Religious Studies Course Offerings


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***Please check MYUI for the most current information and full descriptions***

Hannah HaackUndergraduate Reflections on Religious Studies Courses 
Hannah B. Haack, 4th year, International Relations & History Major 
Religion is such a large part of our everyday life, whether we acknowledge it or not. Taking courses in the Religions Department has not only enriched my liberal arts education, it provides an explanation for how our world and the people on it interact in various ways. With this context and knowledge in my life, I am better able to understand not only the history of our world, but how this history directly affects problems our society faces today. Because of my experience with classes in the Religions Department, I feel that I am a more empathetic and informed citizen who actively tries to break down the barriers of prejudice and ignorance when I experience it in the real world.

Updated: October 12, 2022

***EXW: Online course

RELS:1015:0EXW      GLOBAL RELIGIOUS CONFLICT & DIVERSITY                  Souaiaia
GE: Diversity & Inclusion
In this course, students will explore consequential ideas and historical events; examine texts, documents, and videos dealing with religious diversity and conflict; and engage with narratives and theories on the place and function of religion in society.  See MYUI for full description, and more info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.

RELS:1080         INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT              Dean
GE: Humanities; Values, Society, & Diversity; Values & Culture
Few works come close to the impact of the New Testament over the past two millennia. Cultures around the world have been impacted, in both positive and negative ways, and its influence can still be seen in every aspect of modern society. However, because its influence has spread so far and wide, there are significant debates among the many diverse Christian communities and groups about what it means and how it should be applied to the world. Our course contributes to these ongoing social dialogues by focusing on the people who wrote and edited these works. See MYUI for full info.

RELS:1250      MODERN RELIGION & CULTURE         Dean
What does religion mean to ordinary people, and what role does it play in their everyday lives? We will explore many topics including the emergence of Protestantism and religious diversity, religiously driven violence, anti-Semitism, the rise of religious tolerance, and class, race and gender within the larger political and social context. The course spans the time from the Reformation of the sixteenth century to the present. 

RELS:1506          INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM                Schlütter
Same as ASIA:1060, HIST:1612
GE: Values & Culture
Course Video
 Buddhism is a living religion that for several thousand years has shaped the societies and lives of people in most Asian countries. Today, it continues as a major influence on how people in Asia understand human existence, and it has also become an influence on the lives of a significant number of people in the Western world -through mindfulness practices and in many other ways. This course introduces the main ideas, practices and institutions of Buddhism with special attention to those that are meaningful to most people, specifically to women and minority groups in society. We will trace the historical development of Buddhism in India and its further spread throughout Asia, and examine important aspects of how Buddhism is understood and practiced in different Asian societies, as well as discuss its recent transmission to the West. See MYUI for full info.

RELS:1810       HAPPINESS IN A DIFFICULT WORLD           Cates
Couse Video
GE: Cultural Diversity; Humanities; Values, Society, & Diversity; Values & Culture
 Everyone wants to be happy. For many people, being happy involves gaining freedom from factors in their lives that keep them from realizing their full potential and feeling connected to others. Is religion a help or a hindrance in the search for freedom?  This introductory course seeks wisdom from three iconic figures. It focuses on the religious backgrounds and unique spiritualities of Maya Angelou (an African-American Christian), Black Elk (a Lakota Sioux medicine man), and the Dalai Lama (a Tibetan Buddhist monk). The course encourages students to ponder the many forms of oppression that humans can experience as obstacles to happiness, and the forms of liberation that are possible:  social, political, economic, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  See MYUI for full info.

RELS:1903EXW       QUEST FOR HUMAN DESTINY (FROM EDEN TO 2001)        Holstein
GE: Humanities; Values, Society, & Diversity; Values & Culture
The framework for this course is made up of three ancient works: The Epic of Gilgamesh and, from the Bible, the first nine chapters of the Book of Genesis and the Book of Jonah. The differing ways in which these three texts deal with the issue of the inevitability of death is the focal point of the course. How this point is exploited is examined in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych," Clarke's Childhood's End, the Book of Ecclesiastes, the E'numa E'lish, and Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.. See MyUI for full information.

