Course Descriptions

  • RELG 118: Comparative Religious Ethics
    An introduction to the sources and patterns of moral reasoning within the traditions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, by comparing arguments from each tradition on issues of sexuality and the ethics of war and peace. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ETHC 118
  • RELG 175: Early Christianity
    This course will offer a general introduction to the history of Christianity in the first two centuries of the Common Era, tracing the evolution of the movement from its beginnings as a sect within Second Temple Judaism to its emergence as a distinct religion in the Greco-Roman world. The course will also examine the role of major figures, beliefs, practices, phenomena and developments during the first two centuries. Special attention will be given to (1) the social, political, religious, and, philosophical milieu in which Christianity emerged, (2) the scholarly quest for 'historical Jesus,' (3) the significance of Paul and the growth of the movement (4) the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and (5) the various sects and conflicts in the first two centuries. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 180: Religion, SciFi, and Fantasy
    (Religion, Science Fiction, Fantasy) Of the literary genres, perhaps science fiction and fantasy best allow creative artists to imagine real and possible answers to the deep religious questions that have historically driven philosophers, theologians, and thinkers. Who are we? What do we want? Where did we come from? How does everything end? What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? In this class we examine science fiction and fantasy short stories, motion pictures, novels, and television programs to ask how creative artists and wider society have asked and answered these questions. We also consider how science fiction and fantasy have commented on and mirrored real-world religions. No prerequisites.
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 180
  • RELG 210: Religions of Indigenous Peoples
    Our increased awareness of the global community has given rise to a new interest in the religions of indigenous peoples. This course will explore the religious heritage of Native Americans, Africans, and Australian aborigines and other indigenous peoples, including their views of the role of human beings relative to the rest of nature. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 211: Global Judaism
    This course explores the origin, development, and contemporary life of Judaism. We will focus on how both ancient and contemporary Judaism emerge from a mix of different cultural and social forces, and how this religion has been shaped by thousands of years of spread (diaspora) throughout the globe. We consider texts, practices, and community developments, and look at Judaism as not just a historical religion but one that continues to develop and change today. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 212: Global Christianity
    This course explores the origin, development, and contemporary state of Christianity with reference to the many cultures and societies that have shaped it, the world's largest religion. We begin with the origin and early development of Christianity within the context of ancient Judaism and the Roman Empire. We consider the development of Christianity into its many contemporary forms, and focus throughout the class on how Christianity is practiced throughout the world. We pay special attention to how Christianity has developed in places unfamiliar to most Americans, such as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 213: Global Islam
    This course explores the origin and development of the Islamic religious tradition, along with varying interpretations of Islamic law and prominent issues facing contemporary Muslims around the world. Participants in the course read classical and contemporary literature as windows into Muslim life in different cultures and historical periods, and view Islamic art and architecture as visual texts. To learn about the rich diversity within Islam, students can work with texts, rituals, poetry, music, and film from a range of cultures within the Muslim world, from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia to Europe and North America. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 213, ISLM 213
  • RELG 214: Hinduism
    This course examines the teachings of the Hindu religious tradition as presented in the earliest writings of the tradition, as well as in dramas, epic narratives, and contemporary religious practice. In the course of the semester, we will visit Hindu Temples in the Chicago area as we explore the historical, social, and cultural context of Indian religious themes as they continue to be practiced in the 21st century. Texts range from philosophical musings about the nature of the universe to the story of a king who loses his wife to a 10-headed demon. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 214
  • RELG 215: Buddhism
    An introduction to the origins of Buddhism in India as well as to the major cultural and historical influences on the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia, particularly in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Tibet, China, and Japan. The course will examine various forms of Buddhist practice including devotion, ethics, sangha membership, meditation, rituals, and festivals. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 215
  • RELG 216: Chinese Religions
    Focusing primarily on the teachings of the Confucian (and neo-Confucian), Daoist, and early Chinese Buddhist traditions, we will explore the concepts and practices of these communities within their historical, cultural, and social contexts. Reading narrative, poetic, and classical texts in translation that present such ideas as the ethics of human-heartedness, the relativity of all things, and the importance of self-sacrifice, we will discuss what teachings these masterful texts offer 21st century questioners. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 216
  • jump to top
  • RELG 220: Islam and Pop Culture
    In recent decades the global Islamic revival has produced a new generation of Muslim film stars and fashion models, Sufi self-help gurus, Muslim comic book heroes, romance novel writers, calligraphy artists, and even Barbie dolls. This course explores the pop sensations, market niches, and even celebrity scandals of 'Popular Islam' within the broader context of religious identity, experience, and authority in Islamic traditions. Balancing textual depth with geographic breadth, the course includes several case studies: Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mali, Turkey, and North America. Students will learn about how religious trends are created -- and debated -- on pop culture's public stage. We will reflect critically on both primary materials and inter-disciplinary scholarly writings about the relationships between pop culture, religious identities, devotional practices, and political projects. No pre-requisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 220, ISLM 220
  • RELG 223: Does God Exist?
