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Catalog 2020-2021

Religious Studies

Teaching Faculty

Professors J. Sanders and Williamson (chair)
Associate Professor Gorvine 

Description

Major in Religious Studies

10 courses distributed as follows:

  • RELI 110 The World's Religions: An Introduction
  • RELI 395 Approaching the Study of Religion 
  • LBST 497 Liberal Arts Senior Colloquium
  • 7 elective courses in religious studies selected in consultation with the major advisor to insure both breadth and depth.
  • 3 of the elective courses must be 300-level or above

Senior Capstone Experience

The Senior Capstone Experience for the religious studies major consists of an engaged learning project that is completed as part of LBST 497  Liberal Arts Senior Colloquium.  This engaged learning project may be either theoretical or applied in nature, depending on the student's preferences. For example, students might choose to write a research paper, organize a service project in the community, create a blog or website on a topic of public interest, or write a curriculum for a local school or religious community, etc. The capstone project grade is determined by the course professor in consultation with the members of the religious studies department.  The project grade also contributes a portion of the overall grade in LBST 497.

Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Minor in Religious Studies

6 religious studies courses, including 2 at the 300-400-level.

Program Course Listings

The courses for this program are organized into the following categories:

Religious Studies Courses

RELI 109

Religion and Contemporary Culture

What is the relationship between religion and contemporary culture? How are religious identities, faiths, and traditions, along with alternative forms of spirituality, community, or moral vision, shaped by and expressed within contemporary social institutions, the arts, politics, and public discourse? This course introduces students to different ways religion intersects with culture and society, introducing students in the process to various ways religion impacts the world, and the variety of ways people relate to the possibility of being religious.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 110

The World's Religions: An Intro

This course introduces students to the teachings, practices, spiritualities, and histories of many world religions. The religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous traditions. Since this course introduces Asian religions in an abbreviated way, students who take this course may also take RELI 111 Introduction to Asian Religions.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 111

Asian Religions: An Introduction

This course introduces students to religious traditions rooted in Asia. It examines sources to help students recognize and understand the many ways in which Asian religious communities have attempted to understand the nature of the world, human society, and the individual’s place therein. It includes narrative and philosophical texts, ritual practices, religious experiences, social relationships and historical developments. Since this course does not include Abrahamic religions, students who take this course may also take RELI 110 The World’s Religions: An Introduction.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 112

Exodus

This course examines the content and significance of this influential book in the Bible. It offers a focused way of beginning to learn about biblical literature by examining one book that has shaped countless generations of Jewish and Christian thinkers and that has deeply influenced Western literature. Attention is given to the various genres contained in the book and how its message can be relevant to today. The course provides some basic hermeneutical skills as well as promote a positive attitude towards Torah.

Literary Studies LS
RELI 121

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew I

An introduction to the basic grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew, intended for students who wish to gain reading proficiency in the language of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Cross-listed as HEBR 110.

RELI 122

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew II

A continuation of RELI 121. By the end of the course students read extended narrative texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as well as some poetic texts. Cross-listed as HEBR 120.

Language LA
RELI 123

Introduction to Hebrew Bible (OT)

28365365体育在线An introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), employing the methodologies of academic biblical scholarship. Attention is given to the major texts, characters, and themes of the Hebrew Bible, with consideration of both the literary character of the text and its relationship to the historical context of ancient Israel.

Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 124

Intro to the New Testament

This course is an introduction to the New Testament, employing the methodologies of academic biblical scholarship. Attention is given to the major texts, characters, and themes of the New Testament, with consideration of both the literary character of the text and its relationship to the historical context of early Christianity. Some attention is also given to the noncanonical texts of early Christianity, including the Gnostic Gospels.

Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 213

Yoga: Tradition & Modernity

28365365体育在线What is yoga, and what, if anything, does the practice that some 16 million Americans perform in studios and gyms, spas and ashrams have to do with the religions of India? This course surveys a variety of recent scholarship on the cultural history of yoga in the context of ancient Indian traditions, and also looks at colonial era and contemporary innovations that have contributed to the mass cultural phenomenon that might arguably be called India's greatest cultural export. Readings include early and medieval texts typically associated with yoga, such as the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and later tantric material, and we also consider the work of early cultural ambassadors, major modern interpreters and contemporary advocates.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 216

Judaism

28365365体育在线An exploration of contemporary forms of Jewish beliefs, practices, thought, and culture, set within an historical overview. Emphasis is on the spectrum of Jewish self-identities and the lived texture of the worldwide Jewish experience in its various expressions, constructed in both the “great” and “little” traditions. This course is a deepening and expansion of ideas introduced in RELI 110 The World’s Religions: An Introduction, which is recommended as a prerequisite, but not required.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 218

