ancient Egyptian religious thought and practice with its massive temples, multitude of gods and goddesses, and fascinating funeral rites. We explore the mythic cycle of Creation and Osirian cycle of betrayal, revenge, death and rebirth, as well as the place of myriad local and minor deities within Egyptian mythology. We also consider the dynamics of the "monotheistic" revolution of Akhenaton. In the historical and cultural context of ancient Egypt, students encounter the interaction of sacred and secular, and the relationship between state cults and private worship by nobles and commoners alike. A special feature of the course includes sessions at the Egyptian Exhibit of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and designing public educational materials that help illuminate this ancient culture.

RELGST 1150: Body and Society in Late Antiquity
Cross-listed with CLASS 1436
Rebecca Denova

In the development of western Christianity, the body became the focus of both evil and salvation. Within the multiple religious elements of late Mediterranean society, we explore how and why the body came to bear such a burden. We examine attitudes toward the body in ancient society, and then the Christian transformation of such attitudes, and consider the various degrees of "body" choices (life-styles) such as virginity, sex and marriage, celibacy, martyrdom, and the rise of institutional monasticism. Important for this exploration is the ancient/medieval knowledge of medicine, and the way in which philosophy and medicine were integrated in an attempt to understand human behavior. We also consider the relationship between "body" and "society," and the various ways in which the ancient conceptions of the body provided the template for human relationships, social hierarchy, and physical space (cities), where the human circulation system was at times the literal icon for city planning.

RELGST 1151: Death in the Mediterranean World
Cross-listed with CLASS 1090 and HIST 1714
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Rebecca Denova

In many cultures, people sometimes ask fundamental questions about their existence, including, “What happens after we die?” This course will focus on the evolution of beliefs and rituals related to death and the afterlife in and around the Mediterranean basin, including Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman cultures. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we will combine methodologies from Anthropology, Classics, History, and Religious Studies. Topics to be covered include myths of the afterlife, books of the dead, magic and death rituals, funeral practices and paraphernalia (disposal of the dead), cults of the dead, divinization, heaven and hell, judgment, and the impact of Christianization on the ancient understanding of death.

RELGST 1160: Jerusalem—History and Imagination
Cross-listed with HIST 1779, HAA 1105, and JS 1160
Meets requirements: HS
Ben Gordon

The holy city of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Western religious imagination and of contemporary political conflict in the Middle East. Traditionally it has been a center of religious pilgrimage, home to Israelite kings and Islamic caliphs. Today it is a cutting-edge urban center marked by stunning demographic diversity, a rapidly expanding economy, and an intractable political crisis. In this course, we will examine the history of the city-from its earliest days to today-with an eye toward its religious significance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Special attention will be given to Jerusalem's changing urban fabric: its architecture, neighborhoods, natural resources, economy, and religious institutions.

RELGST 1210: Jews and Judaism—Ancient
Cross-listed with CLASS 1450 and JS 1210
Meets requirements: HS
Ben Gordon

This course covers the development of classical Judaism from the Second Temple period—beginning with the end of the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE—and continues up through the emergence of rabbinic Judaism, culminating with the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud in the 6th century CE. We cover both major historical trends and religious developments. The course also introduces students to the major Jewish texts of both the Second Temple and the Rabbinic periods, emphasizing close readings of primary texts.

RELGST 1214: Rabbinic Texts and Traditions
Cross-listed with JS 1214
Staff

This course introduces students to the various genres of rabbinic literature (2nd through 6th centuries CE). Through close textual study of rabbinic writings (Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud and Midrash), students enter into the world of the rabbis in order to examine the parameters of that world, and the systems of belief that came to shape Diaspora Jewish life. All readings are drawn from English-language translations. Class discussion and written exercises are based on assigned texts.

RELGST 1220: Jews and Judaism—Medieval
Cross-listed with HIST 1760 and JS 1220
Meets requirements: HS
Adam Shear

This course surveys the Jewish historical experience from the 7th through the 18th centuries. Political, social, economic, cultural, and religious dimensions of a variety of Jewish communities are explored within the contexts of the larger societies in which the Jewish minority lived. Through study of primary texts in translation and secondary sources, we explore the different dimensions of medieval and early modern Judaism: rabbinic literature, Jewish philosophy, mysticism, biblical commentary, folklore and popular religion. We also discuss periodization: how should the "medieval" period of Jewish history be defined?

RELGST 1222: Jewish Mysticism
Cross-listed with HIST 1710 and JS 1222
Adam Shear

This course is an introductory survey of Jewish mystical thought and its cultural role from the prophet Ezekiel to the pop star Madonna, focusing mainly on the form of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah. Topics include non-Kabbalistic forms of Jewish mysticism, the emergence of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, 16th-century developments in Safed, the popularization of Kabbalah, the mystical messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi, 19th-century Hasidism, Christian uses of the Kabbalah, and contemporary developments.

RELGST 1225: Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain
Cross-listed with HIST 1791 and JS 1225
Meets requirements: HS
Adam Shear

A survey of major topics related to the cultural, intellectual, and religious life of Jews in medieval Muslim and Christian Spain from the early Middle Ages through 1492. Topics include the culture of al-Andalus, Hebrew poetry, Jewish philosophy, biblical exegesis, the impact of the Reconquista, Jewish mysticism, "convivencia," Jewish-Christian disputation, the conversos, and Jewish thought in the 15th century.

RELGST 1232: Modern Eastern European Jewry
Cross-listed with HIST 1270 and JS 1232
Meets requirements: COM, HS
Irina Livezeanu

Most European Jews until Hitler dwelled in the Eastern part of the continent. This course deals with the history of eastern European Jews from the Middle Ages until the present. The main focus of the course is on the 18th-20th centuries. Both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewry are examined, with a stress on the latter. The course analyzes the reactions of Jews to the Enlightenment, and to modern nationalism, socialism, and other ideologies.

RELGST 1240: Jews and the City
Cross-listed with HIST 1780 and JS 1240
Meets requirements: HS, COM
Rachel Kranson

The comedian Lenny Bruce riffed in 1963 that “If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.” In this course, we discover why Lenny Bruce—and so many other observers of Jewish life—came to understand urbanity as a core component of the Jewish experience. We begin our study of Jews and the city in the 19th century, when millions of Eastern European Jews migrated from the small market-towns in which they were born to urban centers around the globe. After focusing on the Jewish immigrants who settled in cities like Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, London, Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires, we train our lens on the specific encounter between Jews and cities in the United States. A particular focus on the history, built environment, and archival documents of the Jews of Pittsburgh will provide us with a dynamic case study for this crucial relationship between Jews and the city.

