Religious Studies | Course Catalogue

2020-2021 Catalogue

Religious Studies is the critical inquiry into cultural expressions – such as myth, ritual, symbol, and sacred texts – that address fundamental human concerns. The student of religion develops a broad methodological base from areas such as theology, ethics, history, philosophy, sociology, literature, and material culture to explore the intersections and intimate connections between systems of belief and practices, ethical codes, rituals, narratives, philosophies, and social and political structures across many cultures and centuries.

The fields of religion and philosophy (which is part of the department of religious studies) are essentially about critically engaging beyond the classroom and providing models to address questions of the ultimate, belief, and ethical life. The study of the historical, political, and sociocultural contexts of religious traditions and of intercultural philosophical traditions provide an intellectual background for those interested in pursuing careers in social service, education, ministry, government, journalism and the arts.

 

Minor Requirements: Religious Studies.

A minor in Religious Studies consists of 18 semester hours as follows (students interested in the major should see Religion, Philosophy, and Social Change):

  • Required Courses (3 hours)
    • REL 100: Theories and Methods in Religious Studies 3 hours
  • Any three from the following list. At least two courses at the 200 level (9 hours):
    • REL 110: Introduction to Theology 3 hours
    • REL 120: Introduction to Christianity 3 hours
    • REL 203: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament 3 hours
    • REL 212: The Abrahamic Traditions 3 hours
    • REL 213: Gender and Religion 3 hours
    • REL 216: Faith and Doubt 3 hours
    • REL 225: Exploring the World's Religions 3 hours
    • REL 280: Sacred Texts and Social Change 3 hours
    • REL 290: Readings in Religious Studies 3 hours
  • Any two from the following list (6 hours):
    • REL 306: Seminar in Ancient or Medieval Thought 3 hours
    • REL 309: From Modern to Postmodern 3 hours
    • REL 310: Religion and Society 3 hours
    • REL 396: Special Topics in Religion 3 hours
    • REL 451: Directed Independent Study 3 hours

 

Resources for Non-Majors. Religion courses are open to all students and are excellent resources for learning about other cultures. Also, for students in the humanities and social sciences, the study of religion represents an excellent opportunity to practice the various methodologies used in other areas of study.

Postgraduate Opportunities. The study of religion prepares a student for graduate programs in religion, for professional programs in religion or religious education, or for any profession in which creative and critical thinking is a requirement.

Pre-Seminary Program. Wesleyan College offers no pre-seminary major as such. However, all students who major or minor in Religious Studies or Philosophy, receive a 3.0 gpa or higher, and get a recommendation from the chair of the department are eligible for automatic admission into Emory's Candler School of Theology Master of Divinity program. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in a theological seminary, with either some form of professional ministry or higher graduate work in view, should consider the recommendation of the Association of Theological Schools and take a broad range of courses in literature, history, natural sciences, social sciences, fine arts and music, languages, and religion (Christian and non-Christian).

Pre-seminary students frequently choose to major in fields such as English, history, religion, and philosophy, but any liberal arts subject is appropriate including the sciences and mathematics and the fine arts.

The Religious Studies program provides courses in the Bible, along with courses on non-Western religions, religion and society, and a range of special topics on various other religious themes. The Philosophy program has courses that supplement these offerings, including Ethics, Readings in Philosophy, and Gender and Philosophy. Pre-seminary students not majoring in either of these programs should consider electing at least some religion and philosophy courses in consultation with faculty members.

In addition to enrolling in some of the above courses, pre-seminary students should consult with the pre-seminary program advisor. Pre-seminary students are also encouraged to participate in periodic information sessions on graduate programs, round-table discussions with local ministers, and internship, all of which help students discern their vocations and prepare for post graduate study.

 

Religious Studies (REL) Course Descriptions

REL 100: Theories and Methods of Religious Studies.
Goal: To introduce students to methodologies for the critical study of religion, and to study those characteristics of religion and the religious experience that seem to pervade a variety of religious traditions.
To develop a working definition of religion as well as an appreciation of the cross-cultural dimension of the religious experience and the role this experience plays in self-development.
Content: Introductory texts in religious studies; primary sources from particular religious traditions.
Taught: Annually.
Gen. Ed. Category: Exploring; Individuals & Communities; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 110: Introduction to Theology.
Goal: To introduce students to important figures, themes, concepts, and practices in the history of Christian theology. Based on analysis and discussion of primary and secondary texts, students will be equipped to inquire and dialogue about critical developments in theology, including: Christology, the Trinity, hermeneutics, ethics, eschatology, current issues of gender, race, and sexuality, and the roles and experiences of women.
Content: Introductory texts in theological studies and primary readings by influential theologians.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Foundation Building; Speaking.
Credit: 3 hours.

