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.

Regularly Taught Courses

Descriptions of Regularly Taught Courses

RELGST 0025: Major Biblical Themes

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 0090: Myth in the Ancient Near East

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness, Specific Geographic Region
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture, Historical Change  
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Global Issues, Historical Analysis
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 0205: Introduction to Judaism

Cross-listed with JS 0205
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 0305: Classics of Christian Thought

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 Manand 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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 0435: Religion, Film and Literature

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Literature
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 themes—hauntedness (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 for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Specific Geographic Region
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
This course serves as an introduction to the major religious traditions of South and East Asia. During the course of the semester, we encounter Hinduism and Jainism; the native Confucian, Daoist (Taoist), and popular traditions of China; and the Shinto, folk and new religions of Japan. Buddhism, which originated in India but later spread to East Asia, is examined in its relation to the history of both Chinese and Japanese religions. We approach these traditions through lectures and discussion based on Chinese classical and popular literature, secondary scholarship, and films, which inform us about cultural and historical context, beliefs, practices, and personal experience. In the process we expect to learn something about the ways in which non-Western religious traditions see themselves and their world on their own terms, and to see how/if they can complement our own worldviews.

RELGST 0525: Religion and Culture in East Asia

Cross-listed with HIST 0475
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 0715: Philosophy of Religion

Cross-listed with PHIL 0473
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Philosophy
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Philosophical Thinking or Ethics
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 1100: Israel in the Biblical Age

Cross-listed with HIST 1765 and JS 1100
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Specific Geographic Region
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 1120: Origins of Christianity

Cross-listed with CLASS 1430 and HIST 1775
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 1135: Orthodox Christianity

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
This course is designed as an overview of the history, teachings and rituals of Orthodox Christianity in its multinational context. Geographically, this context refers primarily to southeastern Europe (aka the Balkans), Russia and the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean. The course examines specific historical experiences of Orthodox Christians, starting with Byzantine empire, through major historical shift in the life of the Christians under Ottoman rule and, finally, to the diverse experiences of various autocephalous churches under communism. Through lectures, readings, discussions, films, and a field trip to a local Orthodox church, students will gain an insight into and broaden their awareness of the multifaceted world of Orthodox Christianity, its spiritual practices, rich artistic, musical and ritual expressions.
 

RELGST 1142: Construction of Evil

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
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

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
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 1145: Greco-Roman Religions

Cross-listed with CLASS 1402
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Regional - International/Foreign Culture
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements: African Studies Certificate
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 1151: Death in the Mediterranean World

Cross-listed with CLASS 1090 and HIST 1714 
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis, Specific Geographic Region
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 1170: Archaeology of Israel-Palestine

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Specific Geographic Region
Is archaeology in a place like Israel-Palestine an objective science? In this course, we explore how past and present are linked as nation-states and religious communities utilize the archaeological record to mold identities and to forward certain narratives. Our focus will be on the major archaeological sites of Israel-Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem and its environs. We will explore the political and religious issues that have emerged from or surround their excavation. Archaeology in the Holy Land has long been driven by a desire to shed light on - or even authenticate - the Bible, while the "exotic Orient" was explored in the 19th and early 20th centuries through western expeditions and excavations that served to further colonial interests. These religious and political motivations persist even if their manifestations have shifted with time. Through site tours, museum visits, student-led discussions, talks with local experts, and even a day participating in an archaeological excavation, students will gain direct experience with the places that have aroused controversy because of their problematic relationship to biblical and other ancient texts and/or because of their location in politically contested space.
 

RELGST 1210: Jews and Judaism in the Ancient World

Cross-listed with CLASS 1450 and JS 1210
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
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 1220: Jews and Judaism in the Medieval World

Cross-listed with HIST 1760 and JS 1220
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 1225: Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain

Cross-listed with HIST 1791 and JS 1225
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 1228: Exodus and Passover

Study of exodus story and Passover holiday that develops from it including interpretations in Jewish and non-Jewish sources, development of the holiday and the ritual meal (Seder), changes in the rituals over time, and adaptations and uses of the story and holiday by different modern Jewish and non-Jewish movements and groups.
 

