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Course Descriptions

Religion Courses

RELG 110: Intro to the Study of Religion

(Introduction to the Study of Religion.) Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an agent of change at a pivotal time in history? Do you have what it takes to ignite the imagination of others, to inspire and to lead, or to be a poet of revolutionary change? In this course, you learn about the academic study of religion and examine how religious texts are interpreted in specific contexts in pivotal moments in time while participating in historical role-playing games, which use an innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past. Students research and articulate opinions of historical characters (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Galileo, Darwin, Anne Hutchinson, Henry VIII), while learning to express themselves with clarity, precision, and force. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements.)


RELG 118: Comparative Religious Ethics

This course introduces the sources and patterns of moral reasoning within different religious traditions, both Western and non-Western. Participants compare arguments advocating specific positions on such issues as the morality of war, nature of corporate ethics, treatment of the environment, bio-ethical decision-making, rights of animals within a society, and the responsibility of government to protect its constituents. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ETHC 118


RELG 160: Introduction to Asian Religions

This course examines religious identities and practices in various regional contexts of Asia, including those described as Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Confucianist, and Islamic. Students learn about complex interrelations of these traditions within a wider global context and examine their modern expressions. Students read scriptural texts and analyze the diversity of their interpretations while participating in historical role-playing games, which use an innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past. Students research and articulate opinions of historical characters, while learning to express themselves with clarity, precision, and force. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 160


RELG 175: Early Christianity

This course will offer a general introduction to the history of Christianity in the first two centuries of the Common Era, tracing the evolution of the movement from its beginnings as a sect within Second Temple Judaism to its emergence as a distinct religion in the Greco-Roman world. The course will also examine the role of major figures, beliefs, practices, phenomena and developments during the first two centuries. Special attention will be given to (1) the social, political, religious, and, philosophical milieu in which Christianity emerged, (2) the scholarly quest for 'historical Jesus,' (3) the significance of Paul and the growth of the movement (4) the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and (5) the various sects and conflicts in the first two centuries. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 180: Religion, SciFi, and Fantasy

(Religion, Science Fiction, Fantasy) Of the literary genres, perhaps science fiction and fantasy best allow creative artists to imagine real and possible answers to the deep religious questions that have historically driven philosophers, theologians, and thinkers. Who are we? What do we want? Where did we come from? How does everything end? What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? In this class we examine science fiction and fantasy short stories, motion pictures, novels, and television programs to ask how creative artists and wider society have asked and answered these questions. We also consider how science fiction and fantasy have commented on and mirrored real-world religions. No prerequisites. Intended for first-year students and sophomores only. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: ENGL 180


RELG 185: Film and Religion

Viewing films as meaningful texts, this course examines the perspectives offered by Asian and American filmmakers on such religious questions as: What does it mean to be human? How does death inform the living of life? How do values shape relationships? What is community and how is it created? What is ethical behavior? The range of films explored here function as vehicles for entering religious worldviews, communicating societal values, and probing different responses to the question of how to live a meaningful life. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 185, CINE 185


RELG 200: Topics

(Spring 2022 Topic: American Radicals.) Radicalism has a long history and powerful contemporary place in American society. Political and religious radicals exert major influence on everything from the founding of the country to the most recent elections. This course tracks a series of radical movements in America, focusing on those that demonstrate political and religious extremism. Some examples include the Weather Underground, Nation of Islam, and Christian Nationalism. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 202: The Bible as Literature

The Bible鈥攁 multi-authored, multi-faceted, and multi-vocal ancient text, which has continued to be printed at a rate of over 100 million copies a year many centuries after its first compilation鈥攊s considered by many to be the most influential text in Western literature. This course will introduce students to the Bible鈥攖he Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testament)鈥攁s a literary text in its own right, worthy of close reading and textual analysis. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: ENGL 202


RELG 204: Japanese Animism, Anime and Manga

This course addresses questions concerning 鈥榓nimism,鈥 with a special focus on Japan. We explore elements of religion through the lens of folklore, mythology, legends, ethnographies, and other works of fiction and non-fiction. By always remembering to situate Japan (and our inquiries) vis-脿-vis larger disciplinary concerns, we are mindful of both the specificities and the generalities associated with 鈥楯apanese religion.鈥 Throughout the course, students are introduced to several seminal texts in the field of religion as well as Japanese studies; students are asked to consider the socio-historical context when analyzing ways in which local customs, Shintoism, and other 鈥榠mported鈥 thoughts (Buddhism, for instance) coalesce into a current configuration of religious sensibility in Japan. In so doing, students learn to parse what inspires contemporary popular socio-cultural tropes, motifs of the gods/spirits in need of appeasement, and/or perennial human struggles to strike a balance between ecological preservation and industrial progress. (All the readings will be in English. No prior knowledge of Japanese language or culture necessary.) (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 204


