Course Descriptions

RELS 100B Introduction to Biblical Literature (1)

A study of the contents and development of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament, with emphasis on critical methods for biblical study, the influence of the cultures of the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds on the Bible, the formative traditions of Judaism and Christianity, and the interpretation of biblical texts.

RELS 102B  Is that a Religion? (1)

When does fandom become a religion? Is fitness a religion? What about Whiteness? What even counts as a religion? By examining common practices that are usually separated from “organized religion,” we will explore how we can understand them differently if we think of them as religions. From this, students will gain tools for reflecting on how they pursue meaning in their own lives — whether that is spiritual, religious, or otherwise.

RELS 103B Religions of the East (1)

An introduction to the beliefs and practices of the religions of the East, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism. By tracing the historical development of these religious traditions and studying the scriptures, doctrines, rituals, ethics and social institutions, students enter into the worldview of the East.

RELS 105B Judaism, Christianity and Islam (1)

This course will provide students with an introduction to the history, beliefs, and practices of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A central premise of the course is that religious traditions are best understood as communities of discourses and practices that shape the subjectivities of their adherents. As a result, a comparative analysis of the narrative frameworks, foundational beliefs, and devotional practices that constitute these three Abrahamic Faiths provides insight into how their members imagine and act in the world. In taking this approach, students will learn to understand and appreciate the common lineages of these religious traditions, as well as their major differences. The course will also serve as an introduction to studying and thinking about religion in an academic setting, helping students to describe, compare, and interpret religious phenomena.

RELS 107B Introduction to Judaism (1)

Examines the development of Judaism from its ancient biblical beginnings to the creation of the modern state of Israel. The course includes a study of rituals, practices and literature of Judaism. Special attention is given to the role of the Holocaust and Diaspora in Jewish History.

RELS 108B Christian Thought and Doctrine (1)

A study of the development of Christian theologies and doctrines from their roots in Judaism and Greco-Roman philosophies to contemporary understandings. Special attention is given to the development of Christian beliefs as seen in Christian scripture and selected later writings.

RELS 109B Sacred Traditions of the World (1)

An introduction to prehistoric religions, new religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, with attention to alternative conceptions of human nature, enlightenment, community life, divinity, gender roles and life after death.

RELS 110 Elementary New Testament Greek (1)

An introductory study of the written Greek language of the New Testament period. Emphasis is on grammar and vocabulary, leading to translation of selected texts from the Greek New Testament.

RELS 111 Elementary Biblical Hebrew (1)

An introductory study of classical biblical Hebrew. This course concentrates on basic Hebrew vocabulary and grammar, thus preparing the student to translate various readings from the Hebrew Bible.

RELS 168A The Bible in Art and Artifact (1)

This course, which is a travel course, has two primary aims: (1) to examine artifacts from the ancient Near Eastern world and the Mediterranean world that have a connection to biblical studies, and (2) to study artworks in major museums that portray scenes from the Bible. In addition to classroom study of these objects, the course includes travel during spring break to major world museums (such as the British Museum, the National Gallery of Art in London, the Louvre and the Orsay) to examine these objects first-hand.

RELS 221H History of Early Christianity (1)

An exploration of Christianity in terms of five essential dimensions: prophetic, ethical, revelatory, monotheistic and historical dimensions. Students learn the complexities of the development of each dimension during the formative centuries of the church, as well as alternative understandings that competed for attention.

RELS 222B/H Heretical Christianities of the Early Church (1)

An investigation of forms of Christianity that flourished in the early life of the movement but that have been lost to the modern world. Students look at the origins of the movements, their scriptures and their influence on what came to be known as "orthodox" Christianity.

RELS 231E The Bible and Ethics (1)

A critical inquiry into the complexities and challenges of using the Bible to make ethical judgments. Students focus on methodological issues that influence how one relates the Bible and ethics, application of different types of biblical traditions to ethical issues, and address specific contemporary issues for which the Bile has been used.

RELS 238V Religious Ethics and Moral Problems (1)

This course focuses on Stetson's Ethical or Spiritual Inquiry Value. An introduction to the study of religious ethics. We will focus on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim approaches to contemporary moral issues such as war/peacemaking, human rights, racial and economic justice, and human sexuality. Over the course of the semester, students will analyze the varied logics and sources of authority undergirding religious arguments while also situating them in their political, economic, and intellectual contexts. In so doing, students will not only gain valuable insight into how these communities imagine and act in the world, but they will also develop their own perspectives on some of today's most pressing moral quandaries.

RELS 241B Islam: Religion of the Prophet (1)

An examination of Islam's history, theology, rituals, spirituality, social organization, scriptures, art and its cultural and political expressions int he modern world.

RELS 242A Sacred Arts of Asia (1)

An exploration of the sacred aesthetic in the religions of Asia. Through a combination of lectures, discussions, films, and field trips, students learn how art is used effectively to express deep religious concepts and principles, while serving to inspire, reform and educate the religious believer. The course also encourages students to critically examine the relationship between ritual, myth and symbolism in the creation and function of art.

RELS 245B. Muhammad and the Qur'an (1)

This course examines the biography of the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the Qur’an, the sacred scripture of Muslims. Using primary sources in conjunction with critical secondary literature, we will explore both Muhammad and the Qur'an in historical and contemporary perspective. Thus, while we will discuss the historical Muhammad and the formation of the Qur'an along with the early development of Qur'anic exegesis, we will also focus on modern polemics surrounding the life of Muhammad as well as the roles played by both Muhammad and the Qur'an in Muslim devotional life.

RELS 252B Religions of China and Japan (1)

An examination of religious traditions of East Asia, including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. It traces the historical development of these traditions and considers the lived experience of believers in the modern world. Students explore religious scriptures, doctrines, rituals, ethics, social institution, spiritualities and art and consider alternative conceptions of human nature, enlightenment, community life, divinity, gender roles and life after death.

