RELG 110. Introduction to the Study of Religions (4E)
An introduction to the interdisciplinary and comparative study of religions, intended to address the need for religious literacy in today’s globalized context. Students will study multiple traditions that can range from world religions (such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam) and indigenous and regionally specific traditions (such as Native American, Japanese, and African religions). Key religious elements to be studied can include religious experience, doctrine, practices, mythology, notions of the divine, and religious art. Specific content and approach will vary by semester and instructor. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.
RELG 199/299/399/499. Independent Study (1-4E)
This course consists of an independent creative or research project designed by the student and supervised by a religious studies faculty member. The nature of the project, the schedule for accomplishment, and the means of evaluation must be formalized in a learning contract prior to registration.
RELG 210. Biblical Foundations (4)
This course introduces students to the academic study of the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the Greek Bible/New Testament. It focuses on research skills and methods to interpret Biblical texts in different cultural, religious and political settings. As sacred scripture of Judaism and Christianity, this course also aims to introduce these two religious traditions as seen through their foundational texts. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.
RELG 211. Speaking of God: Introduction to Theology (4)
Introduces students to major twentieth-century theological and religious thinkers as they wrestle with some or all of the following questions: Who or what is God? Why do good people suffer? How are salvation, redemption, liberation envisioned in the modern world? What constitutes a religious community? How do different religious faiths relate to each other, the secular world and the natural environment? This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.
RELG 220. Introduction to Islam (4)
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and soon will be the second in the United States. This course will familiarize students with the diversity of religious beliefs and practices in Islam, not only as a religion but as a civilization that is part of the contemporary world. Themes to be discussed include the birth and expansion of Islam from the Arabian peninsula to North Africa, Europe, Central Asia, and the U.S., the life and message of the prophet Muhammad, the Quran, Islamic law, Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, Islamic mysticism (Sufism), and Islam’s relationship with other religions. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Humanistic Foundations.
RELG 221. Islamic Civilizations (4)
This course is designed to introduce students to the key factors shaping life in the Islamic world and to provide exposure to the rich cultural diversity that marks it. It serves as an introduction to the study of Islamic religion, history, politics, and arts, with emphasis on the contributions of the Islamic world to modern science and learning. Discussions will be based on fiction, poetry, and film in addition to academic materials. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.
RELG 231. Religions of Ancient India (4)
An historical and thematic introduction to ancient Indian civilization in its major religious forms. Students will study Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam, as these have given shape to distinctive ways of life in India. Students will read historical studies, religious and philosophic texts, examine forms of devotion and ritual, recount the stories of major religious figures (human and divine), and encounter distinctive forms of religious expression through the arts. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.
RELG 232. Religions of Modern India (4)
An historical and thematic introduction to modern Indian civilization in its major religious forms. The course moves from the British colonial period through independence, the creation of Pakistan, and up to the present. Specific themes can include the religious and political thought of Mohandas Gandhi, Hindu nationalism, inter-religious violence, issues surrounding gender and caste, modern spiritual leaders, popular saints and devotionalism, Indian religions in diaspora, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism in India. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.
RELG 301. Death and Dying (4)
The first section of this course examines the morality of death in Western technological cultures, where the dying are hidden and the dying process is shaped by medical technology and legal deliberations. In a second step students look at various conceptions of the continuity of life beyond death, as well as death and mourning rituals in the Western, Eastern and African religious and philosophical traditions. Students in this class will engage in value questions and critical thinking about fundamental life experiences. This course has no prerequisites but students have to be at least in their second year of college.
RELG 303. Religion and Ecology (4)
This course examines the intersection of religion and ecology and traces contemporary discussions of world religions’ teachings about “creation,” “nature,” “earth,” and the “body” in light of the current global environmental crisis. Which religious belief and value systems contribute to exploitation and contempt for the natural world? Which religious principles and practices enhance protection and reverence for creation and the material world? How have thinkers and activists from various religious traditions responded to the paradigm shifts mandated by ecological thinking? This course exposes students to the fields of comparative religions, theology, ethics, and ecology as we probe how religious world views impact social practices, and how changing environmental, political, and economic practices impact religious belief systems.
RELG 307. Classroom Assistantship in Religious Studies (1-4)
Supervised experience in the understanding and explanation of religious concepts and methods. Meeting regularly with the instructor, classroom assistants help an instructor in duties that may include convening meetings with students outside of regular class time, reading drafts of students’ papers, correcting (but not grading) short homework assignments and drafting examination questions. This course will follow the general College guidelines. Students eligible for classroom assistantships must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, be of junior or senior standing, or must have completed two courses of 200-level or above work in religious studies. May be repeated for a total of eight credits, but a maximum of four credit hours of such work may be applied toward fulfillment of the student’s major requirements.
RELG 314. Islamic Empires in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras (4)
This class is a general survey that introduces Islamic political thought as manifested by the Islamic states of medieval and early-modern times. It examines Islamic notions of law, state and authority that emerged as a response to current political developments such as the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, the extinction of the caliphate by the Mongols in 1258 and the political fragmentation that followed, and finally the rise of the so-called Gunpowder Empires. The survey will focus mainly on the Ottoman Empire, but also explore the interactions between the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires.
RELG 318. Feminism and Religion (4)
An introduction to feminist critiques and reclamations of religion. Major feminist thinkers from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions will be discussed as they revise the central theological concepts of God, revelation, morality, and community.
