Course Offerings (Fall 2019)

View a full list of religious studies courses, including those not offered this semester.

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


*REL 1000.1 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 9:30-10:20    SMITH

*REL 1000.2 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    MWF 10:30-11:20    SMITH



*REL 1000.5 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    TTh  9:00-10:20   RETHELYI

*REL 1000.6 RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD    TTh 12:00-1:20    RETHELYI

REL 1000 provides a general introduction to the world's religions, including major traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as smaller indigenous traditions. The approach of the course is objective and academic; it is not designed to advocate any particular religious perspective or ideology. This course fulfills the General Education Humanities requirement and may count toward a concentration in Religious Studies.


*REL 1004.1 OLD TESTAMENT    TTh 9:00-10:20    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 1:30-2:50    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    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. Course requirements include regular short homework essays and three exams.


*REL 1005.2 NEW TESTAMENT    TTh 10:30-11:50    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.



This course provides a general introduction to the study of religion as an academic and humanistic subject. Though it discusses many different religions, it does not survey the religions of the world. Instead it investigates the nature and scope of religion itself, raising the question, “What is religion?” In the process it introduces students to various theories about religion and the various methods used by scholars who study religion.


*REL 2027.1 ASIAN RELIGIONS    MW 3:00-4:20    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.



This course explores an aspect of the history of religions that is often overlooked and neglected by scholars and students alike, that of indigenous religious cultures. Indigenous religions tend to be those whose historical roots extend deep into pre-historical times, ages before the emergence of the “new” (or “world”) religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Indigenous religions are found on virtually every continent, and are traditionally associated with specific geographies, languages, and peoples. Over the past five centuries, indigenous traditions everywhere have been subject to campaigns of colonialism, conversion, assimilation, cultural appropriation, and even genocide (intentional as well as accidental), by way of the larger societies which surround them. This course pursues a thematic, comparative and historical approach. It begins by exploring the mythic, ritual, experiential, philosophical, social, and material substance of a wide range of indigenous religious worlds, including Native American, African, Australian, Asian, and South American, traditions. It then turns to the North American context and considers the ways in which the larger, contemporary American culture is coming to re-imagine the natural world in ways that resemble indigenous perspectives, that is, as sacred.


REL 3000.1 CHRISTIANITY    TTh 12:00-1:20    STORIN

REL 3000 introduces students to Christianity as a living religious tradition with deep historical roots. We will learn about the main lines of Christian thought and practice across the world. In addition to the lives of Christian saints, leaders, prophets, mystics, and reformers, topics will include the construction of orthodoxy, the development of church leadership, the emergence of Christian artistic traditions, the rise of monasticism, the relationship(s) between Christianity and secular governments, and Christian interaction with other religious traditions. Our scope will be global: we’ll see Christianity emerge in the ancient Mediterranean basin and move to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, and the Americas. There are no prerequisites for the course, and no prior knowledge is assumed.


REL 4010.1 SEX, SOCIETY, AND THE BIBLE    TTh 10:30-11:50    ISBELL

 “Sex, Society, and the Bible” is a combination of lectures and class discussions on numerous modern issues in society and the way in which they are impacted by biblical narratives or teachings. We will articulate the most important religio-moral issues under debate in modern American political life and ask how or whether the teachings of the Bible inform each issue. We will also examine the religious stances taken by various national politicians in the process of campaigning for election. Then we will compare their stated beliefs with the policies they pursue once they have achieved office. As background, we will be reading articles about love, courtship, marriage, children, family life, warfare, property ownership, worship practices, the death penalty, the USA legal system of justice, gay marriage, etc. For each article, we will also read matching biblical passages that touch on the subject at hand. Then we will discuss them in class as a method of learning how the Bible is used or abused in modern American political life. Class members will be given the opportunity to suggest topics that the class will explore. In addition, each student will choose a topic of particular personal interest and perform the following: 1) lead the class discussion on the topic; 2) submit a written paper summarizing his/her perspective on the chosen topic. Grading will consist of credit for participation in class discussions (20%), leading one discussion group (10%), the written summary (20%), and a final exam in take-home essay format (50%).



Hip Hop has always addressed important questions that arise in religion: What is the nature of the world? How did we get here? Where did we come from? Why is there suffering and injustice? It has, likewise, engaged important questions related to gender, sexuality, and politics. More specifically, religion can be understood as an attempt to make life meaningful in complex ways or what Anthony Pinn calls “the quest for complex subjectivity.” Understood this way, hip hop and in particular, rap, can be seen as having religious sensibilities and valences. This course will explore these religious sensibilities of/in hip hop, hip hop’s critique of religion and religious ideas, as well as religious responses to hip hop. The class will use critical and scholarly readings, videos, classroom discussions, and student presentations to examine important religious and cultural dimensions of hip hop. The readings and discussions will demonstrate profound critical thinking in Hip Hop culture similar to forms found in higher cultural criticism and intellectual thought.


REL/ENGL 4236.1 THE BOOK OF GENESIS    TTh 3:00-4:20    IRVINE

This course examines well-known stories in the biblical book of Genesis: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham and the divine visitors at Mamre, Sodom and Gomorrah, the sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Jacob’s ladder, Joseph and his brothers, and more. We will approach the literature with two main questions. (1) What literary artistry can we see in the stories? (2) What do the stories tell us about ancient Israelite religion and culture? The class format will consist of short lectures, seminar discussion, student presentations and papers. There are no prerequisites. The course is designed with English and Religious Studies majors and minors in mind, but all majors and minors are welcome.


REL 4800.1    BUDDHISM    MW 4:30-5:50    ARAI

Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), who lived in India in the 6th century BCE, Buddhism quickly became a world religion. Founded on the dual principles of insight and compassion, it has never lost its appeal for societies and individuals all over the world, despite its non-evangelical character. Buddhism has influenced greatly the cultural development of most Asian societies and has inspired some of the subtlest philosophical systems and most beautiful art the world has ever known. In this course, we will examine the rise and spread of Buddhism in its various manifestations. Considerable reading and discussion will supplement the lectures. Course assessment generally is based on the identification of terms and concepts, as well as essay exams; students may also write term papers.