RELGST 1241: Gender in Jewish History
Cross-listed with HIST 1711 and JS 1241
Meets requirements: HS, COM
Rachel Kranson

How did a Jewish teenager named Henriette Herz become the belle of Berlin high society in the late 18th century? And why did Ray Frank, a Jewish woman from San Francisco who did not think that women should be rabbis, feel compelled to lead the first high holiday service ever held in Spokane, Washington? Why did Zionist thinkers like Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau think it so important to transform Jewish men into “muscle Jews,” and how did gender affect the way that Jewish men and Jewish women experienced the horrors of the Holocaust? These are some of the questions that we ask in Gender in Jewish History, a course that places gender and its effects at the center of Jewish modernity. We take an international approach to this history, traveling through Europe, the Americas, and the middle east to show how Jews negotiated gender identity and gender roles in numerous contexts and under varying political and social circumstances. In exploring such themes as religious practice, politics, education, anti-semitism, work, and family, we see how gender indelibly marked every aspect of Jewish life over the past two hundred years.

RELGST 1250: Jews and Judaism—Modern
Cross-listed with HIST 1767 and JS 1250
Meets requirements: HS, COM
Rachel Kranson

What is a “secular Jew?” How was medieval anti-Judaism different than modern anti-Semitism? How did German Jews go from being full citizens of their country to victims of genocide? What was the relationship between Middle Eastern Jews and European Jews during the age of colonialism? Why did some Jews think it necessary to build a nation of their own, while others were content to be citizens of non-Jewish states? In this course, we talk about these and other questions that are critically important not only to the history of Jews, but also to the history of the modern world.

RELGST 1252: Holocaust History and Memory
Cross-listed with HIST 1769 and JS 1252
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Rachel Kranson

The Holocaustthat is, the genocide of six million Jews in Nazi-Occupied Europe during World War IIwas a critical event of the early twentieth century that continues to resonate today. Our historical survey looks at the Holocaust primarily through the experiences of its Jewish victims, though we discuss some of the other groups, such as the Roma, disabled people, and homosexual men, who were also targeted and systematically murdered by the Nazis. Additionally, we think about the perpetrators of the Holocaust and the ideologies that led to the genocide, such as racism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism. Finally, we move beyond the history of the Holocaust to think about the ways that this event has been remembered and reconstructed by survivors, nations, institutions, museums, the arts, popular culture, and the media. Looking at how institutions here in Pittsburgh commemorate the Holocaust offers us local, concrete examples of how people continue to grapple with this history.

RELGST 1254: After the Holocaust
Cross-listed with HIST 1770 and JS 1254
Staff

This course surveys the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish life in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States in the period 1945-2000.

RELGST 1256: Modern Israel
Cross-listed with HIST 1766 and JS 1256
Meets requirements: REG
Staff

The idea of a Jewish-initiated return to the ancient biblical homeland in the last quarter of the 19th century marked a significant break with traditional Jewish thinking on the theme of Return and Redemption. The subsequent migration to Palestine and the building of institutional Jewish life there culminating in the independent state of Israel (1948) has not only been a watershed in modern Jewish history, it has also had a major impact on Judaism and global affairs. In this course, we trace the history of modern Israel from the idea of the return through the state of Israel today.

RELGST 1257: Russian Jewry
Cross-listed with HIST 1378 and JS 1257
Staff

In this course we focus on the experience of Russian Jewry in the period 1772-1917. We treat internal developments focusing especially on Jewish modernization as well as on the relationships between the Jewish people and the general society in this critical period of Russian history. Finally, we pay close attention to the emergence of secular forms of Jewish cultural life as they came to be expressed in the Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian languages.

RELGST 1260: American Jewish Experience
Cross-listed with HIST 1677 and JS 1260
Meets requirements: HS
Barbara Burstin

This course is designed to look at the history of the Jewish community in America up to the present time. While that history is more than 350 years old, we focus primarily on the 20th and 21st centuries. We explore not just historical themes and developments, but also contemporary issues and perspectives. In our discussion, we touch on aspects of American, European, and world Jewish history. There are a variety of classroom activities including lecture-discussion, oral reports, films, and guest speakers. The aim of this course is to make each class provocative, lively, and informative by raising issues and questions regarding the past, present, and future of the American Jewish community.

RELGST 1266: Israel—State and Society
Cross-listed with HIST 1764 and JS 1266
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Staff

This course focuses on the impact of immigration and its role in the shaping of the state, the interaction between religion and politics (state), and the experiences of the Arab citizens of the Jewish state.

RELGST 1320: Medieval History 1
Cross-listed with HIST 1110
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Staff

Exactly how "medieval" were the European Middle Ages? What is the prehistory of European domination of so much of the globe starting in the early modern era? This course considers the evolving societies of he Mediterranean and Europe from the late Roman Empire to approximately 1150 CE, with special attention to political organization, social life, religion, and the environment. Reading assignments and discussions focus on development of critical reading in historical sources. Writing assignments include frequent short quizzes and a research paper.

RELGST 1330: Medieval History 2
Cross-listed with HIST 1111
Meets requirements: HS, REG
Staff

This course is about the later Middle Ages in Western Europe. It focuses on the interconnected political histories of England and France from the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 to the invasion of Italy by Charles VIII of France in 1494. Its principal theme is the origin of the modern Western state in France and England in the five centuries after the year 1000 and the relationship of these emerging institutions of government to law-making, war-making, and their own societies. Starting with the Norman Conquest, the course traces the long rivalry between the rulers of England and France culminating in the Hundred Years War. It also considers the expansion of English and French royal power within their kingdoms and against their neighbors. It concludes by considering why, in the last 150 years of the period, both English and French monarchies suffered serious crises in the form of popular rebellions, such as the Jacquerie or Cade's Revolt, and aristocratic resistance such as the War of the League of Public Good and the Wars of the Roses.

RELGST 1360: Introduction to the Renaissance
Cross-listed with HIST 1116 and MRST 1002
Meets requirements: REG, HS
Staff

This course is about Western Europe in the period of the Renaissance. Though it is intended to provide a broad introduction to the history of the Renaissance as a whole, it focuses on histories of the two centers of Renaissance high culture in this period, northern Italy, and the Burgundian Low Countries. The principal theme of the course is the emergence of the modern Western state in the 250 years that marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern era. In addition to studying the political development of the Italian city-states and the northern European dynastic monarchies of the era, we examine the political thought of the period, culminating in the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli.

