Mar 31, 2023  
2020-2021 Undergraduate Bulletin 
2020-2021 Undergraduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED BULLETIN]

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RELI 090 A-Z - (HP) Special Topics in Religion

Semester Hours: 1-3

Studies in such special topics as psychology of religion; religion in America; new religious movements; religion, media and American culture; and religion and the liberal arts. For additional information on these courses, visit the Department of Religion website.

Current Special Topics

RELI 090A: Atheism

The number of atheists is hard to pin down, with various studies placing it between 3% to 10% of the U.S. population. While it is higher in other parts of the world, and the numbers are growing, atheists are a clear minority when it comes to belief in God—and not only a minority but, as evidence shows, a deeply distrusted minority. Indeed, part of the problem in determining the extent of atheism is the reluctance to embrace the term—more people say they do not believe in god than identify as atheist. Another difficulty in the study of atheism is that the term itself is ambiguous; it can mean different things to different people, and had had varying connotations throughout history. In this course we will explore the phenomenon of atheism from a number of perspectives—historical, philosophical, moral, scientific. We will look at the history of atheism from ancient to modern times; consider the arguments both for and against atheism, including the contentious issue of atheism and immorality; and examine the evidence coming out of cognitive science for the bases of both religious belief and unbelief. Finally, we will reflect on the possibility of developing an atheist spirituality (yes, that’s a thing).

RELI 090F: Dangerous Ideas

Each week a faculty member from a different department will explore a concept that has shaped human experience across time and space. The course is available only on a pass/D+/D/fail basis.

Ideas matter. Concepts such as cultural identity, the meaning of food, democracy, faith, race, freedom, gender, have inspired social movements, shaped ways of life and political systems, and dramatically influenced the lives of individuals. Scientific ideas (such as evolution, species extinction, climate science) and skepticism about science also have power to shape our lives. Powerful ideas can be dangerous, generating turmoil and destabilizing the status quo, or supporting the status quo when change is needed, or creating unanticipated consequences.

No prerequisites. There is no required reading for the course, but attendance is required.

A student may register for any of the cross-listed sections (they are all one and the same course): ANTH 188K, DRAM 110C, PHI 051D, PSC 154B, RELI 090F, RHET 187F.

RELI 090J: What is Judaism?

The course introduces students to major themes in the study of Jewish experiences throughout the world and serves as an overview to the field. During the semester we will explore the following questions: What is Judaism? What is a Jewish Text? What is a Jewish Context? and What is Jewish Studies? Students will end the course with knowledge and tools to explore the diversity of Jewish experiences through diverse disciplinary lenses that can help them in a number of majors including (but not limited to) Religion, Sociology, Political Science, Communications, Anthropology, Middle Eastern Studies, Psychology, Literature, and Women studies.

RELI 090M: Myth, Narrative and Meaning

Myth is notoriously hard to define. On the one hand, we use myth to refer to the classical mythologies of Greece and Rome; and on the other hand we use myth as a synonym for “fake news”. This seminar examines this ambivalence. What can we learn from ancient myths? How do we understand their enduring appeal in contemporary society? Do myths seek to explain the world to us? Or are they better seen as thought experiments in which the reader/listener is asked to participate? What was it about America in 2017 that made it so receptive to Norse myth (e.g. Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok)? What is the relationship of truth and fiction? During the semester, we will read myths themselves, largely from Norse and Hindu mythologies, but also study different academic approaches to the study of myth (including psychology, religion, folklore and cultural studies).

RELI 90S: Religion and Science: Conflict or Reconciliation (HP)

There is a popular view that Religion and Science are, at best, competing worldviews, but in actuality are bitter enemies—and there are powerful voices on both sides that broadcast just this message. But is this true? Religion and Science do offer different ways of approaching the world, and there are clearly some claims made by some religious traditions that conflict with the findings of some scientific theories—but just how deep are these conflicts? Others argue that Religion and Science need not be in conflict, and in fact may complement one another—as long as each respects the boundaries of its proper domain. While there were famous clashes between religious authorities and science at the beginning of Modern Science, many important scientists (e.g. Isaac Newton) saw their scientific investigations of the natural world as an expression of their religious faith. Things came to a more dramatic head with the advent of Darwinian evolution—but even here, many found a path to reconciliation. In this course, we will explore a spectrum of positions on the Religion-Science debate. We will move past the headlines to seek a more nuanced, sophisticated approach—one grounded in a deeper understanding of the nature of both religion and science. 

Prerequisite(s)/Course Notes:
As individual subjects are selected, each is assigned a letter (A-Z) which is affixed to the course number. May be repeated three times for a maximum of 9 semester hours when topics vary.

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