Chair: Jonathan S. Walters
Courtney Fitzsimmons
Rogers B. Miles
Lauren Osborne
Melissa M. Wilcox
Walter E. Wyman Jr. (on Sabbatical, 2015-16) 

Religion Department Website »

The goal of the study of religion at a secular college is religious literacy. Religious literacy, an important dimension of cultural literacy, entails both a cognitive component (knowledge of religions and of the religious dimension of culture) and proficiencies (the acquiring of skills relevant to the analysis of religion). Courses in religion have the objective of conveying knowledge in five areas (Asian religions, modern western religious thought, Near Eastern religions, religion in America, and gender or the sociology of religion), and of developing skills of analysis, interpretation, and communication.

An individually designed combined major which integrates the study of religion with work in another department can be arranged.

Distribution: Courses completed in religion apply to the humanities and cultural pluralism (selected courses) distribution areas.

Learning Goals: Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Field-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Upon graduation, students will be able to analyze and understand religious phenomena based upon substantive knowledge of Asian religions, Near Eastern religions, religion in America, and Western religious thought, as well as knowledge of different periods of religious thought and practice, both classic periods of origins and later developments.
    • More generally, students will be familiar with different dimensions of religion as a phenomenon and different academic methods by means of which religion is studied and understood.
  • Communication
    • Students will be able to present answers to a research question in writing that meets the highest standards of conceptual clarity and correct and readable prose. They will be able to discuss orally the subject matter and method of their research, and locate both within the wider horizon of the phenomenon of religion and the academic study of religion in a substantive, articulate, conceptually clear, and precise manner.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Students will be able to distinguish confessional from academic approaches to religion, and to bracket the former in interpretations of religious phenomena. They will have cultivated skills of critically analyzing and interpreting different genres of texts: sacred scriptures, philosophical and theological arguments, historical studies, and social-scientific and gender studies analyses of religious phenomena.
  • Research Experience
    • Students who graduate will be able to carry out independent research on a religious phenomenon by formulating a sophisticated religious studies research question, conducting appropriate research, and defining their own methodological perspective. Students will be able to articulate the contributions and limitations of their chosen method.


The Religion major: A minimum of 36 credits in religion, including the following: (1) at least one religion course in each of the following five areas: (a) gender or the sociology of religion, (b) Near Eastern religions, (c) Asian religions, (d) religion in America, (e) Western religious thought; (2) at least two 300-level religion courses, which may simultaneously fulfill the area requirements; (3) senior seminar and thesis (Religion 448 and 490 or 498). No more than one 100-level course may be counted for the major; the Comparative Studies in Religion courses (Religion 116 and 117) do not fulfill the area requirements. The study of an appropriate language, as determined in consultation with the student’s major adviser, is also highly recommended although not required. The senior assessment: All religion majors are required to write a senior thesis, and to pass an oral examination on the thesis, which may include questions of a more comprehensive nature. Departmental policy does not allow a P-D-F grade option for courses within the major.

Honors in the major: All students majoring in Religion are required to write a thesis and to register for Religion 490 Thesis in Religion. Students do not apply for admission to candidacy for honors. Students who write a thesis graded A or A- by the Religion Department faculty, and who pass the Senior Comprehensive Examination with distinction, will be granted Honors in Major Study if they attain the minimum Cumulative and Major GPAs specified in the faculty code (3.300 and 3.500, respectively). The Chair of the Religion Department will notify the Registrar of those students attaining Honors in Major Study not later than the beginning of the third week of April. Two copies of the Honors Theses must be submitted to Penrose Library no later than Reading Day.

The Religion minor: A minimum of 20 credits in religion. At least one religion course must be taken in three out of the following five areas: (a) gender or the sociology of religion, (b) Near Eastern religions, (c) Asian religions, (d) religion in America, (e) Western religious thought. No more than one 100-level course may be given credit toward the minor; the Comparative Studies in Religion courses (Religion 116 and 117) do not fulfill the area requirements. At least one course in religion at the 300 level must be taken. Departmental policy does not allow a P-D-F grade option for courses within the minor.