RELGST 1370: Global Christianity
Cross-listed with HIST 1732
Meet requirements: GLO
Paula Kane

This course takes Christianity as a prism through which to consider the origins and growth of global religions. Christianity has tried to achieve a global status since its inception in the ancient Mediterranean world in the first century. Stemming from Paul’s fateful decision to evangelize the gentiles, Christianity has long sought to achieve a global network of believers, which now comprise about 20% of the world’s population. In this course, we study Christian globalization in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and focus on two Christian traditions, Catholicism and Pentacostalism, as examples of religions that have deliberately and successfully globalized. We ask if the contemporary values of and pluralism and relativism are good for religions and religious people. And, where religion is no longer a powerful cultural force, what are the prospects for a purely humanitarian approach to common problems in a globalizing world?

RELGST 1372: Catholicism in the New World
Cross-listed with HIST 1051
Paula M. Kane

The course examines the history of the Roman Catholic Church since 1492 in the Americas using various moments of internal crisis or external conflict as focal points for study. Topics include: missionary and military contact with New World indigenous populations after 1492; the minority situation of Catholics in the new United States; the Irish famine and its global consequences; conflicts between Catholic ethnic groups; the impact of Catholic support for fascist regimes in the 1930s and 1940s; counter cultural forms of Catholicism (conscientious objectors, civil rights activists, pacifists); Vatican II and its impact; liberation theology, Marxism and structural reform in Latin America; shifting theological positions on social and moral issues; the current sexual abuse crisis; the Pope Francis effect. While the emphasis rests upon the social, economic, and political dimensions of Catholic history, the course also addresses the aesthetic and cultural legacy of Catholicism including sacred architecture, music, and the arts, in elite and popular forms.

RELGST 1405: Religion and Sexuality
Cross-listed with HIST 1672 and SOC 1405
Meets requirement: HS
Rachel Kranson

From Puritan attempts to control women’s sexuality to contemporary debates over reproductive rights and gay marriage, religion and sexuality have played a formative role in the political and social history of the United States. Though American political ideologies have often tried to situate both sexuality and religion as private matters that have no bearing on public life, the topics we discuss in this course reveal that quite the opposite is true. We take a chronological approach to our subjects, locating the intersections between religion and sexuality throughout the course of American history. In the process, we’ll discover how competing ideas regarding religion and sexuality have transformed, and continue to transform, American politics, culture, and society.

RELGST 1415: Race and Religion in America
Cross-listed with AFRCANA 1415 and HIST 1604
Meets requirement: HS
Staff

This course offers an in-depth and comparative examination of Mormonism and the Nation of Islam: two vital religious movements that emerged among diverse populations in the United States at representative moments of dynamic transition and migration in American history. Furthermore, both traditions have served to reify and affirm the coherences of race and nation—“blackness” for the Nation of Islam and “whiteness” for the Mormons. Both groups build upon standing religious traditions (a proto-“Judeo-Christianity” [in all of that term’s complexities] for Mormonism; Islam for the Nation of Islam, revising them extensively according to historically specific American contexts (the Second Great Awakening and Manifest Destiny in the early American Republic for Mormonism and the racial dynamics of Jim Crow that fed the “Great Migration” of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban north in the early twentieth century for the Nation of Islam). Furthermore, both groups claim fantastic myths of origin (Joseph Smith’s golden tablets and Wallace Fard’s tale of Yakub the evil scientist) that correct perceived historical misconceptions (Jesus appeared to the Native Americans, generating an “American gospel”; the role of Africa as locus of glorious past and future ideal). Both also remain controversial to this day for maligned social attitudes, practices, and the ways in which they have been, at times, unfairly misunderstood. Together we examine the histories, theologies, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and cultural contributions of these two groups aiming to understand how and why they emerged and what they have to say about religion and its relationship to race and nation in American transnational contexts.

RELGST 1425: Popular Religion in America
Cross-listed with HIST 1676
Meets requirement: HS
Paula M. Kane

Popular religions emerge from the struggle of a group, tribe, or nation to maintain unity against socioeconomic change, such as the effects of colonization, industrialization, and competitive capitalism. This course examines some popular religions that have formed in North America since the 18th century among various populations: Native Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Roman Catholics, and Protestant Pentecostals. Topics include peyote cults, Santería, voodoo, saint's cults, miracles, pilgrimages, speaking in tongues, and snake handling. The course method is interdisciplinary, drawing upon anthropology, documentary film, history, religious studies, psychology, and sociology.

RELGST 1427: Religion and Law
Cross-listed with HIST 1627
Staff

Religion and Law: Religious Freedom in the American Legal System explores how the concept of “religious freedom,” generally taken to be at the heart of what it means to be a democracy, has been put into practice throughout America’s history, into the present day. The course will examine various ways that “religious freedom” has been interpreted and executed by studying foundational documents leading to the ratification of the First Amendment; landmark Supreme Court cases that have been instrumental in creating and refining the category of “legal religion,” whether by prohibition or protection; and the ramifications of those cases in lower courts, other municipal arenas, and beyond.

RELGST 1438: Religion and Politics
Cross-listed with HIST 1754 and PS 1375
Meets requirements: COM, SS
Staff

RELGST 1440: Religion and Politics in the Middle East
Cross-listed with HIST 1762
Staff

This course represents a historical survey highlighting the confluence of religion and politics in the broad geographic region known as the Middle East. In particular, course topics in this class will focus upon the multiple monotheistic faiths endemic to this region and will explore the intersection of religion, culture, society, and politics in both historical settings, as these conceptual movements developed over time and also in contemporary settings, as these conceptual movements continue to have import and bearing on regional and global political and cultural affairs. As such, this course presents an historical comparison of the relationship between monotheistic religious, institutions and political and institutional practice in the Middle East throughout history and through to the present day.

RELGST 1450 Islam, Law and Politics
Cross-listed with HIST 1794 and POLI SCI 1471
Meets requirement: Non-western culture
Jeanette S. Jouili

The emergence of modern Islamic political movements worldwide has not only had a profound impact on contemporary global geo-politics but has also triggered heated debates around the question of the compatibility of Islam with liberal democracy. This course investigates the "vexed" relationship between Islam and politics, profoundly influenced by the experience of colonialism, and standing in complex relationship to concepts such as the modern nation-state, democracy, liberalism, or secularism. The course combines empirically grounded studies on the multiple facets of past and contemporary Muslim politics in Muslim-majority and minority contexts with a more theoretical investigation of modern Islamic political thought; here we examine the intellectual origins of Islamic politics, its arguments, and the challenges it poses to its liberal counterparts, but also its conundrums and contradictions.