RELG 205: All That Glitters: Byzantine Art

Luminous. This is how Byzantine Art is rendered in our public imagination. From glittering mosaics and soaring spaces to gold-leafed manuscripts and richly patterned vestments, few periods in the history of art conjure notions of opulence as powerfully. But there's much more to the art and architecture of Byzantium, whose influence is felt to this day. Extending over vast territories and three continents at its peak, the Byzantine empire endured for over twelve centuries. This class is an introduction to the rich array of art forms that flourished in Byzantium and theological ideas that animated them, the ways in which Byzantine art and religion disseminated and integrated with local forms and cultures throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond, and the influence of Byzantine art on later art and artists 鈥 up to and including our present day. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ARTH 205


RELG 210: Religions of Indigenous Peoples

Our increased awareness of the global community has given rise to a new interest in the religions of indigenous peoples. This course will explore the religious heritage of Native Americans, Africans, and Australian aborigines and other indigenous peoples, including their views of the role of human beings relative to the rest of nature. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 211: What is "Jewish"?

What is Jewish? asks this provocative and productive question, spanning over 30 centuries of people, faith, place, worship, language, culture, and meaning. Beginning with an overview of sacred texts towards an understanding of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel), we explore diverse subjects and themes including exile and return, ethics, community, identity, and difference. Our work includes readings from classical and contemporary Jewish bookshelves, film, art, comedy, food, and other cultural productions. Topics include Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Ashkenazi histories and practices, the emergence of Hasidism and Ultra-Orthodoxy, the Reform movement and Zionism, diaspora, antisemitism and theories of Jewish conspiracy, the Holocaust, modern-day Israel, secular Jews, 鈥渟tars of David鈥 from Sasha Baron Cohen to the Notorious RBG, and popular representations of Jewish life from the shtetl of Fiddler on the Roof to cosmopolitan Mrs. Maisel. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 212: Global Christianity

This course explores the origin, development, and contemporary state of Christianity with reference to the many cultures and societies that have shaped it, the world's largest religion. We begin with the origin and early development of Christianity within the context of ancient Judaism and the Roman Empire. We consider the development of Christianity into its many contemporary forms, and focus throughout the class on how Christianity is practiced throughout the world. We pay special attention to how Christianity has developed in places unfamiliar to most Americans, such as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: IREL 262


RELG 213: Global Islam

This course explores the origin and development of the Islamic religious tradition, along with varying interpretations of Islamic law and prominent issues facing contemporary Muslims around the world. Participants in the course read classical and contemporary literature as windows into Muslim life in different cultures and historical periods, and view Islamic art and architecture as visual texts. To learn about the rich diversity within Islam, students can work with texts, rituals, poetry, music, and film from a range of cultures within the Muslim world, from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia to Europe and North America. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 213


RELG 214: Avatars, Goddesses, and Demons

In this course, we combine historical, literary, and ethnographical approaches to study various aspects of Hindu traditions. From the quest for liberation and the self in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita to stories of gods, goddesses, and demons in the Puranas; from the practice of meditation techniques and observation of rituals that engage the senses to the world of contemporary ethnographical accounts, in this course we engage in a joyful, imaginative, yet nuanced and critical exploration of religious life of Hindus in South Asia and the North American diaspora. This course includes a significant experiential component. Students meet Hindu practitioners from the greater Chicago area and practice meditation, learning specific techniques that they can take with them beyond the classroom. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 214


RELG 215: Buddhist Paths to Nirvana

In this course, we delve into ways in which Buddhist philosophers, monks, nuns, and the lay community respond to what they see as the core problem of human existence: suffering. From its origins in India to the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia and, now, the global diaspora, we study contemporary and historical Buddhist traditions and movements, including Theravada, Mahayana, Tantric (esoteric) Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar's Navayana, and engaged Buddhism, which applies long-standing Buddhist values to the social, political, economic, and ecological problems of today. We turn to the writing of some of the world鈥檚 greatest spiritual leaders, such as Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, who offer practical advice on everyday challenges of being human. This course includes a significant experiential component. Students meet Buddhist practitioners from the greater Chicago area and practice meditation, learning specific techniques that they can take with them beyond the classroom. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 215


RELG 216: Chinese Religions

Focusing primarily on the teachings of the Confucian (and neo-Confucian), Daoist, and early Chinese Buddhist traditions, we will explore the concepts and practices of these communities within their historical, cultural, and social contexts. Reading narrative, poetic, and classical texts in translation that present such ideas as the ethics of human-heartedness, the relativity of all things, and the importance of self-sacrifice, we will discuss what teachings these masterful texts offer 21st century questioners. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 216, IREL 266