REL 120: Introduction to Christianity.
Goal: To introduce students to the teachings and practices of the various forms of Christianity. The class surveys the sweep of Christian history from its biblical foundations to the present, including major theological debates, global shifts, and consideration of the ways Christianity has shaped and been shaped by social-political dynamics across diverse contexts.
Content: Primary religious texts, with particular attention to the New Testament and early Christian literature, and scholarly works on the history, culture, and teachings of Christianity.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen Ed. Category: Exploring; Historical Events and Phenomena; (HUM).

Credit: 3 hours.

REL 203: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
Goal: To introduce students to the Hebrew Bible and subsequent literature from a variety of scholarly approaches.
Content: Primary texts from the Bible, Second Temple literature, and midrash, and scholarly works on historical-critical, literary, and feminist approaches to the Hebrew Bible.
Taught: Alternate years.
Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of College writing proficiency requirement.
Gen. Ed. Category: Exploring; Historical Events and Phenomena; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 212: The Abrahamic Traditions.
Goal: To explore the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Stemming from research into the historical and theological foundations of these traditions, students are equipped to engage in constructive dialogue about the common heritage and distinctive ideas and practices of each tradition. Building on their study of history, theology, the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur'an, students also consider critical themes in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, ethics, geopolitics, and the roles of women.
Content: Primary texts (including the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur'an, Hadith and Sufi writings) and scholarly works on the history and cultures of the Abrahamic traditions.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Synthesizing Perspectives; Diverse and Interdependent World; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 213: Gender and Religion.
Goal: To engage students in the critical reading and assessment of significant religious and theological works concerning how gender impacts the practices of religion in society and how religion impacts individual and societal understanding of gender and gender roles.
Content: Students will examine in detail the approach to gender and gender roles undertaken by a diversity of religions, religious practitioners, theologians, and theorists of religion. The impact of gender on issues such as ethical formation, religious authority, the nature of human existence, and conceptions of the holy will be explored.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Synthesizing Perspectives; Women’s Experiences; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours; cross-listed as WST 213.
 
REL 216: Faith and Doubt.
Goal : To introduce students to the philosophical issues raised by faith and doubt concerning "the Divine," including the nature of religious language and institutions and the impact such faith and doubt has on views of reality and ethics.
Content: Faith in some conception of a "Divinity" is still an important component of human societies, in spite of increasing attacks against faith and in favor of doubt. These debates about faith and doubt employ interesting philosophical arguments and have important philosophical, social, and political ramifications. Students will engage texts that argue for and against the rationality of belief in divinity, the importance of faith and doubt on views of social and ethical life, and differing views of reality connected with faith and doubt.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Exploring; Individuals & Communities; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours; cross-listed as PHI 216.

REL 225: Exploring the World's Religions.
Goal: To introduce students to the basic teachings and practices of various religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism, Confucianism, Shinto, the Abrahamic faiths, as well as more recent and alternative traditions. Blending the study and discussion of primary and secondary texts, research into related sacred scriptures, visits to places of worship and ritual, and guest lectures by religious leaders and scholars, the course encourages direct experience of these traditions. Throughout the course, special attention will be given to interreligious dialogue, the roles and experiences of women, and other contemporary issues in the study of religion.
Content: Primary texts (including the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur'an, Hadith and Sufi writings) and scholarly works on the history and cultures of the Abrahamic traditions.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Synthesizing Perspectives; Diverse and Interdependent World; (HUM).
Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of College writing proficiency requirement.
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 280: Sacred Texts and Social Change.
Goal: To introduce students to the history and ongoing use of sacred texts in movements for social change and justice.
Content: The course will examine the role of sacred texts, especially the Bible but also texts of other religious traditions, in movements for social change. Particular attention will be given to struggles for justice in the history of the United States, including abolition, women's suffrage, civil rights, queer and trans liberation, and recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too. Students will analyze the texts and strategies of scriptural interpretation used within social justice movements, as well as those used by their detractors, and will thereby consider what makes sacred texts effective as tools for social change in public discourse.
Taught: Alternate years.
Gen. Ed. Category: Exploring; Individuals & Communities; (HUM).
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 290: Readings in Religious Studies.
Goal: To introduce students to the sorts of questions and issues discussed in religious texts and the ways that scholars of religion discuss these questions and issues. To help students develop their own skills in the reading and analysis of texts in religious studies.
Content: The class is configured to focus either on a particular issue, movement, time period, or thinker within religious studies. Representative topics might include Faith and Doubt in Modernity, C.S. Lewis and Friends, Fundamentalisms in World Religions, Feminist Theology, Religious Issues in Modern Literature, Literary Analysis of the Bible, Religion and the Scientific Worldview, and New Religions in America. The class can be understood as an introductory-level special themes course.
Taught: Alternate years.
Credit: 3 hours.
 