RELGST 1452: Hymns and HipHop—Sounds of Islam
Meets requirement: GLO
Jeanette S. Jouili

From its inception, the Islamic tradition has placed a heavy emphasis on the word and on listening to the word, and has developed a rich and ambiguous relation to aurality. This course investigates this relationship an takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining theological, historical, anthropological and theoretical literature. In the early weeks of the course we discuss different approaches to the question of the senses in general and the auditory sense in particular, from classical philosophy to the (recent) re-discovery of the auditory sense by anthropolists. We also consider the relationship between listening and power, especially in regard to modern secular sensibilities. The course then examines the changing conceptions of listening in Islamic contexts from classical times to the contemporary. We particularly look at how (Islamic) ethics of listening have been reconfigured through the introduction of modern media technologies, as well as through processes of commodification and influences of popular culture. In this context, we further explore the quick proliferation of modernized popular Islamic music genres throughout Muslim communities worldwide. Finally, we look at specific empirical studies from different regional settings that elucidate how Islamic soundscapes and forms of listening have come to be progressively addressed and refashioned by secular liberal governance, a process that has been exacerbated in the political context of the ongoing "War on Terror"’ In addition to the wide range of literature employed, the course makes use of various audio-visual materials.

RELGST 1455: Islam in Europe
Meets requirements: REG
Jeanette Jouili

Since 9/11 Europe has become increasingly anxious about its multi-racial and multi-religious populations, the result of successive waves of non-European immigrants who have made Europe their home. At the heart of these concerns is the question of whether followers of the Muslim faith can successfully be integrated into a European society that identifies culturally as Judeo-Christian and defines its social order as secular. This course looks critically at these debates through an interdisciplinary approach that combines anthropological studies with readings from political and social theory, feminist and queer studies, in order to think about the issues at stake around Islam, religious pluralism, and secular governance in Europe. As additional course material, the class will draw on a variety of audio-visual material, such as fiction films, documentaries, and youtube clips

RELGST 1457: Contemporary Islam—Internal Debates
Cross-listed with HIST 1761
Staff

RELGST 1466: Sociology of Islam
Cross-listed with SOC 1366
Meets requirements: REG
Staff

The course offers analyses of contemporary evolutions of Islam by means of a Weberian approach. Elements of divine principles, mysticism and Sufism, ethnic, state, and regional "power plays," the status of women, the treatment of Islam in Western mass media, and patterns of community-building in Muslim immigrant populations are examined for a better understanding of major issues in the sociology of Islam. Students acquire and expand through lectures, readings, practical exercises, and class discussions, preparatory skills pertinent to the analysis of selected socio-cultural expressions and phenomena in various communities of the Muslim world and develop a considerate and critical attitude towards their own and other belief systems

RELGST 1475: Religious Diversity
Cross-listed with HIST 1733, SOC 1415, and JS 1475
Meets requirements: COM
Adam Shear

What is the best way to accommodate religious and cultural diversity within a nation-state and in civil society? How should individual rights to practice religion be balanced with communal needs? Should freedom from religion be protected as much or more than freedom of religion? These are pressing contemporary issues in many countries, including the United States, but issues of religious diversity and questions of whether and how to tolerate religious minorities have a long history. In this course, we examine the toleration of minority religions in particular historical settings, and the issues and problems (both doctrinal and social/political) that societies grappled with as they confronted diverse religious landscapes. We use these historical precedents as a lens to examine contemporary examples of religious pluralism, diversity, and conflict. Case studies are mainly drawn from pre-modern Europe and modern Europe and North America, but we also look at Mughal and modern India and discuss religion in pre-modern China.

RELGST 1500: Religion in India 1
Cross-listed with HIST 1757
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Milica Bakić-Hayden

Few countries can boast such an extensive and diverse religious heritage as can India. It is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, home to a large Muslim community, as well as to small, but ancient, communities of Syrian Christians, Parsis, and Jews. The course gives a brief historical overview of these religious traditions, introduces students to basic concepts related to each of them, and illustrates their rich practices through primary and secondary readings, films, art, and music.

RELGST 1510: Religion in India 2—Storytelling as a Religious Form
Cross-listed with HIST 1758
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Milica Bakić-Hayden

This course focuses on the religious life of India as expressed through storytelling. Central to this life are rich and diverse narrative traditions, both oral and written, some of which have their roots in the ancient Vedic literature, in the famous epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, in popular folk tales or philosophical debates. Through an in-depth exploration of different genres of primarily Hindu narrative traditions, students will be able to see (1) how certain episodes and characters from the selected stories have been used in religious and philosophical teachings about spiritual emancipation and liberation; (2) how the stories and their protagonists have been variously (re)cast over time by members of dominant as well as non-dominant religious and/or political groups; and (3) how those stories and characters have been appropriated and incorporated in politically sensitive times and situations into a wider narrative of nation(hood). The role of popular media (TV, radio, film, etc.) in linking nation and narration in modern times will also be examined.

RELGST 1516: Temple, Icon, and Deity in India
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Staff

In this course we examine aspects of religious expression in South Asia through the study of Indian temples, icons, and deities in their historical, social, and religious context. We apply a multi-faceted approach (including visual and textual) to begin to understand and interpret the philosophical and religious expressions of Hinduism and Buddhism through art, architecture, sacred texts, and epic literature. Regular class participation and weekly writing assignments are required.

RELGST 1518: Religion and Ecology
Cross-listed with ANTHRO 1798
Joe Alter

This coure is offered to students enrolled in Pitt in the Himalysas.

RELGST 1519: Religion, Nature and the Environment
Meets requirement: COM
Ben Gordon

When is religion good for the environment? When is it not? In this course, students will become acquainted with how religious traditions throughout the world have addressed specific ecological problems. They will explore ways in which religious institutions are an important organizational hub in struggles for environmental justice. They will compare the structural features shared by environmentalism and religiosity, both of which are interested in making meaning of the world by appealing to an ultimate authority, such as God or Nature; and in forming identities and building communities by promoting guidelines, norms, and ritualized behaviors. The very construction of Nature as a concept, and its reverence in the context of the sustainability movement, can be informed by theoretical discourse from the field of Religious Studies. After a survey of approaches to the natural world in major religious traditions, students will focus on themes such as garden spiritualties, gendered Nature reverence, and eco-justice. They will also acquire the skills to assess the scripturally inspired indifference-or even antagonism-to environmental science, and the long shadow it has cast on the global economy.

RELGST 1520: Buddhism Along the Silk Road
Cross-listed with HAA 1692 and HIST 1478
Meets requirement: IFN, COM
Staff

This class serves as an introduction to Buddhism from its origins through the seventh century CE as it moved along the Silk Road, the ancient Eurasian trading network that is considered one of the earliest and most important super highways of trade and culture. Concomitantly, it serves as an introduction to the Silk Road as the scenario for contact and exchange. The emphasis is on religious praxis, the actors and places that transformed Buddhism and were transformed by it. We will examine archaeological remains and art and discuss how they complement or sometimes contradict textually-based historical narratives. Through the examination of four case studies we will discuss questions related to religious interaction as embodied in material culture and analyze it in context.