RELG 218: Buddhism and Social Activism

This course examines various Buddhist theories and practices intended to improve societies. Considering classic Buddhist texts and ethical teachings alongside case studies from the modern world, students research Buddhist understandings of the origins of social ills and their possible treatments. Topics include models of just governance, resistance to discrimination based on race, caste or religion, participation in anti-war and anti-colonial movements, the ethical treatment of prisoners, the uplift of impoverished communities, temperance movements, and environmental conservation and sustainability. Examples are drawn from around the Buddhist world, including Burma, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam, and the United States. No prerequisistes. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Speaking requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: ASIA 218


RELG 219: Malcolm & Martin

(Malcolm & Martin: The Literature of Peace & Resistance.) Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement so often put into conversation with each other, have left us a legacy for how we think about social struggle鈥攚hether it be through the message of non-violence and Christian love that Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, or through the message of fearless self-defense and resistance "by any means necessary" for which Malcolm X came to be known. Both leaders were prolific authors whose works, singular in style and rich in rhetoric, comprise a seminal part of the American literary canon, and have been regularly featured by authors of creative works in fiction, drama, poetry, etc. since their publication. This course is an opportunity to delve deeply into the words of both men, long considered the authors of two disparate ways of viewing and engaging in civic struggle in America. We look at the creative activist writings of each-speeches, letters, interviews, autobiographical material鈥攁nd complicate what at first seems a simple battle between "violent" and "non-violent" approaches to liberation. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ENGL 219, AFAM 219


RELG 220: Islam and Pop Culture

In recent decades the global Islamic revival has produced a new generation of Muslim film stars and fashion models, Sufi self-help gurus, Muslim comic book heroes, romance novel writers, calligraphy artists, and even Barbie dolls. This course explores the pop sensations, market niches, and even celebrity scandals of 'Popular Islam' within the broader context of religious identity, experience, and authority in Islamic traditions. Balancing textual depth with geographic breadth, the course includes several case studies: Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mali, Turkey, and North America. Students will learn about how religious trends are created -- and debated -- on pop culture's public stage. We will reflect critically on both primary materials and inter-disciplinary scholarly writings about the relationships between pop culture, religious identities, devotional practices, and political projects. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 220, ISLM 220, IREL 260


RELG 221: Dialogue: Race, Ethnicity, Religion

In a culturally and socially diverse society, exploring issues of difference, conflict, and community is needed to facilitate understanding and improve relations between social/cultural groups. In this course, students will engage in meaningful discussion of controversial, challenging, and divisive issues in society related to race, ethnicity, and religion. Students will be challenged to increase personal awareness of their own cultural experience, expand knowledge of the historic and social realities of other cultural groups, and take action as agents of positive social change in their communities. This course requires a high level of participation from all students. Note: This course earns .5 credits. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Cultural Diversity requirement.)
cross listed: ETHC 250, AFAM 250


RELG 222: Yoga: Culture, Theory, and Practice

What is the history of yoga, from ancient Asian religious origins to contemporary Western body culture? Taking a multidisciplinary approach towards the cultural, philosophical, and physical practices that we call yoga, this course analyzes a range of media from written texts and documentary films to Instagram and reality television. Each class meeting consists of both seminar discussion and a firsthand exploration of postures, meditation, and mindfulness. Topics include colonialism, orientalism, and cultural appropriation in yoga's history, a comparative analysis of the Indian yogic subject and the Western modern subject, and their distinctive concepts of body, mind, and spirit. We ask what a "yoga body" looks like, from Lululemon and yoga as a competitive sport to the body positivity and disability rights movements, and consider how #metoo is precipitating change in the yoga world. We also explore the emergent scientific discourse around yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. No prerequisites. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)


RELG 223: Does God Exist?

This course considers arguments for and against the existence of God, as well as the resources and methods those arguments use. After some discussion of logic and argumentation, we will consider questions such as: how could one demonstrate that God does or does not exist? What would constitute 'proof' of such a claim? How are faith and reason working for similar or opposed ends in such arguments? What does the character of arguments for or against God's existence say about human life and thought? To address these questions, we will consider the works of theologians and philosophers from monotheistic traditions. No prerequisites. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: PHIL 223


RELG 224: Islam and Science

As an introduction to the relationship between Islam and science from both historical and contemporary perspectives, this course examines the major contributions of medieval Muslim scientists and their influence on modern science. Muslim medieval inventions and advances have shaped Western science for hundreds of years. Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen), al-Khawarizmi (Algorithmi), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) were among the many Muslim scientists and philosophers who developed existing disciplines in astronomy, medicine, mathematics, physics, and chemistry, and transferred ancient knowledge from the Middle East, Greece, China, and India to European cultures. The course explores various scientific attempts at an interpretation of the Qur'an and how those attempts shaped the Muslim perception of science in general. The course also touches upon modern debates within Islamic and applied science, particularly in the field of bioethics. Focusing on contemporary controversies, the course examines, for example, attempts by contemporary Muslim scientists and religious scholars to reconcile or disprove the theory of evolution. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements.)
cross listed: ISLM 224


