Course Offerings (Fall 2018)

For a full list of religious studies courses, including those not offered this semester, click here.

General education courses are marked with an asterisk (*).


*REL 1000.1 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 11:30-12:20    SMITH

*REL 1000.2 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 12:30-1:20      STAFF

*REL 1000.3 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 1:30-2:20        SMITH

*REL 1000.4 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 2:30-3:20        STAFF

REL 1000 explores the history, teachings, texts, practices, internal diversity, demographic scope, material culture, and controversies surrounding some of the world’s most widespread religious cultures. In addition to surveying a variety of religious traditions, we will also consider the many different ways scholars have theorized about the category “religion,” as well as the ways in which the study of religion differs from the practice of religion. As the semester progresses, students will come to master a historically grounded and evidence-based understanding of religion in the contemporary world.


*REL 1004.1 OLD TESTAMENT    TTH 7:30-8:50    IRVINE

REL 1004 is a survey of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) against the background of the history and religious life of ancient Israel. The approach to the literature is strictly historical and intended for undergraduates without prior experience in the academic study of the Bible.


*REL 1004.2 OLD TESTAMENT    TTh 10:30-11:50    ISBELL

REL 1004 is a broad survey that covers most of the literature of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and addresses literary, historical, archaeological, and theological issues. We will employ historical-critical methods to examine the religious ideas and practices of ancient Israel against the background of the cultures of its near eastern neighbors, including Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Syria. To prepare for each topic of lecture/discussion, we will read numerous narratives from the Bible, related passages from the required textbook, and selected articles by modern scholars. 


*REL 1005.1 NEW TESTAMENT    TTH 3:00-4:20    STORIN

This course surveys one of the world’s most influential and controversial collections of scriptural texts: the New Testament. Students will meet the historical Jesus, the apostle Paul, the evangelists, and many other early Christians as we examine each of the New Testament writings in its historical context. This course will tour the eastern Mediterranean region as we track how authors of the New Testament writings engaged ancient Judaism and the Roman Empire. Additionally, we will chart the tremendous degree of religious variety within earliest Christianity to discover that the ancient world hosted a slew of “Christianities.”  Ultimately, students will learn how the New Testament became the New Testament and how Christianity became Christianity.


*REL 1005.2 NEW TESTAMENT    MWF 10:30-11:20    BURKETT

This course will introduce you to the history, literature, and religion of the earliest period of Christianity (from about 30 to 150 CE). We will see how Christianity arose out of the Jewish religion and how it spread in the Greco-Roman world. We will examine a variety of writings from this period, including the collection of early Christian literature known as the New Testament. You will learn the historical, critical methods by which scholars study these writings as sources for our knowledge of the origins of Christianity.


*REL 2027 ASIAN RELIGIONS    TTh 12:00-1:20    ARAI

Become more culturally literate in a multicultural world. Asian civilizations have a long history with far-reaching impact and influence on our global community today. One does not need to travel to Asia to be affected by Asian people, economic and political activities, cuisine, arts and entertainment, health treatment options, and religious orientations. To understand Asian civilizations, one must know the contours of the religious landscape. This course will focus on a variety of Asian religious traditions, including fundamental teachings of the Hindu, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto, and Buddhist traditions of India, Tibet, China, and Japan. We will explore how religious values influence decision-making processes in personal and public spheres.



Is there an intelligent, loving being (i.e., God) who created the visible universe and all within it? If so, can the existence of such a being be rationally demonstrated? Is there a rational explanation for the presence of evil in the world that this being created and governs? Does human consciousness survive the death of the physical body? Is it reasonable to believe in miracles? In approaching these and other religious questions philosophically, we will focus upon the reasons, evidence, arguments and counter-arguments that could be advanced with respect to such questions. Hence, the goal of this class is not only to make students familiar with those theories falling under the general rubric of the philosophy of religion, but to further refine each student’s ability to reason critically through any sort of philosophical or logical argument that might be advanced, religious or otherwise.




This course is an introduction to the three major western monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will discuss the historical development, central teachings, beliefs, and practices of each tradition. Students will gain an understanding of their shared histories and interactions and will explore the ways in which their respective ideological frameworks may overlap and diverge. We will also touch on some of the contemporary issues relevant to each of these religious communities. 