RELG 322. American Muslims and Social Justice (4)
An interactive course that introduces students to the experiences and perspectives of various Muslim
communities and identities in the US. Students explore the ways in which Muslims have lived and practiced
Islam at the intersections of (American) life since their arrival, as well as how Islam itself has been understood,
explained, and distorted in the American public sphere at various moments in history. Topics include Muslim
engagement in various national and global justice movements such as the Civil Rights Movement,
#BlackLivesMatter and Women’s March in Washington, DC., as well as Islamophobia as racism. Course
materials may include documentaries, popular media, films, music, literary texts, digital media, and museum
RELG 328. Topics in Religion and Psychology (4)
Advanced studies of diverse topics and thinkers at the interface of religion and psychology. Topics to be explored include “Religion, Healing and Mental Illness,” “Religion and Neuroscience,” “Possession, Ecstasy and Divine Madness,” “Religious Life and Family Systems,” “Psychology of Mysticism,” “Religion and the Imagination” and “Faith, Morality and Human Development.” Thinkers and theories include William James and phenomenology, Carl Jung and archetypal psychology, Ana-Maria Rizzuto and object relations theory, Heinz Kohut and self psychology. This course may be repeated for credit where the topic is not repetitive.
RELG 331. Topics in South Asian Traditions (4)
An exploration of a particular aspect of South Asian religion, such as a religious movement, body of literature, religious figure, or practice. Sample topics include: “Yoga and Asceticism,” “Gods, Goddesses, and God: Hindu Devotionalism,” “Tibetan Buddhism in India,” “Ecstasy and Divine Madness in the South Asian Traditions,” and “Hindus in America.” This course may be repeated for credit where the topic is not repetitive.
RELG 350. Religion, Politics, and Modernity in the Muslim World (4)
Introduces students to the diversity of the Muslim world and its early-modern and modern history, focusing especially (but not exclusively) on the Middle East and North Africa. This history is intertwined with the history of Europe and North America, which constitutes an integral part of our survey. Includes brief overview of the origins and development of the Islam, followed by an examination of the relations between Islamic communities and the West since the colonial period. Topics of focus may vary each semester, but often include discussions of European colonialism and imperialism, Muslim responses to post-colonialism and U.S. foreign policy, democratization of politics, popular protests, pluralism, religious violence, human rights, and gender justice.
RELG 351. East Asian Philosophies: Confucianism, Daoism, & Zen (4S)
A systematic study of the major schools of thought in China and Japan, including Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Shinto, as well as works by contemporary Japanese philosophers. Particular attention will be paid to the historical development of East Asian thought and its contemporary relevance. Cross-listed as PHIL351. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both.
RELG 352. South Asian Philosophies: Hinduism, Buddhism, & Islam (4F)
An intensive and extensive study of the history, beliefs, and practices of Hinduism, Indian Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam, as reflected in their canonical texts, with special reference to the Vedic scriptures, Upanishads,
Bhagavad-Gita, early Buddhist sutras, and philosophical writings. The interplay between philosophical and theological concerns will be studied, and the contemporary relevance of the tradition will be examined. Cross-
listed as PHIL352. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both.
RELG 355. Women, Gender, and Politics in the Muslim World (4)
Practices like veiling, female circumcision, and honor killings that are central to Western representations of Muslim women are also contested issues throughout the Muslim world. This course examines various debates about Islam and women, and explores the interplay of religious, historical, cultural, political, legal, and economic factors in shaping Muslim women’s lives across the globe. Topics of focus may vary each semester, but often include European colonialism and the politics of studying Muslim women; changing ideological and political trends about women and society; the Islamic legal heritage and problems in reforming Islamic law; gender jihad and activism; women and revolutions; and dilemmas faced by Muslim women in asserting themselves as legitimate voices in the contemporary global world.
RELG 380. Topics in Religious Studies (4)
This course is an intensive study of a theme, thinker, topic or problem in religious studies. The topic chosen may vary from semester to semester. This course may be repeated for credit where the topic is not repetitive.
RELG 492. SMP Proseminar (1)
Meeting approximately five times during the semester preceding the initiation of the St. Mary’s Project (SMP), the SMP Proseminar is designed to aid the student in producing an informed proposal for an SMP that meets the requirements of the College and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The SMP proposals are then circulated to the faculty in the department for the purpose of assigning students to mentors to begin the SMPs. Successful completion of the proseminar is measured by the student developing a SMP proposal acceptable to the departmental faculty. This is a one-credit prerequisite for registering for RELG 493. (Note: Students who expect to be away from the College during the spring of their junior year have two options: either (a) complete the work for the SMP Proseminar in the fall prior to departure, or (b) be in regular contact during the spring with the faculty of the department, in order to complete and submit an acceptable SMP proposal by the same due date governing those on campus.) Credit/no credit grading.
RELG 493/494. St. Mary’s Project in Religious Studies (1-8E)
The student-initiated project will draw on and develop the understanding, analytic skills, and creativity of the student’s previous academic work. The project may assume many forms, including cooperative efforts. The student will identify an area to be explored and articulate a method of inquiry or style of presentation appropriate to the subject matter. The project will also exhibit a student’s reflection on the social context, body of pertinent literature, or the conceptual framework to which it is a contribution. It will be presented to the College community in a form agreed upon by both the student and his or her mentor. The subject of the project may be within religious studies or involve religious studies in cross-disciplinary study areas. The work is to be supervised by a faculty mentor. With the approval of the department chair, this requirement may be satisfied by a St. Mary’s Project in another discipline or cross-disciplinary area. Prerequisite: Completion of RELG 492; approval of the faculty mentor and the department chair.