100 Introduction to Religion
4; not offered 2015-16

An introduction both to religion as a reality of human history, culture, and experience, and to the study of religion as a field in the humanities and social sciences. Topics include the nature of religion, theological, and social scientific theories of religion; sacred scriptures, East and West; religious thought about the nature of ultimate reality, the human condition, and the path to salvation in several traditions. Not a survey of world religions, but an introduction to religion using cross-cultural materials and a variety of approaches. Three class meetings per week. Open only to first- and second-year students.

103 Death and Afterlife
x, 4 Walters

Death and the afterlife have been central concerns of all religious people, whose answers to the questions “why do we die?” and “what happens next?” have shaped their ways of life in general and their funerary practices in particular. But however universal the reality of death, conceptualizations of and responses to it have varied widely among and even within various religions and civilizations. This seminar, based on reading and discussion of primary (scriptural) and secondary (scholarly) texts, explores a range of ideas and practices surrounding death and the afterlife in two of the world’s great civilizations: The Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) and the Indic (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain). In addition to identifying the specific understandings and practices unique to each religion, we will raise and address comparative questions about similarities and differences found among them. Open only to first- and second-year students.

105 Understanding Religion
4; not offered 2015-16

This course offers an overview of the lenses through which we may view the topic of religion, both as it has been defined and contested by the major theorists of religion and some of the world's religious traditions. It provides an introduction to the diverse theories and methods of religious studies rather than a survey of the world's religions. Issues of definition, scripture or canon, gender, power, politics, extremism, and critique (all with respect to religion) receive attention. Open only to first- and second-year students.

107 Religion and Society
4; not offered 2015-16

Why does the pledge of allegiance include “one nation under God” when we have a separation of church and state? What’s up with images of the Virgin Mary on grilled cheese sandwiches, and people selling their souls on eBay? Do people really get sucked into cults, and can deprogrammers get them out again? Why do so many ethnic groups have their own temples, mosques, or churches? This class invites students to consider religion through the lenses of sociology and cultural studies. It will explore the influence of religion on social institutions, politics, social movements, and popular culture, as well as considering the effects of society and culture on religion. Topics include: civil religions; religion and the social order; religious pluralism; new religious movements and “spirituality”; seekerism and secularization; religion and social change; and religion and violence. Limited to first- and second-year students. May be elected as Sociology 127.

109 Conceptions of Ultimate Reality
4; not offered 2015-16

What is ultimately real? Matter and energy? Fate? God or gods? Nirvana? The Impersonal One? This introductory course in the academic study of religion explores differing conceptions of ultimate reality in a variety of traditions. It considers the question of ultimate reality both phenomenologically (analyzing sacred texts) and philosophically (considering several treatments of the problem of the pluralism of conceptions). Open only to first- and second-year students.

110 Religion and the Senses
4, x Osborne

Looking across a range of religious traditions, this course examines the modes of the human senses in relation to religious experience, drawing on both primary and secondary literature. We will ask such questions as: are the senses acting as a means allowing for perception of the divine, or some kind of experience or contact? Are they a medium for self-discipline, in either a positive sense through the cultivation of a pious self, or negatively, through denial? Are the senses serving as a metaphor, and, if so, to what end? We will also interrogate the boundaries and relationships between senses. Open only to first- and second-year students.

116, 117 Comparative Studies in Religion

This course is an introduction to the academic study of religion. Topics for the sections vary from semester to semester and year to year, depending on the particular interests of the instructors, but every course will consider some aspect of the phenomenon of religion and study it in a comparative perspective. Open only to first- and second-year students. Any current offerings follow.