    This course considers arguments for and against the existence of God, as well as the resources and methods those arguments use. After some discussion of logic and argumentation, we will consider questions such as: how could one demonstrate that God does or does not exist? What would constitute 'proof' of such a claim? How are faith and reason working for similar or opposed ends in such arguments? What does the character of arguments for or against God's existence say about human life and thought? To address these questions, we will consider the works of theologians and philosophers from monotheistic traditions.
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 223
  • RELG 230: Religion and Politics
    This course will examine the complex social, historical, and intellectual forces that impact the relationships between religion and politics. Students will begin by exploring the historical genealogy of Western ideas about the proper role of religion in the public square. We will draw from various theoretical approaches in order to better understand particular case studies, including: Christian and Buddhist monks during the Vietnam War; Islam and democracy in Turkey; the head scarf debate in France; Islamic art in post-authoritarian Indonesia; religion and violence in Sri Lanka; liberation theology in Central and South America; and, colonialism and Catholicism in the Philippines. We will critically reflect on the role of religious ideology as well as the ways in which religious explanations of politics and violence can obscure more enduring histories of power relations. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 234: Witches, Preachers, and Mystics
    In this course students consider the historical development of religion in the United States of America. We study topics such as the contact between Native Americans and European settlers, religion and the founding of the Republic, religious revivals and awakenings, immigration and religion, the rise of new forms of religion in the United States, responses to scientific and technological developments, and the entangling of religion and politics. The course covers religion from the colonial period to the dawn of the Cold War. No prerequisites.
    Cross-listed as: HIST 234, AMER 234
  • RELG 235: Relig in Contemp America
    This discussion-based course begins with the question of whether there is an 'American religion' and what that religion might be. We ask how Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims have been able to find religious homes in America. We talk about immigration, alternative religions, and the ways that we can find religion everywhere from television to sports to shopping malls. Finally, we look to how today's generation of college students and other young adults are reshaping religion in contemporary America. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 236: American Fundamentalisms 1850-1950
    What do worship services involving snake handling, campaigns for a Creationist educational curriculum, and the Amish commitment to simple living have in common? All are religious expressions of antimodernism, which we might describe as a critical perspective on the value of modernity and its institutions (e.g. Enlightenment rationality, mass and consumer cultures, industrial capitalism, and Western medicine). This course investigates the late-19th and 20th century career of antimodernist sentiment within various faith traditions in America - from Protestant fundamentalism to sectarian groups - in an attempt to locate its roots, to survey its liturgical and cultural forms, and to consider its powers and limits.
    Cross-listed as: AMER 238
  • RELG 240: Religious Perspectives Environment
    The current environmental crises rest on a layer of philosophical and religious assumptions that are currently being challenged. Are human beings the center of the universe? Is humankind's mandate to dominate nature? Does nature belong to human beings or do human beings belong to nature? This course will address the relationship of the divine and the human sphere of nature from various religious perspectives. Contemporary Judaic, Christian, and Islamic ecological visions and action programs will be considered. In addition, the course will include religious views and practices of certain native cultures of North and South America, the Australian aborigines, and African tribes as well as ecological perspectives derived from South and East Asian religious cultures. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ES 240
  • RELG 241: Religion & Science
    Even a cursory look at today's news reveals that the relationship between religion and science is a hot topic. So it has been for many centuries. In this course, we consider historical and contemporary issues in the relationship between religion and science in the modern world. We make use of historical, philosophical, and literary approaches to study how individuals and groups have understood religion and science, and how they have sought to understand and relate to the natural world. No prerequisites.