RELGST 1540: Saints East and West
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Milica Bakić-Hayden

A Russian monk once observed that "each saint is a unique event." Indeed, in various religious traditions we encounter men and women who are recognized and venerated as particularly holy and unique witnesses to the divine. Just as each saint is unique within his or her tradition, so too is each tradition of saints unique in its articulation and expression of the overall religious culture. By looking cross-culturally at the materials on saints selected for this course and discussing (problematizing) the notion of sainthood itself, we examine religious themes, ideas and symbols found in them. These diverse writings are often marked by a very personal tone, a deeply felt relation with the divine (sometimes reflecting saint's inner struggles and/or their mystical experience of union), but also by pleas and calls for social and/or religious reforms. Our examples of devotional literature include Hindu, Muslim, and Christian sources, medieval as well as modern. Even though originating in specific religious contexts, many of these narratives raise issues which have wider human appeal and hence relevance for us today, too.

RELGST 1545: Mysticism East and East
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Milica Bakić-Hayden

Mysticism, understood as a living experience of theological doctrines, constitutes an unexpected point of convergence between such different religious traditions as Hinduism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We look into how this spiritual kinship is forged from distinct practices in India and in the traditions of Orthodox Christianity by examining the selected mystical writings of the Hindu sages and holy men and women of the Orthodox Church, past and present. The course is structured around three central themes: God as Mystery: negative theology (Hindu and Orthodox ways of unknowing the divine), God as Person: the Hindu notion of avatar and Orthodox understanding of incarnation, and God as Prayer: two selected methods of contemplation (Hindu yoga and Orthodox hesychast prayer). In addition to introducing students to the mystical writings from the two religious traditions, the objective of this course is to get students to think philosophically and in comparative terms about such writings. The course is based largely on reading and discussion of primary sources (in English translation) supplemented with selected secondary sources to help enhance students' understanding of the symbolic, often enigmatic and sometimes "upside-down" language of the mystical texts.

RELGST 1550: East Asian Buddhism
Cross-listed with HIST 1475
Meets requirements: IFN, COM
Linda Penkower

The transmission of Buddhism to East Asia was a momentous development in the history of world cultures and religions. Not only did it precipitate major changes in the cultures of China, Korea, and Japan, it also was attended by transformations within Buddhism itself. Beginning with an introduction to the basic concepts of Buddhism, this course examines the major doctrinal, meditative, devotional, and institutional traditions and themes in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism in historical perspective. Particular attention is paid to the problems of transmission of thought from one culture to another and to the ways in which Buddhism changed to meet those challenges and make itself relevant to the members of East Asian societies. We strive to develop an awareness of how Chinese and Japanese Buddhism interacted with and helped to shape East Asian history as well as to cultivate sensitivity to and appreciation of East Asian Buddhism as a contribution to our understanding of the human experience.

RELGST 1552: East Asian Meditative Traditions—Chan/Zen Buddhism
Cross-listed with HIST 1740
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Linda Penkower

Zen is perhaps the best-known of all religious traditions indigenous to East Asia. In both the East and West today, it has been popularized through such diverse channels as kongfu films and comic book heroes, how-to business manuals and weekend meditative retreats, tea ceremony and the visual arts, and such trick questions as "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" But what is Chan/Zen? What is its relationship to both East Asian Buddhism and culture? What is the connection between "popular" and "monastic" Zen, between self-reliance/freedom of spirit and strict master-disciple discipline? What does the transmission of Chan/Zen from China to Korea to Japan to the West tell us about issues relating to continuity and change, and to appropriation, expropriation, and synthesis within religious traditions? Beginning by placing Chan/Zen within the general context of East Asian Buddhism, this seminar examines the relationships between doctrine, practice, and institution and the culture(s) in which they grew by looking at three themes or sources of authority in Chan/Zen, approached historically: (a) mythology, genealogy, and ideology, (b) meditative techniques, soteriological stratagems, and the enlightenment experience, and (c) monastery organization, operation, and rituals. The seminar concludes by exploring the relationship between Zen and nationalism or "Orientalism" as Zen moves out of the monasteries and out of East Asia and into the West. This course is conducted as a seminar, and is approached historically through representative Chan/Zen texts in translation, supplemented by secondary studies, testimonials, films, and a session with a contemporary practitioner. We strive to develop an awareness of how Chan/Zen interacts with and helps to shape East Asian history as well as to cultivate a sensitivity to and appreciation of Chan/Zen as a contributor to our understanding of the human experience.

RELGST 1554: Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures
Cross-listed with HIST 1484
Meets requirements: COM
Linda Penkower

Mortality is the human condition. How religious systems deal with death, dying, and the afterlife tells us as much about how we live our lives as it does about what lies beyond. This seminar focuses on the philosophical discourse, religious beliefs, and ritual practices relating to death in Buddhist cultures (China, Japan, South Asia, Tibet) both traditionally and in modern times and offers a useful focus for studying Buddhism as a lived tradition. We explore Buddhist cosmology and the idea of karma, death tales, postmortem journeys, ancestral rites and the family, funerary and mortuary practices, placation of ghosts, and contemporary changes in funeral customs. We look at Buddhist doctrinal teachings and social roles and interactions between Buddhism and local religious cultures. We read from diverse genres of Buddhist primary texts in translation and a range of secondary scholarship from the fields of Buddhist studies, history, philosophy, anthropology, art history, ritual studies, and sociology. Conducted as a seminar, class discussions are supplemented by films.

RELGST 1557: Buddhist Lives
Meets requirements: W
Clark Chilson

This course explores how life narratives give meaning to lives by studying and writing about the lives of Buddhists. Students intellectually engage with lectures, discuss readings, write informally, and examine models of life writing. Preparation for class includes reading accounts of the lives of Buddhists and studies on life writing, formulating and answering analytical questions about biographical texts, helping your classmates become better writers by editing and commenting on their work, doing library research on a particular Buddhist, and writing a biographical research paper. Throughout the course students learn about Buddhism not through doctrinal abstractions but by seeing how Buddhists have lived and constructed meaningful lives.

RELGST 1558: Buddhism and Psychology
Meets requirements: COM
Clark Chilson

This course is divided into four thematic parts. The first part introduces basic knowledge on Buddhism. It then shows how the encounter between Buddhism and psychology has occurred in the wider context of Buddhist modernism, which has involved attempts by Buddhist reformers, psychologists, and neuroscientists to demythologize Buddhism to show how it can be understood as complementing modern empirical science. Part two offers concrete examples of Buddhist modernism by illustrating how Buddhist contemplative practices and doctrines such as sati have been reinterpreted and reformulated in modern psychology. Part three examines how a Japanese Zen practitioner’s presentation of Zen compares with psychotherapeutic perspectives on it. Finally, in part four, a Buddhist-inspired psychotherapy widely used in Japan is examined to show how the reformulation of Buddhism to achieve psychotherapeutic goals has occurred in modern times in East Asia, albeit in a way that is distinctive from Buddhist-inspired psychotherapeutic practices in the west.