150 Evil and Suffering
4; not offered 2015-16

One of the most difficult questions in religious thought is the question of evil and suffering.  If there is a good God, why does evil exist? If God is all-powerful, why doesn't God put an end to human suffering?  Does God cause the terrible events we see nightly on the news?  Do these events prove there is no God?  What is evil and where does it come from?  In this course we will study responses to these questions in a variety of forms, including philosophical, theological, and literary texts as well as film. Open to first and second year students only.

180 Church and State in American History
x, 4 Miles

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution inaugurated a radical experiment to separate church and state in order to guarantee the religious liberty of every citizen. Why did the Founding Fathers undertake this experiment? How did they conceive of the separation, and how have others thereafter construed their intent in the face of America’s increasing religious pluralism? Among the questions this seminar will examine: Can government legitimately support faith-based social initiatives? Do prayer in public schools, displays of religious symbols in public spaces, and school vouchers undermine the First Amendment? Can government remain strictly neutral toward religion without placing itself on the side of irreligion? To what degree should the state support religiously sanctioned cultural practices regarding marriage, contraception, and sexual behavior? Open only to first- and second-year students.

201 Reading Biblical Narratives
4; not offered 2015-16

The stories of the Hebrew Bible include some of the most memorable characters and stories in literature. But what makes a biblical narrative a “story”? In this course, students will examine biblical narratives using the modern methods of literary criticism. The course focuses on the themes of gender, power, covenant, and history as they are constructed through devices such as plot, style, and characterization.  The course will also include contemporary reinterpretations of biblical narratives in literature and film.

202 The New Testament and Early Christianity
4; not offered 2015-16

An introduction to the beginnings of Christianity by a study of the New Testament and other early Christian writings. Attention will be given to both historical questions and religious ideas. The focal points of the course will be the Gospels, the problem of the historical Jesus (including the contemporary work on this problem by the “Jesus Seminar”), and the theology of Paul.

205 Introduction to Christianity
4; not offered 2015-16

Utilizing readings from the Christian Bible, Creeds and Catechisms, and theologies, this course introduces students to the major stories and doctrines of the Christian tradition. The focus of the course is on varieties of beliefs—Protestant and Catholic, liberal and conservative. Recommended but not required prior to taking more advanced work in Christian thought. Open only to first and second year students.

207 Introduction to Islam
x, 4 Osborne

This course provides an introduction to the tradition of Islam, beginning with an overview to the foundational sources of the tradition--the Qur'an and the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad. Tracing the development of Islam from its origins, students will learn of the diverse ways in which Muslims have lived and defined themselves and the tradition up to the present moment. We will encounter a lived tradition: one that is constantly defined, redefined, and contested through the beliefs and practices of Muslims in interpretation of scripture, ritual life, literature, art, and other modes of expression.

209 Introduction to Judaism
4, x Fitzsimmons

This course is a survey of Jewish texts and traditions from its beginnings in antiquity to the present-day. The course emphasizes the diversity in Judaism, focusing on moments of innovation and change in the tradition. Using a combination of primary texts, secondary literature, and film, students will be introduced to the major areas in the study of Judaism, including biblical literature, the rabbinic period, mysticism, folklore, philosophy, and Holocaust literature.  Recommended but not required for further courses in Judaism.

214 American Jewish Thought
4; not offered 2015-16

When the first Jews arrived in America in 1654 they sought, like many others, religious freedom. Today America is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, and has produced its own unique forms of Judaism. Students will explore this complex tradition and the construction of American Jewish identity through Jewish philosophy, literature, and films from the mid-20th century to present day.

217 The Qur’an
4; not offered 2015-16

This course offers an exploration of the Qur'an, the scripture of Islam. In introducing the text, we will examine the historical and literary context in which it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in seventh century Arabia. Through close reading we will survey the many messages, themes, and literary and poetic styles found in the text itself. Special attention will also be given to the range of methods and approaches that Muslims have used in interpreting the Qur'an, and to the role played by the text in ritual life.