RELGST 1240: Jews and the City

Cross-listed with HIST 1780 and JS 1240
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Global Issues, Historical Analysis
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.” 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 the Jewish encounter with urban life in the 19th century, as millions of Eastern European Jews migrated from the small villages of their birth to cities across the globe. This course traces this Eastern European Jewish diaspora to urban destinations around the world, before training its lens on the Jewish encounter with American cities. We pay close attention to how patterns of Jewish urbanization changed regionally and over time; how urbanization affected Jews’ home-life, leisure time, religious practices and occupational choices; how differences in gender and class affected Jews’ experiences in urban spaces; and how Jews interacted with other ethnic groups in diverse, urban environments. Delving into the history, built environment, and archival sources pertaining to the Jewish experience in Pittsburgh provides 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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Global Issues, Historical Analysis
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 in the Modern World

Cross-listed with HIST 1767 and JS 1250
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Global Issues, Historical Analysis
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis, Specific Geographic Region
The Holocaust—that is, the genocide of six million Jews in Nazi-Occupied Europe during World War II—was 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 1256: Modern Israel and Palestine

Cross-listed with HIST 1766 and JS 1256
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Regional - International/Foreign Culture
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 1258: Israeli and Palestinian Literature

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Literature
Reading literature from places of conflict provides an opportunity to go beyond headlines and gain insight into the day-to-day existence, desires, imaginings, and perspectives of the people who live there. Reading literature also reveals how religious values and practices become a part of everyday culture and how those values are embraced or challenged. This course will introduce students to the literature produced by Israeli and Palestinian authors, with a focus on how contemporary issues in Israeli and Palestinian society are depicted by writers from each culture.  Topics will include: how these writers construct place; the role of religious texts in literature; conflicts and community within each society; how literature helped shape an Israeli national consciousness and a Palestinian national consciousness; how Israeli and Palestinian writers imagine the other; and the role of the Shoah in Israeli literature and the Nakba in Palestinian literature. The course will equally focus on developing students' academic and reflective writing skills. Students will produce a combination of literary analysis and self-reflective writing that uses techniques of creative nonfiction. Together, these writing assignments will help students respond to both the course texts and the cultural experience of studying in Israel-Palestine.
 

RELGST 1280: Modern and Contemporary Jewish Thought

Meets requirements for those admitted Fall 2018 and After: Philosophical Thinking or Ethics
This course will introduce students to the varieties of Jewish thought, which developed out the of the 19th and 20th centuries and to the present day. After exploring the historical context of the philosophical legacy of Jewish thought, we will consider how Jewish intellectuals sought to reimagine their Jewish faith and Jewish identity in response to various concerns in the 19th and 20th centuries. Specifically, we will analyze Jewish responses to modernity and secularism, Jewish engagement with Western culture and Christianity, political theory (e.g, Marxism) and matters of social justice, Jewish feminism, and the prospect of ethics and religious faith after the Holocaust.
 

RELGST 1370: Global Christianity

Cross-listed with HIST 1732
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Global - International/Foreign Culture
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
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 1380: Religion Right Now: Media and Religious News in Contemporary America

It is apparent that Americans devote enormous media attention to the coverage of celebrities, movies and sports, but deal much less skillfully with news coverage of religion. Yet, a glance at any daily news source, print or digital, reveals the pervasiveness of news that involves religious beliefs, conflicts, and practices, and that requires basic knowledge of religious traditions. The purpose of this course is to develop student skills at reading and interpreting current news stories about religious topics in print and visual media (newspapers, journals, blogs, polls, and television) in order to increase understanding of important religious issues in the contemporary United States, including American coverage of international religious events and leaders. Instruction will include lecture, discussion, film, and small group exercises to report on current events. 
 