  • RELG 248: Crusade & Holy War in Med Europe
    (Crusade and Holy War in Medieval Europe) Medieval Europe experienced widespread debate about the use of violence by Christians. The course considers early definitions of Just War and the attempts by the church to control violence around the year 1000. Detailed examination of the origin of the idea of crusade and the history of the First Crusade (1095-99) from Christian, Jewish, Greek, and Muslim perspectives. Examines the later medieval phenomenon of crusade against other Christians.
    Cross-listed as: HIST 243
  • RELG 250: Dialogue: Race, Ethnicity, Religion
    In a culturally and socially diverse society, exploring issues of difference, conflict, and community is needed to facilitate understanding and improve relations between social/cultural groups. In this course, students will engage in meaningful discussion of controversial, challenging, and divisive issues in society related to race, ethnicity, and religion. Students will be challenged to increase personal awareness of their own cultural experience, expand knowledge of the historic and social realities of other cultural groups, and take action as agents of positive social change in their communities. This course requires a high level of participation from all students. Note: This course earns .5 credits. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ETHC 250, AFAM 250
  • jump to top
  • RELG 255: 21st Century Islam
    The 1.5 billion Muslims around the world represent an immense diversity of languages, ethnicities, cultures, contexts and perspectives. This course focuses on 21st century issues faced by Muslims living in different cultures. Contemporary social issues are examined in light of different interpretations of Islamic practice, global communication and social networks, elements of popular culture, and the interface between religion and government. Biographies, short stories, contemporary journalism, and films that explore life in Muslim and non-Muslim countries present a nuanced portrait of contemporary Islam. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ISLM 255
  • RELG 275: Female Religious Images in West
    Individual religious traditions have incorporated female images and ideals in different ways as goddesses, priestesses, and saints. The objective of this course is to examine ways in which the divine has been expressed in specifically female forms, as well as to examine the characteristics of female religious experience. Specific figures include Inanna, the central goddess figure of ancient Sumer; Eve and Sarah from the Hebrew Bible; Mary and female monastics from the Christian tradition; and contemporary Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women actively participating in their traditions. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: GSWS 275
  • RELG 276: Female Religious Images in Asia
    Goddess figures in India, China, and Japan are studied in this class along with the roles of human women in particular Asian religious traditions. This class explores the experiences of Buddhist nuns, Hindu and Muslim female saints, traditional healers, and shamans. Readings are drawn from religious texts, myths, and short stories from specific Asian cultures. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 276, GSWS 276
  • RELG 300: Religion in Global Context
    Using a religious studies methodology, this course examines the nature of religious experience as expressed by different religious communities and cultures from ancient periods into the present. Members of the class choose individual research topics focused on religious artifacts, rituals, social movements, communities, and the ways that religious ideas influence societies. Case studies may offer windows into the lives of Vietnamese Buddhists negotiating religion in a non-religious state, American Christians walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Jews making a living in World War II Shanghai, Hindus building Vaishnava temples in Chicago, or Indonesian designers setting 21st century high fashion trends for contemporary Muslims. This seminar is designed for religion majors and minors. Open to non-majors with appropriate preparation and permission of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 307: Roman and Medieval Christianity
    This course will consider topics in the history of Christianity from its origins to the fifteenth century, including the lives of Christ and Paul; the influence of Roman, Germanic, and Celtic religion on early Christianity; doctrinal disputes and heresy; monasticism; the cult of saints; conflicts of church and state; mysticism; reform movements. The course will include regular consideration of medieval Christian art, including images in painting, sculpture, and manuscripts. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 322
  • RELG 310: Islamic Mysticism
    Muslim saints and seekers have performed mystical practices for more than 1300 years in areas stretching from Europe and North Africa to Turkey, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent. Contemporary holy men and holy women continue to teach such mystical practices as the dancing and whirling of dervishes, the up-tempo singing of qawwals in India and Pakistan, and the rhythmic chanting of Arabic verses in Egypt. In this course, we will explore the religious thinking of these holy men and women through their writing, art, and music. Texts will include novels, short stories, allegorical tales, biographies, and films. No prerequisite. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ISLM 310, ASIA 310
  • RELG 312: In Search of the Historical Jesus
    Close examination of various portraits of Jesus: in the four gospels of the Christian Testament, in early noncanonical gospels, in recent appraisals of Jesus in scholarly works, in literature, and in film. Primary focus on the perennial attempt to reconstruct the historical Jesus. Prerequisite: Religion 201, 202, or 203 or consent of the instructor.