219 Modern Jewish Thought
4; not offered 2015-16

The onset of modernity brought about dramatic upheaval and change for Jewish communities, from the optimism of the Enlightenment to the horrors of the Holocaust. This course covers the history and thought of Modern Judaism from the 17th century to the 20th century in Europe.  Students will read philosophical texts to gain an overview of the major themes, events, and thinkers of this important period in religious thought and Judaism.

221 South Asian Religions I: The Formative Period
4, x Walters

This course introduces the foundations of South Asian (Indian) religiosity through close readings of formative religious texts from an historical perspective. After a discussion of the sacrificial culture embodied in the earliest document of Indo-European history, the Rig Veda (ca. 1500-1000, B.C.E.), we will trace the development of Theist (Upanishadic), Buddhist and Jaina speculative and liturgical traditions (after the eighth century, B.C.E.) and conclude with the emergence of the first classical Indian empire under Asoka Maurya, third century, B.C.E. Two class meetings per week. Open to all students. Offered in alternate years.

222 South Asian Religions II: The Classical Period
x, 4 Walters

A continuation of South Asian Religions I, which examines the development of classical Theist India. We will begin with the emergence of Vaishnava and Shaiva identities, and the displacement of Buddhism and Jainism in Indian culture, during the first centuries, C.E. This will be followed by readings in the great works of Indian Theist literature, philosophy, mythology, devotion, and politics. The course will conclude with the coming of Western (Muslim then Christian) imperialists, their understandings of “Hinduism,” local responses in the Subcontinent, and an analysis of the legacy of this meeting of Indian and Western religions within contemporary Indian society. Open to all students. Religion 221 recommended but not required. Offered in alternate years.

227 Christian Ethics
4, x Fitzsimmons

This course is an introduction to Christian Ethics, both theoretical and applied. Unlike traditional courses in ethics, which follow a historical trajectory, this course simultaneously engages classical texts in Christian ethics alongside contemporary critiques and reinterpretations of these texts. These critiques challenge the formulation dominant Christian ethical concepts by raising questions of gender, race, privilege, and globalization. Students will also engage in applied ethics by analyzing contemporary ethical issues through the lens of classic thinkers.

228 Modern Western Religious Thought I: Crisis and Renewal
4; not offered 2015-16

This is a course in Christian theology which begins with the Reformation of the 16th century. What were the religious ideas of the Protestant Reformers that lead to the break with Roman Catholicism? Next the course will turn to the rise of religious skepticism in the Enlightenment: How did modern science in the 17th century, and modern philosophy in the 18th, lead to a crisis in religious belief? The course will conclude with 19th century attempts to respond to atheism and skepticism, and to reconstruct theology on a modern basis: “What is it reasonable to believe in the modern world?” Not open to first-year students. May be elected as German 228. Offered in alternate years.

229 Modern Western Religious Thought II: The Twentieth Century
4; not offered 2015-16

This course is a continuation of Religion 228, focusing on how 20th century religious thinkers have answered the question, “What is it reasonable to believe in the modern world?” How have 20th century religious thinkers, both conservative and liberal, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, responded to the challenges to the religious traditions of the West presented by the modern world? Topics vary, but may include: responses to skepticism and atheism; the pluralism of religions and the problem of religious truth; God and the problem of evil; liberation and feminist theologies; contemporary interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth; Jewish responses to the Holocaust. May be taken independently of Religion 228. Not open to first-year students. May be elected as German 229. Offered in alternate years.

233 Religion and Sexuality in Global Perspective
4, x Wilcox

What’s the relationship between religion and sex?  Many people would answer, simply, “prohibition.” But consider the following: In Judaism, sex on Shabbat is often considered a mitzvah (a good deed). Evangelical Christian presses have published sex manuals with titles like Red-Hot Monogamy. Many interpretations of Islamic law hold that both partners in a marriage are equally entitled to sexual satisfaction. And numerous new religious movements have broken from the sexual norms in the societies around them, either to increase sexual restrictiveness to the point of celibacy or to decrease it to the point of communal sexual access or the use of sexuality in religious rituals. This class will explore the widely varying relationships between religion and sexuality in recent and contemporary religious communities around the world, basing its analysis in perspectives drawn from religious studies, gender studies, and global studies.