RELGST 1405: Religion and Sexuality

Cross-listed with HIST 1672 and SOC 1405
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis, Diversity
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 requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
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 1417: Philosophy of Race and Religion

Meets requirements for those admitted Fall 2018 and After: Philosophical Thinking and Ethics
The history of European religious thought (particularly Christianity) and the development of the idea of race are interwoven. While many devoutly religious people throughout history have, no doubt, been part of movements to oppose the horrific acts that occurred under colonization, end slavery, oppose Nazi anti-Semitism, or promote Civil Rights, for example, the very concept of separate races and the promotion of the ideal of white supremacy were in many ways innovations of European Christian theology. Indeed, religious arguments for white supremacy undergird many of the justifications for colonization and genocide, for slavery, and for Jim Crow laws and apartheid. As a result, despite important developments toward equality, racism remains ubiquitous and part of the underlying logic of the religious, political, and cultural milieu of American society, even if its effects often remain unnamed or are less explicit. This course is a philosophical exploration of the intersections of race, racism, and religious thought. It begins with an analysis of the philosophical and religious positions that solidified and promoted the idea of race, traces the entanglement of Western philosophy and Christian theology with racist political ideologies, and presents critical responses to race from African-American philosophers and liberation theologies. It ends by evaluating the continued effects of racism in American culture and religious thought and considers how we might both understand and respond to the epistemological, phenomenological, and existential effects of white supremacy in Western thought.
 

RELGST 1420: Religion and Race

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Diversity
This course examines the intersections of religion, race, and racism. Recently, scholars of religion have demonstrated that religious identities are often racialized as well. In this course, we will discover that religion and race are both modern categories rooted in post-Enlightenment ideas about what it means to be human. We will see how the establishment of these religious and racial categories led to new hierarchies and inequalities. We will discuss how post-Enlightenment thinkers linked religion and race, and how their ideas played a role in European imperialism. We will also investigate how the discipline of religious studies has developed its analytical tools with a racialized understanding of religion. The course will examine case studies in which religion has been racialized, and consider the political ramifications of these examples. In particular, we will think about the impact of white supremacy on Black religion in the United States, the complicated relationship between Antisemitism and Islamophobia, and contemporary Islamophobia in the US. Finally, we will explore the possibilities of anti-racism through faith-based scholarship and activism.
 

RELGST 1425: Popular Religion in America

Cross-listed with HIST 1676
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
Students examine forms of religion that are called everyday, folk, local, or popular traditions, in contrast to “official” denominational categories that so often dominate the study of religion. With our focus on the western hemisphere, we learn about new local practices that have emerged since 1492 among African, Caribbean, and native American peoples and analyze how they represented responses to colonization, industrial capitalism, or globalization. Examples of popular traditions that we study include: witchcraft; santeria, voodoo, saint's cults, miracles, pilgrimages, speaking in tongues, faith-healing 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
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 1445: Muslim Politics in Real Time

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Cross-Cultural Awareness
Media representations and news stories about the ‘Muslim world’ often project a troubling ahistorical and sensationalist narrative about a region torn by violence, fanaticism and corruption. This information literacy-driven course will teach you how to place current events in the Muslim world or involving people of Muslim background in their historical context. It will also teach you to discern what constitutes a valid news source and how to find sources you can trust. We’ll develop the skills necessary to make sense out of a news landscape that presents conflicting accounts of the same story and that fails to cover some stories altogether. You’ll leave this course with a command over how to find news, how to read news, and then how to make sense of it through rigorous historical and social scientific analysis. To that end, you’ll learn how to locate and evaluate scholarly sources with the same rigor as you do news sources. You’ll be provided with a number of key aspects and developments in the history of the ‘Muslim world’, so that even if you have no prior knowledge of Islamic history you will be familiar with the key terms and themes. You will be introduced to the long history of problematic media portrayals of Muslims and the Muslim world and efforts to both critique and change these representations. We will work intensively with a librarian to master a set of basic information literacy skills at the start of the semester that we will grow and refine as the class progresses. The remainder of the class syllabus will be determined by the current news cycle, which will generate topics to be considered for further historical analysis.
 

RELGST 1450 Islam, Law and Politics

Cross-listed with HIST 1794 and POLI SCI 1471 
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Non-western culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Specific Geographic Region
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 requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Global - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Global Issues
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Specific Geographic Region
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 1456: Islam in Asia

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness, Diversity
Although Islamic traditions are generally associated with the Middle East, the vast majority of the world's Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are home to vibrant and diverse Islamic traditions. This course introduces students to Asian Muslim communities and their histories, tracing the development of Asian Islamic traditions from their early roots in the medieval period through the age of colonialism and until the current day. Students will learn about mystical Islamic practices (Sufism), Islamicate art and architecture, and the regional diversity of lived Islam. We will also examine contemporary conflicts around Islamic identity in Asia, particularly in China and Myanmar, and debates about the place of Islam in modern governments and public life. In the process, students will explore primary historical sources and contemporary studies to examine the role of gender, ethnicity, nationality, and culture in the study of diverse Muslim communities in Asia.
 