RELG 225: Islam in America

Muslims have lived in America since at least the early 19th century, and the U.S. is currently home to approximately 3.45 million Muslims. This course explores the origins and history of Muslims living in the US today. Studying the history of African American, immigrant, and convert communities, we address issues of identity, religious practice, integration, and assimilation. The course also examines such contemporary topics as the diversity within religious interpretations and views of Muslim communities, including perceptions of extremism and Islamophobia. Participants look at trends in Muslim-American culture and lifestyle, politics, and gender relations as seen in contemporary social media. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: AMER 212, AFAM 225, ISLM 225


RELG 226: Religion and Gender in South Asia

This course examines representations of gender, divinity, and power in South Asia. Delving into epics, hymns, women's songs, animated films, scholarly articles, and observation of contemporary religious practices, we ask whether stories of Hindu goddesses empower women or serve the interests of a patriarchal culture. Through a variety of approaches, we investigate how women and men experience, negotiate, and subvert constructions of gender, femininity, and masculinity. The course culminates in a role-playing game, which uses an innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past to delve into legislation on Sati (ritual widow-burning) in colonial India. Students research and articulate opinions of historical characters, while learning to express themselves with clarity, precision, and force and developing their public speaking skills. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements.)
cross listed: GSWS 226, ASIA 226


RELG 230: Religion and Politics

This course examines the complex social, historical, and intellectual forces that impact the interrelationships between religion and politics. We explore tensions, collaborations, and conflicts between religious and political institutions and actors within the global contexts of two or more regions of the world outside of the United States, such as South, East, and Central Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Americas. We examine how in specific contexts and pivotal moments in time, individuals and groups interpret major political, religious, and scriptural texts, studies of humanism, letters, poems, and sermons. We look to connections between concepts such as faith and revelation, the role of religion in the public square, and reflections on republicanism and tyranny. Students participate in historical role-playing games, which use an innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past. Researching and articulating opinions of historical characters, students practice public speaking, learning to connect with their audiences and express themselves with clarity, precision, and force. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements.)
cross listed: POLS 230, IREL 267


RELG 231: Global Astrologies and Religion

This course explores the place of the stars in major religious traditions. Beginning with the emergence of Babylonian, Chinese, Vedic, and Greco-Roman zodiac systems, we examine how ancient civilizations looked skyward to make sense and order of life on earth. This question sets the foundation for our inquiry: how does astrology align with the constellations of specific religious doctrines, beliefs, and practices? Each case study is scientifically, philosophically, and historically contextualized, among them the constitutive status of Vedic astrology in Hinduism, a Christian prohibition of astrology from St. Augustine and Martin Luther to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and centuries of competing rabbinic commentaries, responsa, and debates in Judaism. We will not be 鈥渄oing鈥 astrology in this class; rather, students will learn the core principles of religious traditions and astrological systems while considering religious and secular critiques of astrology and the rise of the New Age. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements.)


RELG 232: Religion and Capitalism

Scholars have long studied the relationship between religion and capitalism. Sociologist Max Weber, one of the founders of the field of religious studies, linked Protestant Christianity and the rise of the "spirit of capitalism." This course considers the deep connections between religion, economics, and business. Topics include Islamic banking, American Protestantism and the Gospel of Wealth, Christian socialism, religion and business ethics, the commodification of mindfulness, and capitalism-as-religion. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: AMER 232


RELG 234: Witches, Preachers, and Mystics

In this course students consider the historical development of religion in the United States of America. We study topics such as the contact between Native Americans and European settlers, religion and the founding of the Republic, religious revivals and awakenings, immigration and religion, the rise of new forms of religion in the United States, responses to scientific and technological developments, and the entangling of religion and politics. The course covers religion from the colonial period to the dawn of the twentieth century. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: HIST 234, AMER 234


RELG 235: Relig in Contemp America

This discussion-based course is driven by contemporary events and issues in American religion. Students are asked to follow news and social media coverage of current issues in religion, which we analyze in class. In addition to topical current issues, we cover important factors influencing American religion such as religious pluralism and diversity, immigration, alternative religions, religion in popular culture, and politics. Finally, we look to how today's generation of college students and other young adults are reshaping religion in contemporary America. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 236: Religion and Politics in the USA

This course focuses on the ways religion has been a source of political division and unity in America. Polls indicate that America is, by far, the most religious of industrial democracies and that our contentious political debates are, in large part, due to the religious dimensions of morally evocative issues like abortion and gay marriage, and the firm positions of such constituencies as the Christian Right and new Religious Left. Historically, public debates concerning abolition, suffrage, and temperance drew on scholarly and legal interpretations of the Constitutional promise of both religious freedom and the separation of church and state. We examine the role of religion in the founding of the American republic, and in contemporary political movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Federation for Immigration Reform, and 21st century civil rights organizations, which address issues including prison reform, the environment, and the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Cultural Diversity requirement.)
cross listed: POLS 236, AMER 220