RELGST 1560: Religion in China
Cross-listed with HIST 1476
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Linda Penkower

This course examines the major traditions and themes that constitute religion in China. The origins and development of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, popular and family religion, and religion and the state are presented within an overall historical framework. In addition to the study of religious ideas, practices, and institutions in premodern China, contemporary beliefs and practices and issues of politics, class, and gender are also briefly examined in relationship to, and as reinterpretations of, older themes. Our purpose is to gain some exposure to Chinese religious thought and practice, to identify dominant themes underlying Chinese values and behavior, and to explore the syncretic nature of religion in China as each tradition finds expression in and comes to influence other aspects of Chinese religion and culture. In this way, we hope to come to understand the critical role played by religion in the unfolding of Chinese history and in the formation of the Chinese view of the world. We do this through lectures and discussion based upon Chinese classical and popular literature, secondary scholarship, and films.

RELGST 1561: Chinese Thought
Cross-listed with HIST 1480
Vincent Leung

In ancient China, we have one of the most influential intellectual traditions in all of world history. The ethical and political debates that began in the middle of the first millennium BCE, starting with Confucius, have helped shape the history of East Asia and the world at large. This course introduces students to this intellectual tradition by a close reading of its classic texts. Readings include the Confucian Analects, Daodejing (Tao Te Ching), Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), Mencius, and Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (all in translations). We will study the ethical and political ideas in each of these classic texts, the dialogues between them, and the many ways in which they have shaped the history of ancient China and the world at large.

RELGST 1562: Confucianism—Basic Texts
Cross-listed with CHIN 1562 and HIST 1478
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Staff

The 8th through the 2nd centuries BCE were an era of extraordinary creativity worldwide (the “axial age”). In China, the seminal texts that would later be labeled "Confucian" and "Daoist" played the formative role that the Greek philosophical classics played in Western societies. Often at odds with each other, these early Chinese texts offer a striking range of ideas about human society and its place in the cosmos. In this course, we concentrate on the works attributed to Confucius and his most creative follower Mencius, since both texts played an influential role throughout East Asia right down through the early 20th century. We study both texts in their entirety, supplementing them with relevant works of scholarship and excerpts from Daoist and other philosophical texts. We seek to understand the foundational role of these texts by analyzing their assumptions and rhetorical strategies, and examining their philosophical, political and religious dimensions. Chinese tradition has treated both the Confucian Analects and the Mencius as single-author works, but we see how the Analects, in particular, evolved over more than two centuries, reflecting engagement with other currents of early Chinese thought. The course is conducted primarily through class discussion of the readings.

RELGST 1570: Religion in Japan
Cross-listed with HIST 1477
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Clark Chilson

This course provides an historical overview of religion in Japan from the 3rd century BCE up to the present. It introduces many of the fascinating events, texts, doctrines, institutions, personalities, and practices in the history of religion in Japan. It also examines issues related to myth, shamanism, ritual, art, and politics. During the course, questions such as the following are addressed: How did religious institutions both condemn and condone violence? What are the different paths to enlightenment in Japanese Buddhism? What made a person "holy"? Why did the government make people step on pictures of Jesus?

RELGST 1572: Popular Religion in a Changing Japan
Cross-listed with HIST 1741
Meets requirements: IFN, REG
Clark Chilson

The majority of Japanese today claim not to have any religious faith, but most participate in religious activities. Why is this? Those Japanese who do espouse religious faith often pray at both Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines without feeling conflicted. How is this possible? To answer these and other questions, religion in contemporary Japan is examined primarily on the basis of ethnographic studies. In addition to learning about the different ways the Japanese are religious, the course is designed to help students improve their ability to analyze texts, evaluate claims and evidence, and articulate different points of view.

RELGST 1610: Myth, Symbol, and Ritual
Cross-listed with ANTH 1776
Meets requirements: COM
Milica Bakić-Hayden

To what extent are football games and shopping trips "rituals"? Do TV ads ever serve as "myths" of contemporary American life? This course examines three basic forms of human expression: myths, symbols, and rituals. Myths, symbols, and rituals of different cultures are explored comparatively as to their significance and role and their relationship to each other. Special attention is given to myths on the origin of the world, humanity, and the gods, and to such rituals as rites of passage, festivals, and pilgrimages. In addition, theories of these expressions are studied critically: for example, the work of Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and Claude Levi-Strauss on myth; the thought of Suzanne Langer, Paul Ricoeur, and Raymond Firth on symbol; and the work of Victor Turner, Ronald Grimes, and Catherine Bell on rituals. Observations and reflections on the role of myth, symbol, and ritual (or quasi- and crypto-ritual) in contemporary life and their relation to such forms of human expression as literature, dream, and drama concludes the course.

RELGST 1620: Women in Religion
Rebecca Denova

This course surveys the role of women in various religious systems throughout the world, both ancient and modern, emphasizing the function of gender in religious expressions of meaning. In addition, the course examines multi-cultural voices of women as they find expression both within and without their traditional religious systems. We explore functional and distinct roles of "goddess," "prophetess," "priestess," "mother," "wife," "lover," and "sacred vehicle." While discovering the ancient roots of gender identity and social status, we also discuss contemporary viability of such views in various societies throughout the world.

In spring 2009, Women in Religion focuses on Islamic feminism and women and religion in Islam (Zilka Spahic-Siljak).

RELGST 1624: Women in Judaism
Cross-listed with JS 1624
Staff

This course explores the construction of gender in various Jewish sources from differing time periods. We examine questions of what it means to be a "woman" or a "man" in these texts, what relationship the authors of the texts see between sex, gender and sexuality, how the categories of female and male come to be constructed, and what the texts do with cases of sexual ambiguity. The assumptions behind constructions of gender are considered throughout the course. Primary texts in translation and secondary sources are utilized.

RELGST 1630: Ritual Process
Staff

This course is designed to explore and reflect upon the nature and role of ritualizing as a form of human expression. Ritual and ritual-like activities are fundamental in many societies as expressed in such activities as rites of passage, festivals, power struggles, political rallies, athletic events, ethics, and other venues. This course takes an interdisciplinary look at ritual from its most visible religious manifestations to its subtler role in shaping our daily actions and considers the work of important theorists in the field of ritual studies such as Ball, Grimes, Humphrey and Landlaw, Bloch, Driver, d’Aquili, J. Z. Smith, and Turner.