236 Comparative Scriptures
x, 4 Osborne

This course takes a comparative thematic approach to reading across the three scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions—the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. Although they originate at different moments in history, in the context of different religious traditions, a common vocabulary of themes, narratives, genres, and poetics appears across all three. We will take a thematic approach by reading the scriptures as literature, in conversation with one another, and in so doing, raising the issue of the possibilities and limitations of a comparative perspective.

245 Jewish Ethics
4; not offered 2015-16

What is Jewish Ethics? This course confronts this question through an overview of the history of Jewish ethics and close reading of representative Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. The course is structured so that students can engage one of the most important works of contemporary Jewish ethics – Judith Butler’s challenging and controversial work Parting Ways. In this book, Butler draws upon the thinkers we will read in this course – Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Levinas, Walter Benjamin and Primo Levi – to construct a new Jewish ethical theory, one that raises questions about Jewish identity, the role of ethics in religion, and the place of religion in the public sphere.

250 Buddhist Civilizations in Asia I: South and Southeast Asia
4; not offered 2015-16

From the time of the Buddha (ca. fifth century, B.C.; first century, B.E.) to the present, his religion has been foundational to the historical, political, economic, artistic, medical and literary cultures of South and Southeast Asia. This course explores the rise and spread of Buddhist institutions in the Buddha’s homeland, India, and their further spread through southern India and Sri Lanka to the southeast edges of the Indic world, the kingdoms of Indonesia and mainland Southeast Asia. Careful reading of key primary texts from this so-called “Southern Tradition” (especially Theravada) will be supplemented with readings in secondary scholarship, lectures, and contemporary audio-visual materials. Offered every other year.

251 Buddhist Civilizations in Asia II: Central and East Asia
4; not offered 2015-16

Although in India proper the significance of specifically Buddhist cultures gradually gave way to other religious orientations, becoming virtually extinct there by the 15th century, A.D. (20th century, B.E.), from the fifth century, B.E. to the present ever-new interpretations of the Buddha’s life and significance have maintained an important presence in kingdoms and cultures located to the north and to the east of the Buddha’s Indian homeland. This course tracks philosophical, liturgical, political, artistic and soteriological developments in the so-called “Northern Tradition,” identified especially with the Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tantrayana) divisions of the Buddhist world. Beginning with the rise of the Mahayana sutras in India (ca. fifth century, B.E.), the course traces the development of the Northern Buddhist tradition from ancient times to the present in Tibet, China, Japan and, through them, in the modern United States. Careful reading of primary texts will be supplemented with readings in secondary scholarship, lectures, and audio-visual materials. Offered every other year.

260 Religion in America From the Civil War to the Present
4; not offered 2015-16

An historical survey of the impact of religion on American society and culture from the Civil War until the present. Topics will include the religious roots of westward expansion and the response of Native Americans to the threatened extinction of their culture, the persistence of ethnicity and the pull of assimilation in the religious experience of Asian and East European immigrants, urbanization and industrialization and the impulse toward social reform, the emergence of Fundamentalism and its rejection of biblical criticism and Darwinian evolution, the religious roots of the civil rights movement and the changing role of women in religious life and thought. Open to all students.

287 Queer Religiosities
4; not offered 2015-16

This course examines religion from queer perspectives, exploring the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people have created religious spaces for themselves in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Course readings include historical, autobiographical, sociological, and theological discussions of religion and spirituality in the lives of LGBTQ people. Students will consider the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in queer communities, the ways in which people grapple with religious challenges to their identities, the formation of “identity-focused” religious organizations, and the ways in which queer perspectives on religion challenge accepted understandings of the relationship between sexuality, gender, and religion.