RELGST 1458: Women and Islam in Asia

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Specific Geographic Region
This course is a comprehensive engagement with Islamic perspectives on women with a specific focus on the debates about woman's role and status in Muslim societies. Students will learn how historical, religious, socio-economic and political factors influence the lives and experiences of Muslim women. A variety of source materials (the foundational texts of Islam, historical and ethnographic accounts, women's and gender studies scholarship) will serve as the framework for lectures. Students will be introduced to women's religious lives and a variety of women's issues as they are reported and represented in the works written by women themselves and scholars chronicling women's religious experiences.  We will begin with an overview of the history and context of the emergence of Islam from a gendered perspective. We will explore differing interpretations of the core Islamic texts concerning women, and the relationship between men and women: who speaks about and for women in Islam?  In the second part of the course we will discuss women's religious experiences in Asia, which will serve as a focus for our case study. Students will examine the interrelationship between women and religion with special emphasis on the ways in which the practices of religion in women's daily lives impact contemporary Asia.  All readings will be in English. No prior course work is required.
 

RELGST 1475: Religious Diversity

Cross-listed with HIST 1733, SOC 1415, and JS 1475
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Global Issues, Diversity
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

Cross-listed with HIST 1757
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Specific Geographic Region
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: Hindu Mythology

Cross-listed with HIST 1758
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
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 1515: Gender and Religion in India

Meets requirements for those admitted Fall 2018 and After: Diversity and Specific Geographic Region
As robust debates about gender and equality take place in India today, this course seeks to provide a nuanced historical perspective on how gender is understood and practiced in different communities in the region. This course introduces students to major debates about gender in India, exploring the intersections between gender, religion, class, caste, and nationhood in the colonial and postcolonial eras. We will enter these debates through surveying discourses of femininities and masculinities as they are elaborated in religious texts and contemporary society and politics. Students will also be introduced to the discussions about third gender and queer identities in India. Specific topics covered will include gender identities in mythology and religious practice in Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist traditions; gender roles in family and society; transgender identity and religion; and the impacts of colonialism, globalization, and migration on gender and sexuality.
 

RELGST 1519: Religion, Nature and the Environment

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 in Asia

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
 

RELGST 1550: East Asian Buddhism

Cross-listed with HIST 1475
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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: Buddhist Meditative Traditions

Cross-listed with HIST 1740
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Buddhist meditation is perhaps the best known of all Buddhist practices particularly in Western countries. In both Asia and the West, it has been popularized in recent times as a technique that can be used for such secular purposes as reducing stress and managing eating disorders. But what is Buddhist meditation? How it is practiced in its traditional contexts? What are the doctrinal foundations of meditation practices? What are the traditional purposes of practicing Buddhist meditation? What are the various types of meditation explained in Buddhist texts? How this practice evolved over time in different geographical regions in Asia? What are the roles of Buddhist or state institutions in shaping meditation practices? Focusing on these questions, this course examines the breath of Buddhist meditation practices and their historical evolution and transmission in Asian Buddhist countries. The course covers the role of meditation in early Indian Buddhism, the development of different types of meditation in Theravadan Buddhist countries, the emergence of the Chan school of meditation in China and its transmission to Japan (Zen), the appropriation of tantra to Buddhist practices in Tibetan Buddhism, and the modernization of Buddhist meditational practices during the colonial period. The course is taught using classical Buddhist texts and meditational manuals in translation, secondary studies, testimonials and films. In the process, we expect to enhance our familiarity with religious practices and our understanding of the human experience.
 

RELGST 1554: Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures

Cross-listed with HIST 1484 
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 1558: Buddhism and Psychology

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Specific Geographic Region
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. As China becomes more and more central to the world's modern commodity culture, some have predicted a decline in traditional religious values and practices. In fact, the reverse is true: from Taiwan and Hong Kong through mainland China, increasing prosperity is resulting in an increased "investment" in religion. In addition to the study of religious ideas, practices, and institutions in premodern China, the course ends by looking at contemporary beliefs and practices and issues of politics, class, and gender. 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 the various traditions in the unfolding of Chinese history and in the formation of the Chinese view of the world.
 