RELGST 1640: Jews in the Islamic World
Cross-listed with HIST 1759 and JS 1640
Meets requirements: REG
Staff

This course surveys Jewish life in Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East in medieval and early modern times.

RELGST 1642: History of Christian-Muslim Relations
Meets requirements: HS
Milica Bakić-Hayden

This course examines the historical encounter between Christianity and Islam, an encounter which did not only take the form of military conflict and confrontation, but also of theological debates, cultural exchanges and religious practices that reveal the permeability of the frontiers that divide Christian and Muslim communities. We first look at some of the early debates (dialogues and refutations) of eminent Byzantine scholars with their Muslim counterparts regarding their respective faiths. We then follow the changing image of Islam in the popular literature of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire; and explore the practice of Muslim-Christian crossovers, overlaps and sharing of sacred sites at various locations in Asia Minor, the Balkans and the Iberian peninsula. Additionally, we look at contemporary interactions of Christians and Muslims in Europe and Middle East and examine issues that may both advance the dialogue between the two religions or obstruct it.

RELGST 1644: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle Ages: Connection and Conflict

Cross-listed with HIST 1768 and JS 1644
Meets requirements: HS
Adam Shear

Was the world of Europe and the Middle East before the Enlightenment a period of unending religious conflict and intolerance? Were Jews the victims of severe persecution and violence everywhere during this period? Did Christians and Muslims engage in unceasing religious wars? The answer to all three of these questions is no. While the Middle Ages were a period of conflict and competition between the three major western religious groups, they were also a time of coexistence and cooperation. This class shifts from extreme dichotomies and simplistic stereotypes to deeply examine the period in all of its complexity: what were the theological, political, and legal contexts in which Christians, Muslims, and Jews interacted in both Christian Europe and the Muslim world? How did these deeply religious societies organize themselves to tolerate the religious “Other”? When and why did toleration break down and lead to expulsion, forced conversion, or violence? What kinds of cross-cultural exchanges and cooperation take place in economic, cultural, intellectual, and social life? We will also look at new ideas of toleration (and intolerance) that emerged at the end of the Middle Ages and examine aspects of inter-religious encounters and dialogues today. We will discuss not only the significance of Jewish-Christian-Muslim interactions in the Middle Ages but also assess these encounters as a case study in the broader history of religious diversity, pluralism, and conflict.

RELGST 1645: The Historical Jesus
Cross-listed with JS 1645
Staff

This course examines the complex and often polarized relationship between Jesus and Jews and, by extension, Christianity and Judaism, in both ancient and modern contexts. Students interact with a wide range of primary sources centered on the figure of Jesus—from the Christian Gospels through Rabbinic discussions of Jesus to modern portrayals of Jesus and the Jews in cinema and scholarship. Topics covered include constructions of Jesus and Judaism in modern scholarship, the relationship between the historical Jesus and first-century Judaism, Jewish perspectives on Jesus, ancient Jewish and Christian polemics, the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, Jesus and Jews in the movies, and the place of Jesus in modern Jewish-Christian dialogue.

RELGST 1650: Approaches to Antisemitism
Cross-listed with HIST 1169 and JS 1650
Meets requirements: HS
Staff

This course surveys historical, sociological, psychological, religious, and political approaches to expressions of antisemitism as we study scholarly treatment of the phenomenon from the end of the 19th century to the present.

RELGST 1665: Anthropology of Religion
Meeting Requirements:
Jeanette Jouili

This course is designed to introduce students to the anthropological study of religion. While it is generally assumed that religious practice exists in nearly every human society, what ‘religion’ is, how it should be defined, and whether there is a basic common denominator that is universal is a matter of debate among anthropologists. We explore different theoretical and conceptual approaches that have informed anthropological perspectives in the study of religion, while also investigating anthropological studies of ritual, sacrifice, magic, healing, and death. Furthermore, we examine how these studies have discussed the relation of religion to questions around kinship, gender and sexuality, and social justice. By covering such a range of topics, this class enables students to learn how religion is understood, experienced and expressed across divergent sociocultural contexts, in the past and in the present. 

RELGST 1675: Reading the Hebrew Bible
Cross-listed with JS 1675
Staff

This class surveys the methods used in the modern academic study of the Hebrew Bible. Rather than approaching the Bible as “revealed scripture,” scholars over the last two centuries have developed a variety of literary strategies that seek to reconstruct the world and the circumstances that produced the Hebrew Bible. In addition, we consider how the immense contributions of archaeology during the last two centuries have enriched our understanding of the Hebrew Bible. Finally, we look at how modern literary-critical techniques have been applied to the text of the Hebrew Bible.

RELGST 1680: History and Memory in te Jewish Tradition
Cross-listed with HIST 1173 and JS 1680
Meets requirements: HS
Adam Shear

This course studies the history of writing history. It offers an introduction to the various ways in which the history of Jews and Judaism has been written in both the premodern and modern periods. In different semesters, the course focuses on different topics, for example, a survey of Jewish historiographical writing from antiquity to the present or a series of case studies on the representation and commemoration of tragic events in pre-Holocaust Jewish history.

RELGST 1681: Inventing Israel—Zionism, Anti-Zionism, Post-Zionism
Cross-listed with HIST 1712 and JS 1681
Meets requirements: HS
Adam Shear

In this course, we study the origins and development of Zionism as a form of modern Jewish nationalism, the emergence of different Zionist ideological streams, and non-Zionist, anti-Zionist, and post-Zionist views of Jews and non-Jews. We also explore Zionism as a case study of relations of religion and nationalism in modernity. This course is an opportunity to carefully study and contextualize writings and ideas of religious and political thinkers who have been both influential and controversial. The goal is to offer students historical background to ideas and issues of contemporary importance as well as skills in interpretation and contextualization of complex texts that continue to inform the public discourse.

RELGST 1720: Religion and Culture
Cross-listed with ANTH 1771
Jeanette Jouili

This course has two objectives: 1. To understand religion and religious phenomena wherever and whenever found in human societies. What is the diversity of religious phenomena, and what are the commonalities? 2. To understand how anthropologists and other behavioral scientist have explained religion and religious phenomena. That is, what anthropological and social science explanations are available to us as we examine religion cross-culturally? What are the alternatives available to us as anthropologists to explaining religious things? One particular focus in the course will be the relationship of religion to national monarchies and cultural nationalism. Other topics include witchcraft and sorcery, divination, myth and ritual, the differences between religion, magic and science, and revitalization movements and other theories of religion and cultural change.