RELS:1997          HARRY POTTER & THE RELIGION OF FANDOM                             Lindgren-Hansen
The Harry Potter series are some of the best-selling novels in publishing history. Through the novels and film adaptations, Harry Potter and his classmates inspired a generation of readers. The fervor of the Harry Potter fandom led to the creation of amusement parks, countless pieces of fanfiction, Quidditch teams on college campuses, and video games. And yet, despite its success, fans of the series are starting to examine the author and her novels with a more critical eye. This course will explore the Harry Potter series by seriously considering these critiques. Issues of religion, race, and gender are central to understanding the legacy of The Boy Who Lived. Engaging with scholarship from religious studies, literary studies, and fandom studies, we will reckon with the numerous impacts of the Harry Potter series. 

RELS:2250          JEWS, JUDAISM, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE                    Heineman
What does a Jewish approach to social justice look like?    Let’s ask the late Jewish Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. On the wall of her office hung a painting with the Biblical passage: “Justice, justice you shall pursue!”   See MYUI for full description.

Same as ASP:2265, GHS:2265
Course Video
This course exposes students to some contemporary religious diversity (focusing on forms of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism) and facilitates a level of religious literacy that is required of anyone who wishes to provide excellent personal or institutional care for human beings who are dying. People’s worldviews—including their beliefs and questions about the meaning of life—often have a big impact on how they approach their own death and the death of the people they love. An important goal of this course is to help students get more comfortable talking about death, beginning with the question of what death really is and how we know for sure when someone has died. It examines first-world clinical contexts in which advanced medical technologies make it possible to keep a person (or is it just the person’s body?) alive long after the person appears to have lost the most basic of brain functions. See MYUI for full info.

Admin Home: HIST:2461; same as CLSA:2461
GE: Foreign Civilization and Culture; Historical Perspectives
This course covers the Middle East and Mediterranean world from the era of Alexander the Great (d.323 B.C.E.) to that of Suleiman I the Magnificent (d.1566). See MYUI for full info.

RELS:2444          CITIES OF THE BIBLE                     Cargill
Admin home: CLSA:2444
Survey of the history and archaeology of key biblical cities and the contributions they made to the formation of the Bible.

RELS:2620              POLITICS, SEX, AND THE BIBLE                  Smith
GE: Diversity & Inclusion
Even in a country in which the Separation of Church and State is a stated goal, it is impossible to completely separate the two. People frequently base their decisions and opinions upon their religious beliefs. However, the debate over exactly how the Bible should influence our culture and laws is not just one between Christian Believers and Atheists. On the contrary, many Christians disagree over exactly how the Bible should be interpreted and applied in any given case. This course will introduce students to the variety of biblical stances presented on major issues influencing our country and help them better understand how so many different positions can be based upon the Bible.

RELS:2852:0EXW             WOMEN IN ISLAM & THE MIDDLE EAST        Souaiaia
GE:  Foreign Civ & Culture; Humanities; Int’l & Global Issues; Values, Society, & Diversity; Values & Culture
Women in Islam and the Middle East is a course about women within and without the Muslim community. It focuses on women from the early time periods of the rise of Islam until modern times. We will consider the textual references to women in the primary religious texts (Qur’ân and the Sunnah) and references and stories of prominent women as told in the Islamic history books. In order to provide a comprehensive exploration of the status of women and gender issues, the course will also rely on interviews, guest lectures, images, documentaries, and films produced from a variety of perspectives and through the lenses of a number of disciplines.In this course, we aim to explore the role and status of women in the modern and pre-modern Middle East with respect to institutions such as the law, religious practices, work, politics, family, and education. Additionally, we will examine themes of social protocols, sexuality, gender roles, and authenticity as contested norms. More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.

RELS:3243              PAGANS & CHRISTIANS: THE EARLY CHURCH       Dilley
Introduction to the history of early Christianity, from time of Jesus to rise of Islam; focus on major movements, intellectuals, institutions in this period; growth of Christianity in different geographical areas including the Middle East, Greece, Western Europe, Africa; Christian relations with Jews, pagans, Muslims; conversion; orthodoxy, heresy, making of biblical canon; martyrdom; women and gender roles; asceticism, monasticism, sexuality; church and state; theological controversy and schisms; cult of saints; the Holy Land and pilgrimage.


RELS:3808       MALCOLM X, KING, AND HUMAN RIGHTS                         Turner
Admin Home: AFAM:3500, Same as HIST:3160
Religion and politics of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the context of U.S. civil rights and international human rights in West Africa and the Muslim world; emphasis on civil rights connections to Gandhi, the Nobel Peace prize, and other international experiences that have impacted Pan Africanists, such as Stokely Carmichael, who worked on human rights.