Buddhist Contemplation

Central to the Buddha's teachings was a presentation of meditation practices designed to calm the mind and evoke insight into the nature of reality. Over time, Buddhist contemplative culture has come to encompass a variety of techniques, such as breathing meditation, cultivation of mindfulness, altruism, compassion, visualization, and recovering innate intelligence. This course introduces how Buddhist meditative states have been linked to doctrine and practice in different historical and cultural contexts. It invites students to participate experientially in an investigation of methods associcated with different Buddhist contemplative traditions, many of which have been researched and adapted for a variety of uses in contemporary secular society.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 223

Introduction to Hinduism

This course is designed as an introduction to the myriad forms of South Asian religious expression designated as “Hinduism.” The course surveys Hinduism’s historical roots and developments, philosophical and ritual innovations, social and ethical ideals, and influential works of literature, relying on both primary and secondary sources. The latter part of the course centers on issues of ongoing relevance to modern-day tradition, analyzing, for example, Hindu understandings of religious art and worship, influential works of modern Indian fiction, and current scholarship on contemporary issues and communities.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 225

Introduction to Buddhism

This course is an introduction to Buddhism, spanning its origins in India, its spread throughout Asia, and its arrival in the West. The course explores the core doctrines, practices and key historical developments that have shaped the Buddhist tradition in India; considers the ways this tradition has been assimilated in an Asian context; and finally reflects upon the perspectives of leading Buddhist writers and practitioners on the relevance of Buddhism for modern society.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 227

Skeptics in Scripture: Eccl & Job

Even within the Bible itself, we find people struggling with the apparent meaninglessness of life, the injustice of the world, and the triumph of evil over good. This course examines two of the most profoundly skeptical voices in the Hebrew Bible—the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. Students consider the relationship of each text to the issues of its own day, as well as examining how they have been received, reflected, and reinterpreted in contemporary art, film, literature, and music.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 228

The Gospels & Literary Theory

Students engage in close readings of one or more of the New Testament Gospels. While some attention is given to historical context, the focus is on the Gospels as literature and on the role of the reader in the production of meaning. Students engage the text from the perspectives of contemporary literary theory, including such theoretical frameworks as gender theory, queer theory, and postcolonial theory.

Literary Studies LS
RELI 230

Early & Medieval Christianity

28365365体育在线The development of Christian thought and institutions from 100-1500 CE. Discussion of questions surrounding the formation of orthodoxy, the interplay between religion and politics and the variety of ways in which Christians practiced their faith.

Historical Perspectives HP
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 231

Modern Christianity sn Reformation

28365365体育在线A survey of Christian thought and institutions from 1500 to the present. Special attention is given to the Protestant Reformation and the ongoing impact of cultural trends on Christian beliefs and practices.

Historical Perspectives HP
RELI 233

Jesus through the Centuries

28365365体育在线Who is Jesus and what did he accomplish? This course surveys the widely divergent answers in history including the gospels, the early church councils, the modern search for the historical Jesus, and contemporary portraits.

Historical Perspectives HP
RELI 235

Leadership in a Multi-Faith World

This course equips students to work effectively in religiously diverse environments. It is intended not only for future religious leaders, but for anyone interested in business, politics, nonprofit work, or any type of public involvement in a religiously pluralistic society. Drawing on academic resources as well as the expertise of local interfaith leaders, the course provides students with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to build understanding, appreciation, and collaboration among people with diverse religious, spiritual, and nonreligious ways of life. Recommended: RELI 110 is recommended but not required

RELI 110 is recommended but not required
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 270

Ecotheology:Reli, Animals & Earth

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries an important form of religious thinking is emerging called ecotheology. It involves exploring how spirituality is connected with an appreciation of the earth and its many forms of life and how the earth needs to be protected from excessive exploitation. There are Christian versions of ecotheology, Jewish versions, Buddhist versions, and many others, including feminist versions called ecofeminism. This course looks at a wide variety of forms of ecotheology. A component of the course focuses on human relations to animals, with attention to the animal rights movement and constructive religious responses to it.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 280

Topics: Issues in Religious Studies

This course engages students in understanding the complexity of religion through acquaintance with a topic chosen from among the areas of world religions, biblical studies, Christianity, religion and culture, and philosophy of religion and theology.This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Recent section topics include Buddhist Contemplation; Rock, Roll & Religion; The Bible in Black and White, Religion and Popular Music. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 327