RELGST 1725: Death in the Healthcare Professions
Cross-listed with HPS 1623
Jonathan Weinkle

The American culture of the 20th and 21st centuries has been called not death-defying, but death-denying. It is often said that America is the only place in the world that treats death as optional. Once upon a time, we could not have open, public conversations about breast cancer, because the word could not be uttered aloud. In many places, it is just as hard today to have an open, public conversation about death and dying. This phenomenon is not just a social more; it affects the practice of many professions and entire segments of our economy and society. This course explores our individual and cultural reactions to mortality, religious ideas about death, the ways in which dying in today’s America is different from dying throughout history or elsewhere in the world, and the responses of a variety of professions, both within the field of healthcare and beyond, to their encounters with people in the various stages of dying. Students will be asked, at turns, to be scientific, philosophical, clinical, analytical, and emotional in encountering the concepts and material presented here. This should be a true interdisciplinary experience.

RELGST 1730: Problems in the Philosophy of Religion
Staff

The belief that the various religions of the world hold competing claims to truth is not uncommon. But what does this mean? Could it be the case that one contains the truth and the others are false? That some contain more truths than others? That none contain the truth? Could it be the case that different religions express the same truth(s), just in different ways? We can begin to make sense of these questions only if we can clarify what we mean by "truth." One prominent, contemporary philosopher, William Alston, argues 1) for a realist conception of truth, i.e., that p is true if and only if it is the case that p, and 2) that only a realist conception of truth can accommodate theistic language. However, one of the implications of a realist conception of truth is that for conflicting accounts of p, at most only one can be correct. If, for example, we substitute for p "only a Buddhist account of truth is correct," then we can see how a realist conception of truth raises a problem given the many, and often conflicting, claims to religious truth there are. In this course we explore such religious and philosophical issues raised by religious diversity.

RELGST 1740: Meaning, Mystery, and Paradox
Staff

Meanings for life's events are often derived from customs and beliefs we typically associate with religion. We consider such matters in light of the following questions: Are reason and religion compatible? Does religion transcend reason? Do reason and religion have anything to do with each other? What does it mean to regard particular phenomena as religious? Through the study of scholarly works on religion, first-hand accounts of religious life, fiction, and film we explore interactions between what we typically consider to be sacred and secular approaches to that which is mysterious and mundane. Students are expected to write short papers and to participate regularly in class discussions. Both of these expectations presume that students have carefully read assignments, which at times are extensive.

RELGST 1760: Religion and Rationality
Cross-listed with PHIL 1760
Meets requirements: PH
Brock Bahler

This course critically examines how religious and nonreligious thinkers have navigated the relation between faith and reason throughout the history of Western thought. We read texts by seminal figures from the Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary time periods who are also representative of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. Special attention is paid to evaluating how the relationship between religion and philosophy within Western religious thought has shaped current debates regarding politics, race, gender, and science.

RELGST 1762: Guide for the Perplexed
Cross-listed with PHIL 1762 and JS 1762
Meets requirements: PH
Brock Bahler

Moses Maimonides (1138–1204) was the greatest Jewish thinker of the medieval period, and remains highly influential today. Born in Spain, he became the leading rabbinic authority of his time by writing a compendium of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah. He was also famous as a physician and author of medical works. His widest impact, however, has been through his masterpiece of philosophy of religion, The Guide of the Perplexed. This engaging, elusive book is important not only for its influence on such major thinkers as Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Newton, but also for its insight into questions of religion and rationality. In this course we study virtually all of the Guide, giving special attention to Maimonides’ account of the fall, his theory of religious language, his arguments for the existence of God, his doctrine of creation, his teachings on religious experience, prophecy, and revelation, and his views on human perfection and immortality. In our sessions we work closely and carefully through the text, at each step following up Maimonides' hints and challenges to his readers. Our goal is not merely to appreciate the surface purport of the book, but also to discern its deeper implications—through which Maimonides sought to suggest, to a few of his readers, the secret meaning of the Bible itself.

RELGST 1770: Science and Religion
Cross-listed with HPS 0620 and PHIL 1840
Meets requirements: PH
Brock Bahler

Are science and religion at odds with each other? Are they complementary and harmonizable? Or do they represent completely separate domains of human inquiry? In this course, we examine the relations between science, rationality, and technology, on the one hand, and faith, religion, and religious texts, on the other, and examine how these questions have been answered throughout history, particularly in the Western monotheist faiths (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam). Special attention will be given to the interpretation of creation accounts in the ancient world, views toward science and medicine in the Middle Ages, the scientific revolution, and various religious approaches to evolutionary theory. We will also consider the relationship on practical, contemporary issues such as racism and science, neuroscience and religious practice, as well as ecology and faith. Some of the guiding themes that will shape our discussion include the compatibility of religion and science throughout history, the possible mutual benefits between the respective discourses, and what role religious communities play (and have played) in scientific and environmental concerns.

RELGST 1780: Computational Methods in the Humanities
Meets requirement: Q
Cross-listed with GER 1550, LING 1050, SLAV 1050
David Birnbaum

This course introduces students to the use of computational modeling and programming to conduct text-based research in the humanities. Course goals include 1) learning how to identify research questions in the humanities that are amenable to computational analysis and processing and 2) designing and implementing XML-based computational systems to explore those questions. No prior programming experience or knowledge of foreign languages required. For Religious Studies major to receive elective credit, the course project should be religion-related and the topic should be pre-approved by the DUS.

RELGST 1800: Special Topics in Religion

This course takes up different topics and themes in the study of religion or religious traditions.

RELGST 1900: Internship

Students may undertake a variety of projects under the close supervision of a senior faculty member.

RELGST 1901: Independent Study

Students may undertake a variety of individual reading and research projects under the close supervision of a senior faculty member.

RELGST 1902: Directed Study—Undergraduate

Students may undertake a variety of individual reading or research projects under the close supervision of a senior faculty member. Regular meetings are required.

RELGST 1903: Directed Research
Meets requirements: W

The senior thesis capstone seminar required of all graduating majors is offered annually in the Fall Term and is taught by rotating faculty with a different theme each year. Students research, write, and present a project of their own choosing based on the annual theme under the supervision of the seminar instructor and a research advisor from among our faculty. Students registering for 1903 in the Spring Term work on the capstone thesis as a directed study; permission of the DUS is required. All students register for 3 credit hours.

RELGST 1904: Undergraduate Research Assistant

Students participate in a faculty member's current research project as a research assistant under the guidance of the faculty member. The student is given training in research methods. 1-4 credits available depending on number of hours per week worked. Credits earned will be s/n only. Permission of the department (DUS) and the faculty member is required.

RELGST 1905: Undergraduate Teaching Assistant

Students serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant in religious studies courses under the supervision of a faculty member. 1-4 credits available depending on number of hours per week worked. Credits earned will be s/n only. Permission of the department (DUS) and the faculty member is required.

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