RELGST 1570: Religion in Japan

Cross-listed with HIST 1477
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness, Global Issues
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: International/Foreign Culture Non-Western, Regional - International/Foreign Culture
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness, Specific Geographic Region
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Comparative - International/Foreign Culture
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 1642: Christian-Muslim Relations

Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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
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, SOC 1321, and JS 1650
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
We survey historical, sociological, psychological, religious and political approaches to expressions of antisemitism as we study scholarly treatment of the phenomenon in the 20th century.
 

RELGST 1665: Anthropology of Religion

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Cross-Cultural Awareness
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 1680: History and Memory in the Jewish Tradition

Cross-listed with HIST 1173 and JS 1680
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Historical Change
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Historical Analysis
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 1710: From Vodou to Santeria: Religions of the West African Diaspora

Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after: Diversity
This course exposes students to the indigenous African foundations of the religious beliefs and religious practices of African communities living in the Diaspora. Students will receive historical, ethnographical, and anthropological approaches to grasp the essence of these non-doctrinaire and non-textual religions focused on a rich memory of African deities, rituals, morality and practices that have been passed from generation to generation. Because most of the Africans forced to migrate to the New World as slaves came from West Africa, this course will provide students with insights into the beliefs and practices of the “Yoruba Religions” also known as the “Afro-Atlantic religions”  such as Santeria in Cuba; Vodou in Haiti; Shango in Trinidad and Grenada; Candomblé in Brazil among others. Topics to be covered in this course will include sources of African religious beliefs, African theological notions about God and the Universe, African conceptions about the nature of the human being, witchcraft and the problem of Evil in African religious thought and practice, illness, health, death, and ancestor worship. Furthermore, we will also pay close attention to less known Afro-American cults and religions containing Amerindian mythology and shamanism that emphasize divination, healing, and spirit mediumship such as: the Maria Lionza cult in Venezuela, The Palo Monte in Cuba, and the Garifuna Dugu in Central America. A special feature of the course will include the analysis of “spirit possession” as a common denominator to African-derived religions as well as a relevant keystone in transmission dynamics. Finally, we will examine how these religions have survived cultural and ideological assault and have continued to provide spiritual resources for societies rooted in African cosmologies.
 

RELGST 1725: Death in the Healthcare Professions

Cross-listed with HPS 1623 
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 1760: Religion and Rationality

Cross-listed with PHIL 1760
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Philosophy
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Philosophical Thinking or Ethics
Does—and should—religion have a role in the secular sphere? How does culture shape religion? Is faith compatible with reason? This course critically examines how both religious and nonreligious thinkers have navigated the question of the relation between faith and reason throughout the history of Western thought. Special attention will be paid to evaluating how the relationship between religion and philosophy developed within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. A further emphasis will be given to how the relationship between religion and philosophy shapes the our approach to myth, race, gender, and science.
 

RELGST 1762: Guide for the Perplexed

Cross-listed with PHIL 1762 and JS 1762
Meets requirements for those admitted prior to 2018: Philosophy
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Philosophical Thinking or Ethics
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 for those admitted prior to 2018: Philosophy
Meets requirements for those admitted fall 2018 and after:  Philosophical Thinking or Ethics
Are science and religion at odds or harmonizable? Do they coincide or represent completely separate discourses? This course examines the relationship between science, rationality, faith, and religion. Special attention will be given to ancient creation narratives and their interpretation, historical dialogues regarding faith and reason in the Western monotheist faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), the scientific revolution, and various approaches to evolutionary theory. We will also consider practical, contemporary issues such as neuroscience and religious practice, ecology and faith, and scientific views toward gender and race.

RELGST 1800: Special Topics

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

RELGST 1803: Capstone Seminar

Meets requirements: Writing Intensive Course
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. Permission of the DUS is required.
 

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 for those admitted prior to 2018: W
Majors may take on a research project under the direction of a department faculty member. Permission of the DUS is required.
 

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.