RELG 237: African American Religions

This course is an exploration of the rich diversity of African American religions from the colonial period to the present. Attention will be given to key figures, institutional expressions as well as significant movements in North America, the Caribbean and broader Black Atlantic. Major themes include African traditions in American religions, slavery and religion, redemptive suffering, sacred music, social protest, Black Nationalism, African American women and religion, religion in hip hop and secularity in black religious literature. Students will learn about the ways these themes have often served both as unique contributions to and critiques of America? political establishment and social landscape. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: AFAM 237, AMER 230


RELG 238: Religion and Place in Chicago

This course looks to the way that religious communities have created and used different spaces in the greater Chicago area, paying attention to Chicago as a specifically urban place. We focus on both neighborhoods and sacred spaces themselves, including the architectural forms of these spaces. We examine the effects of immigration and urban change on neighborhoods and congregations. This course covers a diverse range of historical and living communities, drawing from the tools of religious studies, history, urban studies, and architectural studies. It also includes numerous field site visits, with much of the instruction taking place on location in Chicago's sacred spaces. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Domestic Pluralism requirement.)
cross listed: AMER 238


RELG 239: Religion and Public Health

This course examines religion as a social determinant of public health and introduces students to meditation and other mind-body practices, which have been successfully applied in medical settings. Using an innovative methodology called Reacting to the Past, students delve into key historical moments that shaped modern approaches to biology, public health, and epidemiology, participating in extended role-playing games informed by influential texts in the history of ideas. Students also analyze selected practices of ordinary people in Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity that shape health behaviors; assess the role of religious organizations in ongoing epidemic threats (COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and Alzheimer's); and study connections between religion and public health (e.g., legacy of the social gospel movement in US Public Health Reform, impact of religious views on reproductive health, and application of meditation techniques in health care). Assessments include a sequence of verbal and written assignments, including in-character speeches, culminating in a final oral presentation. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements.)


RELG 240: Religious Perspectives Environment

Our current environmental crises rest on philosophical and religious assumptions that are now being challenged. Are humans meant to dominate nature? Does nature belong to human beings or do human beings belong to nature? Addressing such questions requires an increasingly broad scope, as our ecological fates are interwoven on a planetary scale. This class therefore examines a diversity of religious teachings, old and new, to theorize cultural conceptions of 鈥渘ature鈥 and seek possible platforms for religious rhetoric to inspire conservation. We read primary and secondary sources across a range of traditions, including Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian, as well as indigenous tribes from North America, and scholars who suggest a new religious attention to earth sciences is needed to face the present climate crisis. By deconstructing conventional definitions of terms like religion and nature, we build an understanding of human entanglements in planetary processes and possible pathways toward sustainable futures. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ES 240


RELG 241: Religion & Science

Even a cursory look at today's news reveals that the relationship between religion and science is a hot topic. So it has been for many centuries. In this course, we consider historical and contemporary issues in the relationship between religion and science in the modern world. We make use of historical, philosophical, and literary approaches to study how individuals and groups have understood religion and science, and how they have sought to understand and relate to the natural world. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)


RELG 242: Cults, Sects, and Communes

This course provides an introduction to the study of new religious movements, popularly called sects and cults, and the communal movements that are their more secularized cousins. We will consider several case studies and examine the wider phenomenon of such groups in the modern world. We will pay attention to the traditional sociological issues of leadership, charisma, conversion, and belief maintenance, as well as the lived practices and experiences of members of such groups, such as rituals, gender practices, and holidays. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Social Sciences and Domestic Pluralism requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: SOAN 242


RELG 243: Religion and Popular Culture

This course explores the ways in which religion has figured into major works of popular entertainment of (mostly) the 20th and 21st centuries. We read novels, short stories, poetry, and comic books; watch films and television shows; play board games; scroll through Instagram and blogs; and discuss academic theories about popular culture and religion. We engage with story-tellers who have used religion to make certain arguments, examine what religion enables people to do or say in creative work, and think critically about the role religion plays in what we consume for entertainment. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)


RELG 245: Martyrdom in Early Christianity

(Faithful to the Very End: Martyrdom in Early Christianity) Looking at early Christian teachers and narrative accounts of martyrs' deaths, this course examines the underlying logic and hopes encouraging these martyrs to make the ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps as early as Saint Steven, only a few years after the death of Jesus and continuing for centuries thereafter, remarkable Christians willingly underwent profound humiliation and excruciating pain in stubborn refusal to compromise their faith in a crucified messiah. The course focuses on the first three centuries of Christian history, tracing the political circumstances leading to the martyrs' deaths, and the ways in which they planted the seeds to become themselves objects of veneration in later periods through the present day. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)