  • RELG 314: Hindu Pilgrimage: India and Chicago
    The course explores the ritual practice of pilgrimage at major pilgrimage sites in India, and at parallel temples in the Chicago area. Using extensive field visits and the framework of pilgrimage as the structure of the course, the class prepares for and visits 5-6 Hindu temples in the Chicago area to observe rituals being performed, speak with practitioners, and experience festival worship. Through reading and film, we examine the history, literature, ritual traditions, art, and music of Hindu pilgrims. Following specific pilgrimage routes, we explore this religious practice as it is conducted within 21st century cultures of expanding global communities, in India and in Chicago. The class will use primary source texts, maps, field visits to temples, film, and research to understand Hindu religious communities in India and Chicago. Prerequisite: Religion 214 or permission of instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 315: US Catholic Immigrant Experience
    From the Irish who arrived before the Civil War to the Mexicans and Vietnamese who have come recently, the Catholic experience in the US has been a continuing story of immigration. This course examines how succeeding immigrant groups have practiced and lived their Catholic faith in different times and places. Religion cannot be separated from the larger social and economic context in which it is embedded, so the course will also pay attention to the ways in which the social and economic conditions that greeted the immigrants on their arrival shaped how they went about praying and working. Finally, the changing leadership of the Catholic Church will be taken into account, since it provided the ecclesiastical framework for the new Catholic arrivals. Prerequisite: HIST 120 or HIST 121 or permission of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 315, AMER 315
  • RELG 316: Walking to Heaven: Pilgrimage Asia
    Using a seminar format, this course will explore pilgrimage sites in a range of different Asian cultures including India, China, Japan, Korea, and Pakistan. Students will choose a specific pilgrimage site and religious tradition as the focus of their research. Through reading, film, discussion, research, and student presentations, we will examine the roles of pilgrims and traders, sacred place and sacred time, and the ritual elements present in Asian pilgrimage practices across different religious traditions including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Prerequisite: Religion 213, 214, 215 or 216 or permission of instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • jump to top
  • RELG 317: Islamic Cultures in South Asia
    This seminar focuses upon the shared history and cultural heritage of Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. It will cover the Muslim experience from the conquest of Sindh (750 CE), through the medieval and early modern empires, to the events leading to the partition of the Indian subcontinent (1947), bringing the story to the present. Questions of identity, assimilation, and integrative processes will be examined through an exploration of political, administrative, and intellectual history. The experiences, thoughts, and perspectives of mystics, poets, and women will be highlighted to investigate the role of Muslims in shaping and enriching the cultures, society, and religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Prerequisite RELG/ISLM 213 or permission of instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 345, ASIA 317, ISLM 317
  • RELG 318: Buddhism and Social Activism
    This course will explore the development of Buddhist teachings and practice with a particular focus on the lives of contemporary Buddhist practitioners in Asia, North America, and Europe. In the past forty years, Buddhist organizations and teachers around the globe have become leaders of environmental movements, human rights activism, prison work, the education of impoverished communities, women's rights advocacy, and hospice care. Socially engaged Buddhism is now addressed as a bonafide Buddhist practice within many Buddhist communities from Japan and Vietnam to Thailand, Burma, India, and North America. Structured as a seminar, this course will allow students to research a specific aspect of contemporary Buddhist practice, examining the relationship between social engagement and deepening spiritual understanding.