RELS:3855              HUMAN RIGHTS & ISLAM                     Souaiaia
GE: Humanities; International & Global Issues
Exploration of social forces, legal regimes, and cultural norms that have shaped the discourse on human rights in a global context with reliance on a systems thinking framework; examination of intersections of rights, culture, society, and law in the last 2,000 years; consideration of interplay between institutional (formal) and societal (informal) powers that shape human rights norms; origins and evolution of discourse on rights across cultures and throughout history. More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.

RELS:4930              INTERNSHIP: RIGHTS & REMEDIAL JUSTICE       Souaiaia
Faculty supervised research experience in human rights remedial justice.  More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.




RELS:5300       GENEALOGIES OF RELIGION                    Dilley
Genealogies of the idea of religion, academic study of religion, and comparative study of religions; intellectual and ideological foundations of discipline; preparation to work skillfully across traditions.

RELS:6345       NEW MATERIALISMS                       Supp-Montgomerie
Exploration of new strategies for rupturing persistent dichotomies of subject/object, representation/real, culture/nature, and active humans/passive things offered by theories of the vitality and agency of matter; introduction to origins of and developments in new materialisms; oriented to interdisciplinary inquiry and application to research in the humanities, broadly conceived; particular attention to actor-network theory, feminism, queer theory, infrastructuralism, and materialist theories of media.

RELS:6710       SEMINAR: APPROACHES TO HUMAN RIGHTS              Souaiaia
Approaches to Human Rights is a seminar for graduate students with a background in the study of law, history, politics, philosophy, economics, anthropology, and sociology with a focus on the narratives interpreted and mediated events related to human rights in both Islamic and Western cultures. Students will learn about and analyze the origins and evolution of the institutions of human rights and the formal and informal instruments and systems that have informed and impacted human rights claims throughout history and across cultures.  More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.



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RELS:1000     FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR: Games, Chance, and Gambling: Backgammon    Dilley
This seminar introduces students to backgammon, the premier game which combines skill and the luck of the dice, which has been played for more than two thousand years, in different variations, across the globe. In its current form, it is known both for its gambling potential and as a competitive event played in local, national, and international tournaments. But backgammon - and games of chance more generally - can tell us a great deal about the societies in which they flourish. Originally connected to religious practices such as divination (trying to determine the will of the gods) and cosmic symbolism, they later became an integral part of popular culture, and the target of laws and regulations from church and state.  See MYUI for full description.

GE: Quantitative or Formal Reasoning
Does data matter? How do societies create information and use data? What can we learn about the past and ourselves from the data that we generate individually and as societies?  Students work with faculty from multiple disciplines to investigate these questions through contemporary and historical examples, using inquiry-based activities to build success in basic data skills, critical thinking, and teamwork.  They gain experience working with different types of data used to illuminate and improve politics, literature, entertainment, public health, and other areas of society and culture.  

RELS:1130 / HIST:1030       INTRO TO ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION               Souaiaia
GE: Values & Culture; International and Global Issues  
This course is for students with an interest in learning about the Islamic civilization, religious practices and beliefs, and/or the history or the regions where Muslims are in the majority.  We will examine the traditions and main social and legal institutions of Islam. Arguably, Islam, as a major system of beliefs and practices in the world, affects both Muslims and non-Muslims. We will review the discussions surrounding the life of the Prophet of Islam, Islamic pre-modern and modern history, the place and role of individuals and society, the legal and economic status of women, and Islamic governments and movements.  More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.

GE: Historical Perspectives
This course explores European religion, principally Western Christianity, and its broader cultural setting from the end of antiquity to the eve of the Reformation (ca. 1500).  It examines beliefs and practices among the intellectual and social elite as well as the meaning of religion for the largely illiterate and unlearned majority of the population.  Topics also include the role of women, religious opposition, the place of the liturgy, religious art and architecture, politics and religion, and the syncretic blend of “official” and folk religion. 

GE: Values & Culture
This course is designed to introduce students from a variety of majors to the social and cultural history of African Americans through the framework of religious history.  It will provide students with the opportunity to explore how African- American religious communities developed and changed in response to various struggles for freedom in black America, and how these freedom struggles transformed religious consciousness and social and political values in the United States from the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade to the present.  The course will engage students in critical and creative thinking about the cultural, historical, and political issues that have constructed the African American religious experience and the relationships between religion, race, and society in the United States. 