RELG 248: Crusade & Holy War in Med Europe

(Crusade and Holy War in Medieval Europe). In November of 1095, Pope Urban II gave a speech that launched one of the most significant and destructive movements in European聽history: the crusades. Four years later, the armies of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem in a burst of pious enthusiasm and brutal violence. This course begins by considering questions foundational to the crusade movement: when is violence in pursuit of religious aims justified? Can a war鈥攐r a soldier鈥攂e noble? Be holy? Should the church control and direct social and political violence?聽 The course then examines in detail the聽history of the First Crusade (1095-1099) from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Greek perspectives. In the second half of the course, we study the establishment of the Latin Crusader States; the gradual recapture of the region by Muslim leaders, with a focus on the career of Salah ad-Din; and the later broadening of the use of crusade rhetoric, which was mobilized to justify wars against fellow Christians, as well as European imperialism and colonization.聽Students read both primary聽historical sources and important works of scholarship. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Writing requirements.)
cross listed: HIST 243


RELG 250: Philosophy of Religion

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of religion. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of religious experience, ritual, prayer, and sacred books in articulating the idea of God. Course includes a philosophical encounter with mysticism as well as the more traditional metaphysical formulations of the divine, in both the West and East. The critical concern of a variety of rational skepticisms will also be examined. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: PHIL 250


RELG 255: 21st Century Islam

The 1.5 billion Muslims around the world represent an immense diversity of languages, ethnicities, cultures, contexts and perspectives. This course focuses on 21st century issues faced by Muslims living in different cultures. Contemporary social issues are examined in light of different interpretations of Islamic practice, global communication and social networks, elements of popular culture, and the interface between religion and government. Biographies, short stories, contemporary journalism, and films that explore life in Muslim and non-Muslim countries present a nuanced portrait of contemporary Islam. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ISLM 255, ASIA 255, IREL 268


RELG 256: Religion, SciFi, AI, and Non-Human

This class examines how science fiction has addressed the deeply religious questions of what is means to be a person, and the nature of the self, consciousness, and the supernatural. Given the recent rise of A.I. (artificial intelligence) technology, we pay particular attention to how the genre understands the human and our relationship to the non-human and the trans-human: the A.I., the robot, the alien, the divine, and the monster. We consider this relationship in terms of the central concerns of religion, from ethics and philosophy, to fears about an A.I. apocalypse, to the nature of the soul. In class we analyze diverse science fiction and speculative fiction (types of media, time periods, cultures), and utilize A.I. and other software in projects.


RELG 282: The Pre-Modern Body

This course investigates the roots of contemporary European and American understandings of the human body in social, cultural, and religious traditions from the ancient and medieval Mediterranean world. Students explore texts that illuminate the importance of the body to individual and group identity and discuss how these texts鈥 definitions of "normal", "beautiful", and "healthy" bodies continue to wield influence. Among the course's questions: how was the central role of the body in identity (before and after death) shaped by Christian theology of a God who was embodied, suffered, and died? What assumptions were made about how biological sex dictated identity鈥攁nd how did pre-modern authors reckon with those who fell outside the sex or gender binary? How was spiritual morality understood to be inscribed on the physical body in complex ways (skin color, physical features, illness, pain, sexual activity)? How did racism and nascent colonialism shape ideals of body size and appearance? Students read primary sources ranging from patristic theology to werewolf stories, as well as important works of scholarship. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Writing requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: HIST 282, GSWS 232


RELG 286: Topics in Islamic Art

This course examines the visual arts of early and medieval Islam from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries in Muslim territories, ranging from Central Asia to Spain. Through an examination of diverse media, we shall explore the role of visual arts played in the formation and expression of Islamic cultural identity. Topics will include the uses of figural and non-figural imagery, religious and secular art, public and private art and the status, function, and meaning of the portable luxury objects. No prerequisites. . (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ARTH 286, ISLM 286


RELG 300: Religion in Global Context

Using a religious studies methodology, this course examines the nature of religious experience as expressed by different religious communities and cultures from ancient periods into the present. Members of the class choose individual research topics that might focus on religious artifacts, rituals, social movements, communities, and the ways that religious ideas influence societies. Case studies are diverse, representing many religious traditions, and may include descriptions of Vietnamese Buddhists negotiating religion in a non-religious state, American Christians walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Jews making a living in World War II Shanghai, Hindus building Vaishnava temples in Chicago, or Indonesian designers setting 21st century high fashion trends for contemporary Muslims. This seminar is designed for religion majors and minors, but also welcomes students in other majors with appropriate preparation. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: IREL 360


