Course Topics

REL 185: Imagining Religion with the Beatles

The music of the Beatles took shape during a revolutionary decade in which old patterns of religious belief and practice were being challenged and new forms of spirituality were emerging. We will examine the philosophical, spiritual, and religious themes in the music and musings of the Beatles in order to gain a better perspective on what was happening to religion in Britain and America during the 1960s and how the Beatles influenced generations of spiritual seekers and skeptics alike. 

REL 221: History of Christian Thought

A survey of central events, ideas, and figures in the history of Christianity from the early church to the present. The course will focus on primary texts, and attention will be given to the ways that Christian theology has developed over the centuries within a variety of cultures. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist) 

REL 222: Religion in America

A historical survey of the role of religion in American life, focusing on the interaction between religion and culture in the United States. The course will examine the development of religious pluralism in the U.S. and explore selected issues that have arisen and continue to affect American culture, such as religious liberty, revivalism, utopianism, immigration and ethnicity, slavery, fundamentalism, and the contributions of women and minorities. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HB, Hist) 

REL 223: Christianity and Its Modern Critics

A survey of the more prominent critics and criticisms of Western Christianity from the Enlightenment to the present. Students will engage critics from a variety of spheres, including philosophy, theology, politics, science, literature, journalism, and popular culture. Criticisms of traditional Christian beliefs in the existence of God, the afterlife, and the possibility of miracles, among others, will be addressed, as will accusations of Christianity's detrimental influence on constructions of race, gender, and sexuality. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist) 

REL 239: Islamophobia

Islamophobia is a contested concept that is often employed to capture the fears of and prejudices toward Muslims and Islam in the West. This course will explore this controversy and Western perceptions of Muslims and Islam by critically engaging the following questions: What are the theological, historical, political, and cultural forces that have given rise to perceptions of Islam as inherently violent, intolerant, misogynist, and backwards? How does Islamophobia differ from legitimate disagreements with specific Islamic beliefs and practices? What impact have negative perceptions of Islam had on the free exercise of religion for Muslims in the West? What do these perceptions of Muslims and Islam reveal about Western assumptions concerning religion and the religious Other? Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist)

REL 370: Theology and Religious Diversity

Religious diversity is a reality that we can no longer avoid. It challenges us to take seriously the spiritual and religious commitments of others and to reflect more critically on our own questions about and commitments to religion. This course will introduce students to the larger theological issues involved in interreligious dialogue and learning, a field known as comparative theology. Incorporating thinkers from at least three religious traditions and putting them into conversation with one another, the course will explore the following questions from a theological perspective: How does globalism and the fact of religious diversity influence my beliefs? What are various ways of thinking about god, the world, and our place in it? What is the significance of my neighbor's faith for my own? How might an engagement with other religious traditions shape and transform my own religious identity? Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

INTERSECTIONS 185: Islam and the West: A Clash of Civilizations?

Are Islam and the West engaged in a "clash of civilizations," an inevitable conflict driven by irreconcilable cultural and religious differences? In recent decades, and particularly since 9/11, politicians, religious leaders, and scholars have vigorously debated this question. This seminar explores this contemporary debate through an analysis of Muslim and Western texts and attention to the following questions: What explains the violent conflicts between Muslim and Western peoples and societies from the Crusades to the War on Terror? Is Islam compatible with democracy, or is democracy the preserve of the West? What drives the common perceptions in the Muslim and Western worlds that the "Other" exploits and oppresses women? Why has the integration of Muslim minority communities in parts of the West been so difficult? How have Christian-Muslim interactions both hindered and facilitated the relationship between Islam and the West? Prerequisite: This seminar is open to all first-year students but is intended specifically for those interested in exploring the Scholars Intersections Program.

PAIDEIA 450: Islam in Europe: Western Responses to the Muslim "Other"

This study abroad course will explore the challenges facing contemporary Europe in regards to the integration of Muslim minority and immigrant populations. Students will visit Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, and London. Students will meet with scholars, journalists, Muslim and Christian leaders, and politicians. Among the issues that students will study from an ethical perspective: freedom of the press and journalistic integrity in the media portrayal of Muslims and Islam; multicultural v. assimilationist immigration policies; the political mobilization against Muslim minorities and its impact on the free exercise of religion; and the place of Muslims and Islam in constructions of national and European identities. Prerequisite: Junior or Senior Standing. (Intcl, J-Term II, Paideia II)