GE: Values & Culture  
We will explore together how American men, women, and children practice their beliefs in today's society, including commonalities as well as differences among religious and spiritual groups in the United States today including evangelical Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews; and Muslims.  We will also learn about less well known groups and adherents such as the Amish, Zen Buddhists, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, and snakehandling Holiness-Pentecostals, as well as the beliefs of agnosticism and atheism. *See MYUI for full info.

RELS:1903:0EXW    QUEST FOR HUMAN DESTINY           Holstein
GE: Values & Culture
The framework for this course is made up of three ancient works: The Epic of Gilgamesh and, from the Bible, the first nine chapters of the Book of Genesis and the Book of Jonah. The differing ways in which these three texts deal with the issue of the inevitability of death is the focal point of the course. How this point is exploited is examined in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych," Clarke's Childhood's End, the Book of Ecclesiastes, the E'numa E'lish, and Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.*See MYUI

GE: Diversity and Inclusion
This course is intended for students who may be interested in business careers, especially in entrepreneurship and leadership. Its aim is to facilitate business success by helping students to acquire practical skills in engaging religious diversity in the workplace.  Through the analysis of real-life case studies, focused inquiry into influential religions, and guided ethical discussion, the course helps students to understand the impact that religions have on the perceptions and choices of business leaders, investors, co-workers, and customers, as well as the principles and operations of successful organizations. This is an asynchronous, online course that fits well into tight schedules.

This highly interactive, online course is for everyone who is intrigued by—and wants to explore—the ethical impact that advances in biotechnology, including genetic, reproductive, and neonatal technology, are having in the medical arena and, more generally, on our humanity. It is also for those who want to understand the growing religious diversity of America’s communities and the impact that religion and spirituality can have on people’s ways of confronting matters of life and death.  The central goal of the course is to help you prepare for life and work in contexts where ethical, religious, and spiritual questions simply cannot be avoided and ought to be treated with intelligence and sensitivity.  See MYUI for full info.

RELS:2330:EXW    WEALTH, INEQUALITY, AND ISLAM           Souaiaia
GE: Diversity & Inclusion
In this course, using Islam and Islamic institutions as case studies, students will explore how people, individually and collectively, domestically and globally, organize different aspects of production and distribution of goods and services for current and future use--given the resources at hand and the determinant value systems to which societies adhere. More info on Prof. Souaiaia’s website.

What we eat (and don’t eat) says a lot about who we are. We will explore the central role that food plays in shaping our ethnic, gender, class, religious and political identities from a global perspective. We will ask questions like: What do we eat and why?; What shapes our eating habits?; Where does our food come from?; How much food is “wasted”?; and How can we assure equal access to food? The course pays particular attention to the impact of the global flow of ideas, images, people and materials on food consumption, food inequality, bodily practices (eating disorders, yoga), and spiritual pursuits (fasting, rituals). See MYUI for full info.



RELS:4970    HONORS TUTORIAL   Independent Study
RELS:4975    HONORS ESSAY   Independent Study

RELS:5067           READINGS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES    Souaiaia

RELS:5100        TEACHING & PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT    Schlütter
This course is intended to help graduate students excel as teaching assistants, and to make them highly marketable and successful as professors. Within the frame of this course, students will begin the construction of their teaching portfolios; they will become familiar with and adept at a variety of new instructional technologies; and they will reflect critically on a broad range of theoretical and practical matters in teaching, from conceiving the goals of teaching and the strategies best suited to meeting those goals, to dealing with gender issues in the classroom and office, to leading class discussion, to constructing and grading exams. A portion of the course is devoted to issues specific to the teaching of religious studies; graduate students from other departments are welcome during such portions to reflect on issues that are specific to their own disciplines.

This course will offer graduate students in any field a basic knowledge of, and familiarity with, the diversity of Asian religious traditions in their historical and contemporary contexts. The aim of the course is to equip graduate students in Asian Studies with a framework for further studies in Asian religions as relevant to their fields, and give graduate students in Religious Studies the competence and confidence to teach Asian religions as a component of a World religions course at the undergraduate level. See MYUI for more information.

RELS:7100:OIND    READINGS IN AMERICAN RELIGIONS  Individualized Experience
RELS:7200:OIND    READINGS IN RELIGIOUS ETHICS  Individualized Experience
RELS:7500:OIND    READINGS IN ASIAN RELIGIONS   Individualized Experience 
RELS:7900:OIND    INDIVIDUAL STUDY GRADUATES   Individualized Experience 
RELS:7950:OIND    THESIS   Individualized Experience

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