    Cross-listed as: ASIA 318
  • RELG 319: European Reformations: 1200-1600
    The Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation were a major turning-point in the political, social and religious history of the West. This course will examine: the background to the Reformations in Pauline and Augustinian theology and medieval reform movements; the writings of key figures including Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Loyola; the political and social ramifications of the Reformations, particularly in France, England, and the German Empire; the tradition of historiography on the Reformations.
    Cross-listed as: HIST 328
  • RELG 320: Topics In Comparative Religion
    This course will explore a topic common to both Asian religions and the religions of the Middle East. Examples of such topics are mysticism, prayer, social ethic, the concept of the self, and teaching on death and the afterlife. This course is partially funded by a gift from the Herbert and Abra Portes Fund. Prerequisite: Any Religion course or permission or instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 321: Jewish-Christian-Muslim Conv
    (Jewish-Christian-Muslim Conversations) This course examines the role the Christian Testament plays in including Jews and Judaism in the Christian story, and the Qur'anic treatment of Christians/Christianity and Jews/Judaism. We consider the relationships among these three monotheistic traditions in the course of their shared history up to our own day. We will study both positive and negative moments in these conversations. Finally, we will explore ways of healing the rifts that have developed in the course of these conversations. Prerequisite: any course in religion, junior standing or consent of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ISLM 321
  • RELG 322: Religious Existentialism
    An epoch of European philosophy and religious thought culminated in the great system developed by Hegel. In its wake came a literature of protest, beginning with the Danish philosopher and religious thinker Soren Kierkegaard and moving through a later generation of European intellectuals who came to maturity between the two world wars. Included are Jewish voices such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig as well as Christian writers such as Paul Tillich and Gabriel Marcel. Readings include texts by these religious existentialists. Prerequisite: Any Religion course or permission of instructor.
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 322
  • RELG 326: Identity/Body/Persecution Med Europ
    (Identity, Body, and Persecution in Medieval Europe) Medieval men and women discussed many of the same questions of identity that we do: What makes an individual unique? How does group affiliation affect identity? What is the relationship between identity and change? How does faith in God influence understanding of the individual? This course considers the following topics: medieval conceptions of the individual in Christian autobiography; the role of the body and gender in determining identity (exploring topics such as the Eucharist, the cult of saints, and sex difference); how medieval Europeans defined their own identity by persecuting the 'other,' including heretics, Jews, and lepers; how change affected identity in medieval texts such as werewolf stories and resurrection theology.
    Cross-listed as: HIST 326, GSWS 305
  • RELG 335: Religion and Food
    Everyone eats, and every religion talks about eating. In this class, we sample from a rich menu of religious approaches to food, making use of scholarly articles, spirituality guides, cookbooks, and memoirs. From the Christian Communion to Jewish Kosher laws to the Buddhist mindful eating, the world's major religions use food to structure the lives, practices, and beliefs of their adherents. In this class we digest some of the symbolic meanings, self-definitions, and communal and individual identities that develop out of religion and food. Prerequisite: Any Religion course or permission of instructor.(Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • RELG 390: Sociology of Religion
    This seminar starts with major classical theories of sociology of religion including those of secularization and privatization of religion in the modern world. Then we shall examine the relevant events of the past quarter of the century, namely the sudden explosion of politicized and highly public religions in the Western and the non-Western worlds. The existing sociological literature didn't anticipate the current significance of religion and this tension is expected to generate interesting debates in this seminar. Special attention will be given to a comparative study of public religions in Western countries (e.g., Brazil, Poland, Spain, and the United States) and in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia). (Meets the GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: SOAN 390
  • RELG 490: Internship

  • jump to top
  • RELG 493: Research Project
    Research in collaboration with a departmental faculty member. Consult with any member of the department for application information.
  • RELG 494: Senior Thesis
    Research guided by a departmental faculty member culminating in a senior thesis, fulfilling the College's Senior Studies Requirement. Consult any member of the department for further information.