RELG 303: Psychics, Spiritualists & Mystics

(Psychics, Spiritualists, and Mystics: Adventures in Edwardian Fiction.) Early 20th C. England saw an explosion of spiritual seekers who wrote stories about contacting the dead, communicating telepathically, levitating, reading Tarot cards, experiencing ghostly visions, and participating in occult or spiritual societies. While these writers were enormously popular in their own day, they are historically underrepresented in conventional narratives about the canon of modern British literature. This course aims to recover some of these long-forgotten stories, as we sort through this Edwardian-era "attic" of dust-covered tales, seeking the gems that still puzzle, challenge, or inspire. Our goal will be to understand this "spiritual renaissance" and its prime movers; explore the ambiguous borderland between the occult and the mystical and their relation to orthodox religion; and assess the legacy that this original "alt lit" has left for today鈥檚 spiritual seekers. Fiction will be drawn from writers like George MacDonald, Arthur Conan Doyle, Marie Corelli, Evelyn Underhill, and May Sinclair. Prerequisite: ENGL 210 or permission of the instructor. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: ENGL 303


RELG 307: Saints/Blood/Money Mdvl Christianty

(Saints, Blood, and Money in Roman and Medieval Christianity.) This course will examine key questions debated by Christians from the origins of the faith in the Roman era to the end of the Middle Ages, many of which continue to be discussed today. These may include: should Christians use violence at all, and if so, under what circumstances? What is the correct relationship between the Church and the government? What makes a person a saint - celibacy? Harsh asceticism? Aiding the poor? Preaching the Gospel? What is the appropriate role of wealth and property in the life of a dedicated Christian? Should a Christian seeking religious truth rely only on the Bible and revelation, or do logic and scientific inquiry have a role to play? Students will work extensively with primary sources in translation and significant works of modern scholarship. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Writing requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: HIST 322


RELG 310: Islamic Mysticism

Muslim saints and seekers have performed mystical practices for more than 1300 years in areas stretching from Europe and North Africa to Turkey, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent. Contemporary holy men and holy women continue to teach such mystical practices as the dancing and whirling of dervishes, the up-tempo singing of qawwals in India and Pakistan, and the rhythmic chanting of Arabic verses in Egypt. In this course, we will explore the religious thinking of these holy men and women through their writing, art, and music. Texts will include novels, short stories, allegorical tales, biographies, and films. No prerequisite. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Global Perspectives requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Cultural Diversity requirement.)
cross listed: ISLM 310


RELG 314: Hindu Pilgrimage: India and Chicago

The course explores the ritual practice of pilgrimage at major pilgrimage sites in India, and at parallel temples in the Chicago area. Using extensive field visits and the framework of pilgrimage as the structure of the course, the class prepares for and visits 5-6 Hindu temples in the Chicago area to observe rituals being performed, speak with practitioners, and experience festival worship. Through reading and film, we examine the history, literature, ritual traditions, art, and music of Hindu pilgrims. Following specific pilgrimage routes, we explore this religious practice as it is conducted within 21st century cultures of expanding global communities, in India and in Chicago. The class will use primary source texts, maps, field visits to temples, film, and research to understand Hindu religious communities in India and Chicago. Prerequisite: Religion 214 or permission of instructor. . (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 315: US Catholic Immigrant Experience

From the Irish who arrived before the Civil War to the Mexicans and Vietnamese who have come recently, the Catholic experience in the US has been a continuing story of immigration. This course examines how succeeding immigrant groups have practiced and lived their Catholic faith in different times and places. Religion cannot be separated from the larger social and economic context in which it is embedded, so the course will also pay attention to the ways in which the social and economic conditions that greeted the immigrants on their arrival shaped how they went about praying and working. Finally, the changing leadership of the Catholic Church will be taken into account, since it provided the ecclesiastical framework for the new Catholic arrivals. Prerequisite: HIST 120 or HIST 121 or permission of the instructor. . (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: HIST 315, AMER 315


RELG 316: Walking to Heaven: Pilgrimage Asia

Using a seminar format, this course will explore pilgrimage sites in a range of different Asian cultures including India, China, Japan, Korea, and Pakistan. Students will choose a specific pilgrimage site and religious tradition as the focus of their research. Through reading, film, discussion, research, and student presentations, we will examine the roles of pilgrims and traders, sacred place and sacred time, and the ritual elements present in Asian pilgrimage practices across different religious traditions including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Prerequisite: Religion 213, 214, 215 or 216 or permission of instructor. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives requirement. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 319: European Reformations: 1200-1600

The Protestant Reformation and Catholic Church's response were a major turning-point in the political, social, and religious history of Europe, with implications for the entire world. This period saw clerics, rulers, and ordinary people wrestle with profound and eternal questions: what does a person need to do to save their soul? Who can claim to mediate between God and humanity? What is the role of family, sex, and marriage in a pious life? What gives a ruler the right to rule? When is violence justified in the pursuit of faith? This course examines the answers that were offered to these questions, as we study: the background to the Reformations in the ideas of Paul, Augustine, and medieval reformers; writings of key figures, including Luther, Calvin, Loyola, and Teresa of Avila; political ramifications of the Reformations; the impact of the Reformations on European society, notably those who were among the most marginalized鈥攖he poor, Jews, sex workers, and "witches". Students read primary sources in translation as well as important works of scholarship. No prerequisites. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Writing requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: HIST 328