REL 306: Seminar in Ancient or Medieval Thought.
Goal: To engage students in the critical reading and assessment of significant philosophers/theologians or philosophical/theological trends from the pre-Socratics through the High Middle Ages.
Content: Students will examine in detail the philosophical/theological ideas of a particular philosopher/theologian, school of philosophy/theology, or philosophical/theological trend from the pre-Socratics through the High Middle Ages, such as the close examination of the works of a single thinker (e.g., Plato or Augustine), a school of thought (e.g., Neoplatonism or Aristotelianism), or philosophical/theological issue (e.g., problem of universals, nature of sacraments, or mysticism).
Taught: Alternate years.
Credit: 3 hours; cross-listed as PHI 306.

REL 309: From Modern to Postmodern.
Goal: To engage students in the critical reading and assessment of significant philosophical and religious thinkers or philosophical and religious trends from the Modern period until today.
Content: Students will examine in detail the philosophical and religious ideas of a particular thinker, school of thought, or philosophical/religious trend from the early modern period until today. Emphasis will be given to the characteristics of Modernism (in a range of different fields, including philosophy, theology, literature, and art) and the critiques of it in Postmodernism.
Taught: Alternate years.
Credit: 3 hours; cross-listed as PHI 309.

REL 310: Religion and Society.
Goal: To introduce students to sociological methods as they are applied in the study of religion and to the understandings of religion which are gained by these methods.
Content: Writings in the sociology of religion, including not only a survey text which provides a general overview of the field, but also monographs and/or essays which develop particular sociological perspectives in more detail.
Taught: Alternate years.
Prerequisite: One course in REL or permission of instructor.
Credit: 3 hours.

REL 396: Special Topics in Religion.
Goal: To introduce students to the in-depth study of a special area of religion.
Content: Primary and secondary texts appropriate to the topic. Examples of special topics include a focus on a particular religious thinker or religious thought or broader topics like psychology and religion or apocalyptic literature.
Taught: Alternate years.
Prerequisite: Any 300-level REL course or permission of instructor.
Credit: 3 hours. A student may take a maximum of six to eight semester hours (two courses) of special topics in any one field.
 
REL 450: Senior Project Seminar.
Goal: To provide advanced Religion, Philosophy, and Social Change and Leadership Certificate students with the opportunity to complete and present a lengthy, meaningful research project or capstone integrative experience in Religious Studies, Philosophy and Critical Theory, or Leadership and Social Change and to reflect on their development as a Religion, Philosophy, and Social Change or Leadership scholar and on how their course of study informs their future plans.
Content: Students will create a senior portfolio that includes several representative papers, a reflection on their growth as a Religion, Philosophy, and Social Change and/or Leadership scholar, and a reflection on how their major can inform her their future plans. They will also engage in extensive research on a problem in Religion, Philosophy, or Leadership and Social Change that will issue in a work that will be presented in a public forum. Students taking this class for credit toward the Leadership and Social Change Certificate will have the opportunity to integrate the knowledge they have gained from their academic endeavors coupled with their knowledge of the social change model of leadership development to design and implement a capstone project that demonstrates their ability to apply what they’ve learned about leadership and social change in a local context to problem solving beyond their college careers.
Taught: As needed.
Prerequisite: Four REL or PHI courses, or three LED courses, or permission of the instructor.
Credit: 3 hours; cross-listed as PHI/LED 450.

REL 451: Directed Independent Study.
Goal: To encourage students to develop skills for independent and creative research into selected problems in religious studies.
Content: To be selected in consultation between student and instructor.
Taught: Fall, Spring.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and program director.
Credit: 1-6 hours.

REL 452/199: Field Study.
Goal: To introduce students to on-site experience of specific vocations in religion.
Content: Actual work experience.
Taught: Fall, Spring.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and program director.
Credit: 1-12 hours.


REL 499: Honors Thesis. (Fee required).

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