290-292 Special Topics in the Academic Study of Religion

One-time offerings of studies of selected authors, themes, or religious traditions at the intermediate level. Any current offerings follow.

305 Gender and Identity in Judaism
4; not offered 2015-16

The question of Jewish identity has been central to Jewish thought since the modern period. This course studies how Modern Orthodox Judaism defines Jewish identity in the secular world, and how questions of gender identity complicate this task of definition. The course focuses on a close reading of texts from American and Israeli scholars that represent a number of religious studies methodologies. Through this course, students will learn about these various methods and how gender analysis is incorporated into and perhaps changes these methods. Not open to first year students.

310 Hearing Islam
4; not offered 2015-16

This course explores the ways in which Islam has been conceived, represented, and contested through sound. How does hearing or saying affect the practice of religion? What makes a particular sound religious, with regard to either its production or its experience? Topics will include the call to prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, the “problem” of music in Islam, and genres of Islamic music from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts (such as ghazals--love poems set as songs --and Islamic rap, for example), sermons, and other audio artifacts. The course will draw on both reading and listening assignments.

321 Islamic Mysticism
4, x Osborne

This course examines the concepts, literatures, and practices associated with mysticism in Islam (Sufism), and the lives of related figures. We will draw on both close reading of mystical literatures, as well as studying the integration of the practices and individuals into Sufi orders into society in a variety of geographical and historical contexts.

330 Multireligious South Asia
4; not offered 2015-16

South Asia is home to well-established and highly diverse Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Zoroastrian, Christian and tribal religious communities, whose, members have been interacting with each other in both constructive and contentious ways for three millennia. This course examines historical and contemporary examples of South Asian multireligious encounter in order to raise and address more general questions relevant to the study of “multireligion” in any context: just how have religious people engaged their religious “others” through the ages? What strategies exist within the different religious traditions for making sense of and responding to the universal fact of religious diversity? How do these strategies relate to social, political, economic and other cultural concerns of the people who employ them? What factors cause them to fluctuate over time or in different circumstances? How does the academic study of religions—itself an attempt at making sense of religious diversity—relate to the multireligious strategies of the lived traditions it analyses? Open to all students, but at least one prior course in religion is strongly recommended.

347 The Buddha
4; not offered 2015-16

The life of the Buddha has captivated religious imaginations for 2,500 years, but the biography of the Buddha is not singular: in its traverse of millennia and continents Buddhism has generated many Buddhas, each appropriate to the time and place in which he was imagined. This course examines select biographies of the Buddha from Asia and Europe, modern as well as ancient, in order to investigate the impact of historical and intellectual circumstances upon the composition of each. It serves both as a case study in religious biography and as a broad overview of the origin and development of Buddhism. Prerequisite: Religion 221, 250, 251, or 257, or consent of instructor.

348 The Secularization of Whitman College
4, x Miles

When Whitman became a college in 1882, it very much functioned as a cog in the engine of an informal Protestant establishment that claimed that without the inculcation of a Christian (i.e., Protestant) morality, students would lack the necessary self-restraint that citizens in a self-governing republic required. After a survey of the social, intellectual, and institutional reasons that prompted universities and eventually colleges to buck the Protestant establishment and its hold upon the curriculum, students will explore with the help of materials in the Whitman College Archives the forces propelling Whitman to become the secular institution it is today. Open to all students, but at least one prior course in religion is strongly recommended.