REL 2033 surveys the history and culture of religion in the United States. Special consideration is given to the diversity of religion in America and the impact of religious ideologies on American culture. An assortment of reading materials, writing assignments, and creative projects provide a framework within which to engage a variety of religious issues and understand the significance of religion in American history.



This course explores Native American religious cultures. North America’s indigenous peoples have historical roots extending deep into pre-historical times, ages before the arrival of Catholic and Protestant Christianities on North American shores. Since colonial times, these great religious cultures have continued to influence one another in profound ways. By reading about, discussing, researching, and writing critically about this rich and complex history, students will gain an understanding of the mythic, ritual, and social worlds of a diverse range of Native American cultures (e.g., Hopi, Navaho, Cherokee, etc.). We will consider not only traditional iterations of such cultures, but also contemporary political issues with which these cultures are presently entangled (e.g., the Dakota pipeline). Throughout the course, special emphasis is placed on students’ ability to grasp, articulate, and critically evaluate the positions and arguments employed by Native peoples and scholars alike.  



Comparative Mythology offers a wonderful opportunity to explore myths from various cultures, past and present. Students will be introduced to theories of myth and asked to apply these theories to the myths in order to gain insight into the different thought patterns. Students will also learn methods of comparison so that students will be able to recognize both the similarities and differences of myths from different cultures. Textual and visual sources will be examined.


REL 3104 HEBREW PROPHETS    TTh 1:30-2:50    ISBELL

This course is a study of prophets and prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). We will begin by examining the concepts of prophecy in the world of the ancient Near East as background for understanding the development of Hebrew prophecy. In order to follow the lectures, you must read the assigned biblical portions as we progress. Both the Oxford Annotated Bible and the Jewish Study Bible (Oxford, 2004) include textual notes that you should read along with the biblical passages. Your participation in class should be based upon your reading, including any sources you read not assigned by me. These may come from your own religious tradition, a professor or clergyman other than this instructor, or simply your own curiosity that leads you to examine a particular book or article. If you are studying Hebrew, you may choose a portion of Scripture from the prophets to translate and annotate in lieu of the final examination.



This course will use the medium of film to examine African American religion with particular attention given to race, class, gender, and sexuality. Film is an untapped resource for understanding the human condition and interpreting various identities. Consciously or unconsciously, film incorporates elements of religious discourse and practice.


REL 4035 WOMEN AND BUDDHISM    TTh 10:30-11:50    ARAI

We will explore gender and power dynamics in several Buddhist traditions as women pursue enlightenment. How do they wield power despite structures of systematic oppression? What insights can women offer about the enlightenment process? We will examine the contributions and concerns of women in various cultural contexts (Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and North American) and time periods (ancient and modern). Critical analysis of practices, texts, and hermeneutical schemes that foster misogyny will guide our journey. Special attention will be given to laying a theoretical foundation in the construction of gender in each cultural and religious context encountered. We will look into the reasons why texts on religion have not always included the voices of women as we investigate ways to uncover them through research techniques and developing hermeneutical strategies.



This course surveys Israelite history from its beginning (ca. 1200 BCE) to the end of Israelite and Judean statehood (ca. 580 BCE).  The main goal is to become skillful at historical reconstruction, which includes the critical evaluation of ancient sources, especially the Hebrew Bible. The format of the course balances lectures with class discussion and student reports.



Apocalyptic Literature deals with conceptions about the time of the end, whether the end of the age or the end of the world. We will consider representative examples from ancient times to the present. Highlights of the course include the Book of Daniel from the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Revelation from the New Testament. We will consider modern authors who use these works to predict the coming of the Antichrist and the return of Jesus. We will also consider some classic works of “terminal fiction” that envision the end of human history, including Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.



This course is an introduction to the history, literature, and thought of ancient Christianity from its beginnings in first-century Palestine to its establishment as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the sixth century (the period known as “late antiquity”). Through a close reading of primarily ancient sources, we examine the lives of several important Christians, such as Origen of Alexandria, Constantine the Great, and Augustine of Hippo, among others. Topics also include the creation of church offices and authority, martyrdom, monasticism, relations between Christianity and the Roman Empire, theological controversies, and the emergence of Christian art. In addition to the array of primary sources, students will read four modern scholarly monographs dealing with specific issues in the study of early Christianity.