Race, Gender,Empire & the Bible

The course explores contemporary methods in biblical interpretation such as feminist criticism, postcolonial criticism, critical race theory, and queer theory. While some attention is given to scholarly works employing these theories and methods, the focus of the course is on students developing their own interpretive abilities. The specific biblical texts considered varies by semester. Prerequisite: RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended

RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended
Literary Studies LS
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 331

Revelation and Resistance

28365365体育在线This course examines the New Testament book of Revelation as a call to for resistance to Empire in both its historical context and today. Attention is given to both the literary and historical contexts of Revelation within the early Christianity of the Roman Empire. More contemporary interpretations of Revelation are considered, including popular “End Times” prophecies, among others. The course requires engaged learning outside of the classroom, exploring what “resistance to Empire” may mean in Conway, Little Rock, and beyond.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 332

Concepts of God

28365365体育在线What is God like? Should God be understood as a person or a force? How is God related to the world? This course surveys primarily Western thinkers from the times of the biblical writers, through Plato, Aristotle and early Jewish and Christian sources to the development of modern atheism and beyond it to contemporary understandings of God. Issues such as evil, human responsibility and prayer are discussed in relation to divine power and knowledge. Cross-listed as PHIL 332.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 334

Buddhist Sacred Biographies

28365365体育在线What makes for a life well-lived from a Buddist persepctive? How do literary works portray the lives of highly accomplished Buddhists? Beginning with the Buddha, this course explores the life-stories of ideal monks, masters and meditators, examining the religious values, literary practices and cultural dynamics evident in religious biographies over the centuries and across Asian traditions. We also consider the relationship between biographical texts, historiography, and the act of venerating living Buddhist figures both historically and in the contemporary world.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 335

Shamans & Spirits

What does the idea of the shaman tell us about indigenous peoples, their religious identities, and their cultural practices? Who or what are spirits, and how do they function amidst ordinary life and in times of crisis, illness, and healing? And how do people who "shamanize" understand and represent themselves in the present context? In addressing these questions, this course examines various ways in which anthopologists, historians of religion and others - including native people themselves - have attempted to articulate and interpret the dimensions of global indigenous culture deemed "shamanic." In the process, the course considers contemporary perspectives on the value and problems associated with comparative studies, ethnographic representation, and intercultural communication; examines ethical and philosophical issues in light of cross-cultural (mis)understandings of healing modalities; and discusses contemporary shamanism as an aspect of popular culture.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 358

Embodied Mind, Language & Religion

Topics such as God, sin, salvation, morality, meaning, and truth are examined in light of the interdisciplinary field known as cognitive linguistics. Students are first introduced to the key ideas of cognitive linguistics such as embodied cognition, image schemas, radial categories, conceptual metaphors, and cultural frames. This approach to human cognition is then applied to biblical and theological concepts.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 370

Philosophy of Religion

28365365体育在线The study of philosophical issues and questions related to religious belief, language, and worldview, with particular attention to classical and/or contemporary arguments regarding the relationship of faith and reason. Topics may include arguments of existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature and epistemic value of religious experience, and the implications of pluralism for rational religious commitment. Cross-listed as RELI 370. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor

a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 395

Approaching the Study of Religion

28365365体育在线This course, a prerequisite to RELI 497 Senior Thesis, prepares students to conduct advanced research and undertake critical thinking in the academic study of religion. Students examine several major theorists who have historically defined “religion” as a field of academic inquiry, and who represent a variety of methodologies for understanding it—including psychological, sociological, phenomenological and anthropological approaches. The course also considers issues of theoretical importance in the present-day study of religion, considers the relationships of religious studies to philosophy and theology, and introduces students to several major areas of current scholarly research.

Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 410

Topics in Asian Religions

28365365体育在线An intensive analysis of a critical issue in the study of Asian religion. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Recent topics range from a thematic treatment of religious phenomenon across more than one tradition (e.g., Pilgrimage, Saints and Sages, Death and Afterlife, Gender and Status) to an in-depth study of particular texts and traditions (Hindu Epic and Devotional Literature, Tibetan Meditation). Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Junior standing and two courses in religion or instructor’s consent Recommended: one of either RELI 110, 121, 221 or 223

Junior standing and two courses in religion or instructor’s consent
one of either RELI 110, 121, 221 or 223
Special Projects SP
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 440

Topics in Biblical Studies

28365365体育在线A topics course in Biblical studies. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor

Consent of instructor
Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 450

Topics in Religion and Culture

A topics course in religion and culture. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor

Consent of instructor
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 460

Topics in Phil of Reli & Theology

28365365体育在线A topics course in the philosophy of religion and theology. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor

Consent of instructor
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
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