349 Field Studies in the Religions of the Pacific Northwest
4; not offered 2015-16

The Pacific Northwest is a microcosm of the diversity that characterizes religion in America today. In addition to mainline Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish denominations, there exists on either side of the Cascade Range a number of religious groups of particular interest: Bahais, Buddhist congregations of various ethnic stripes, Hindus, Hutterites, Indian Shakers, Islamic communities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, members of the Native American Church, Russian Old Believers, Pentecostals, native practitioners of the Pom Pom Religion, Scientologists, Sikhs, and devotees of Wicca. After a brief historical survey of the regional religious landscape and the forces that produced it, this course will examine some of the techniques (theological, historical, phenomenological, sociological, psychological, and anthropological) used for interpreting religious movements. In the second half of the course, teams of students under the guidance of the instructor will initiate research projects for in-depth study of selected religious communities and traditions. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

350 The Problem of God
4; not offered 2015-16

This course focuses on the existence and nature of God as an intellectual problem. The course will explore conceptions of God in the Western religious traditions and how God came to be a problem with the emergence of skepticism and atheism in the modern world. Historical and literary approaches, as well as philosophical and theological perspectives, will be included. Contemporary attempts to rethink the nature of God and to argue for the reality of God will be considered. Two class meetings per week. Not open to first-year students.

353 The Historical Jesus
4; not offered 2015-16

This seminar is an exploration of recent scholarship on the problem of the historical Jesus — the attempt to distinguish the historical figure of Jesus from the theological portraits of him in early Christian literature. Attention will be given to the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar regarding the authenticity of the reported sayings and deeds of Jesus, as well as to recent books on Jesus of Nazareth by scholars representing a variety of methodological perspectives. Each student will report to the class on a recent work on Jesus. Religion 202 is a useful prior course, but not a prerequisite.

355 Religious Intolerance in the Contemporary United States
x, 4 Wilcox

This course explores several important facets of religious tolerance and intolerance in the United States today. It begins with the development of religious pluralism and the separation of church and state, but then questions the limits of this separation through examining the evidence for “public Protestantism” in the United States The rest of the course examines instances of religious intolerance in the United States — both intolerance of specific religions and religiously based intolerance of specific groups — in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Students will explore the contours of religious intolerance, from hate crimes and violent protest to more subtle events and attitudes in our own communities and our own lives, as well as ways to combat such intolerance.

358 Feminist and Liberation Theologies
4; not offered 2015-16

Since the 1960s Western religious thinkers have been giving explicit attention to the relevance of gender, race, and class for religious thought. This course is a comparative exploration of Latin American liberation theologies, African American theologies, and feminist theologies (Jewish, Christian, and Post-Christian). Format: readings in primary sources, class discussions, oral reports, and papers. Not open to first-year students.

370 New Religious Movements
4; not offered 2015-16

Often called “cults” by those unfamiliar with them, new religious movements (NRMs) are exactly what the name implies: newly formed religions that develop either within established world religions or as offshoots of more obscure social or religious movements. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were a new religious movement in the nineteenth century; contemporary NRMs range from the Unification Church (popularly known as the Moonies) to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (popularly known as the Hare Krishnas) to the Church of Satan. This class will cover theoretical work on new religious movements as well as sociological studies of specific groups, with the goal of increasing students’ familiarity with and theoretical understanding of NRMs as well as exploring the relationship of NRMs to their social contexts.

387-390 Special Topics in Religious History, Literature, and Thought

Intensive studies of particular authors, literatures, issues, or eras. The topics will vary year to year. Any current offerings follow.

401, 402 Independent Study
1-4, 1-4 Staff

An opportunity for advanced students to pursue a specific interest after consultation with the instructor. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

448 Seminar in the Academic Study of Religion
4, x Wilcox

What is religion, and how is it studied? The seminar will explore different methods employed in the academic study of religion. As the culmination of the semester’s work, students will formulate their thesis topic and articulate the method (or methods) to be used in their project. Required of, and open only to senior religion majors.

490 Thesis in Religion
x, 4 Staff

Research and writing of the senior thesis. Open only to and required of senior religion majors. Prerequisite: Religion 448.

498 Honors Thesis in Religion
x, 4 Staff

Research and writing of the senior honors thesis. Students register for Religion 490, not for Religion 498. The registration will be changed from Religion 490 to 498 for those students who attain honors in Religion. Open only to senior religion majors.