RELG 320: Topics in Relg: Tantric Goddesses

(A Garland of Tantric Goddesses: Tales of the Feminine Divine) This seminar examines in depth one particular subject area in religious studies. Topics vary from year to year. A Garland of Tantric Goddesses: Tales of the Feminine Divine in South Asia uses a seminar format to examine goddess worship in Hindu and other Tantric (esoteric) traditions. We learn about the diversity of Hindu goddesses鈥 mythology by studying captivating and largely overlooked stories from different regions. Delving into goddess narratives in translation, we read a range of sources from ancient folk tales to modern lore. We also dive deeper into a scholarly case study of Tripurasundari (the Beauty of Three Cities), as we examine how the worship of this goddess was developed and reimagined in the early second millennium. Students work extensively with primary sources in translation as well as works of modern scholarship on tradition formation. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)
cross listed: ASIA 320


RELG 335: Religion and Food

Everyone eats, and every religion talks about eating. In this class, we sample from a rich menu of religious approaches to food, making use of scholarly articles, spirituality guides, cookbooks, and memoirs. From the Christian Communion to Jewish Kosher laws to the Buddhist mindful eating, the world's major religions use food to structure the lives, practices, and beliefs of their adherents. In this class we digest some of the symbolic meanings, self-definitions, and communal and individual identities that develop out of religion and food. Prerequisite: Any Religion course or permission of instructor. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Global Perspectives and Speaking requirements. Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities and Cultural Diversity requirements.)


RELG 355: Exhibiting Religion in the Museum

Museums and cultural heritage sites often contain and display objects and exhibits related to religion. Art museums exhibit icons, history museums show artifacts, and cultural heritage sites exhibit materials from active religious communities. Some museums and heritage sites focus on topics explicitly connected to religion, such as Holocaust memorials or museums of world religions. And some sacred sites have even become museums. This course examines the way that museums and related cultural heritage sites exhibit and display religion. We study objects, collections, physical buildings, and digital spaces. We consider questions related to curation, aesthetics, and rhetoric. We think about (post)colonization, cultural power, and public knowledge. We also consider the religious practices associated with museums and cultural sites, such as pilgrimages and veneration of exhibited objects. This class includes field visits to Chicago area museums, some as a group and others individually. Prerequisites: Any Religion course or permission of instructor. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Humanities and Technology requirements.)


RELG 380: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings

(J.R.R. Tolkien and the Literature of the Inklings.) This seminar will examine the literary legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien and his fellow writers C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield -- all pioneers of the twentieth-century fantasy fiction genre. This course will involve close reading of major works by each author as well as opportunity to discuss the fascinating biographical, historical, aesthetic, and mythic underpinnings of their works. The seminar will pay especial attention to the Inklings' intellectual and artistic indebtedness to the medieval past, to their discourses about religion, politics, and ethics, to their eccentric relationship with "literary modernism," and to the way their fiction refracts major twentieth-century events, particularly World Wars I and II. Prerequisite: ENGL 210 or permission of the instructor. (Under the old GEC, this course meets the Humanities requirement.)
cross listed: ENGL 380


RELG 390: Sociology of Religion

This seminar starts with major classical theories of sociology of religion including those of secularization and privatization of religion in the modern world. Then we shall examine the relevant events of the past quarter of the century, namely the sudden explosion of politicized and highly public religions in the Western and the non-Western worlds. The existing sociological literature didn't anticipate the current significance of religion and this tension is expected to generate interesting debates in this seminar. Special attention will be given to a comparative study of public religions in Western countries (e.g., Brazil, Poland, Spain, and the United States) and in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia). Pre-requisites: SOAN 110 and any SOAN course at the 200 level or higher or consent of the instructor.
cross listed: SOAN 390


RELG 490: Internship


RELG 492: Senior Seminar

This course focuses on independent research with seminar-style discussion in meetings with students and faculty, with particular attention paid to methods in the study of religion. Each participant will write and present a major research paper. The seminar will provide a forum in which students will explore different methodological approaches and discuss their research with others. Required of all religion majors in their junior or senior year except those completing their senior capstone requirement by writing a senior thesis. Open to non-majors with appropriate preparation and permission of the instructor. Prerequisites: At least three courses in religion. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Speaking requirement.)


RELG 493: Research Project

Research in collaboration with a departmental faculty member. Consult with any member of the department for application information. (Under the Forester Fundamental Curriculum, this course meets the Experiential Learning requirement.)


RELG 494: Senior Thesis

Research guided by a departmental faculty member culminating in a senior thesis, fulfilling the College's Senior Studies Requirement. Consult any member of the department for further information.