RELS 255B Apocalyptic Visions and American Culture (1)

A study of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings, both biblical writings (primarily Daniel and Revelation) and non-biblical texts, culminating in an examination of the extensive use of apocalyptic ideas and imagery in American culture (art, music, literature, movies, religious beliefs).

RELS 256V Gender and Difference in Biblical Texts and Traditions (1)

An examination of the role that gender plays in the biblical text, giving attention to feminist methods of interpretation. Texts that suppress the power of the feminine are examined against those that bring to light positive images. The influence of these texts both in establishing traditional roles for women historically and in shaping patriarchal theologies in our contemporary world is investigated.

RELS 258B Religions of India (1)

An introduction to the major and minor religious traditions originating in India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and folkloric traditions. Students explore the variety of religious experiences available in India by studying and comparing the basic historical, philosophical, ritual and mythical dimensions of these traditions.

RELS 268 The World of the Bible I: The Middle East (1)

A travel course, providing a study of major historical, archaeological, and religious (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) sites in selected countries of the Middle East, such as Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The major focus of the course is on the ancient world.

RELS 269 The World of the Bible II: The Mediterranean World (1)

A travel course, providing a study of major historical, archaeological, and religious sites in selected Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Greece, and turkey. The major focus of the course is on the ancient world.

RELS 272 Religion and Sport (1)

An introduction to the ways in which religion and sport share commonalities in form and experiences. Students develop an understanding of the basic structures, goals and experiences of the religious and then consider how those characteristics are also found in sport.

RELS 275 Religion and the Civil Rights Movement (1)

An introduction to the role that religion played in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Students will study the ideas of Movement leaders who were, primarily, religious leaders to understand the religious force driving the Movement. We will also consider opposition to the Movement that was also based on religion. This course requires one week of guided travel to various locations that are important for Civil Rights history and for understanding the Movement.

RELS 277V. Between Martin and Malcolm: Religion, Civil Rights, and the Black Freedom Movement (1)

This course focuses on Stetson's Social Justice Value. This course examines the role of religion in the civil rights movements primarily through the lives and work of two icons of the Black freedom movement: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz). We will take seriously their intellectual and political evolutions, and in so doing, move beyond understandings of King and X as polar opposites even as we continue to acknowledge the tensions between them. Along the way, we will also explore the intersections of religion, race, and politics in relation to the role of civil disobedience and (non)violence in socio-political change, leadership and movement building, gendered dynamics of the movements, and the movements in transnational perspective. Finally, we will consider civil rights movements in Florida as well as their legacies for us today.

RELS 281E Moral Reflections on the Holocaust (1)

An examination of the theological and ethical questions raised by the Holocaust, which saw the murder of six million Jews and five million non-Jews between the years 1933 and 1945. The course evaluates contemporary philosophical, ethical and theological responses to the Holocaust, addressing such topics as the absence of God, religious faith in a post-Holocaust age and the problem of evil and suffering.

RELS 282B The American Jewish Experience (1)

An exploration of the unique experience of Jews in America. Immigrant biographies and personal reflections, together with journals and historical records, are studied in order to understand both early and contemporary "American Jewish life" as a dynamic phenomenon that has adapted to a variety of social and cultural challenges.

RELS 302E The American Christian Experience (1)

An examination of the teachings and practices of historic Christian churches in the United States, including the Puritans, Baptist, Quakers, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Pentecostals. The course also explores significant ethical issues in the History of American Christian churches.

RELS 305B Shapers of Christian Thought (1)

An introduction to individuals whose ideas and writings have influenced the formation and development of Christian thought, such as Plato, Pelagius, Augustine, and Anselm.

RELS 307E Varieties of American Religions (1)

A course focusing on sectarian, minority, and new religious movements (NRMs). Students examine the teachings and practices of groups such as the Branch Davidians, UFO Churches, and contemporary Pagan religions. Students also analyze critical ethical issues such as government intervention in new religions, "revolutionary suicide," and coercive "deprogramming" of cult members.

RELS 309 Hebrew Festival Scrolls (1)

An examination of the five festival scrolls of the Hebrew Bible: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. Attention is given to historical context, literary analysis, theological implications and history of usage within Jewish and Christian contexts for each of the five writings.

RELS 311H The Dead Sea Scrolls (1)

This course is a study of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, their contents, the community that produced them, the historical events that shaped the origin and development of the community, and the continuing significance of these Jewish writings.

RELS 312V. Immigrants, Outsiders, and the Biblical Tradition (1)

This course focuses on Stetson's Ethical or Spiritual Inquiry Value. Who is the "resident alien" within biblical legal tradition, and what were the dynamics of this individual and others on the fringes of ancient communities? And, how may these writings be relevant to contemporary audiences with regard to migration, insiders, and outsiders? We will approach the topic by addressing a variety of issues, including the manners in which legal writings were utilized in the ancient Near East, how biblical laws were edited and reworked over time, and in what ways the contexts of ancient communities influenced perceptions of the "Other." Importantly, the course offers fresh avenues of exploration for contemporary legal and justice issues concerning newcomers and marginalized groups.

RELS 313V Prophets of Social Justice (1)

An examination of the call for social justice found in the Hebrew prophets and the appropriation of their message by voices for liberation. Modern calls for social justice are examined against biblical demands.

RELS 316V-JS In Search of Jesus (1)

An examination of major historical and theological questions surrounding Jesus of Nazareth. How reliable are the accounts in the New Testament gospels? What were his teachings and beliefs? How were the Jesus traditions shaped by the early Christian communities and the gospel writers? The course also explores how various ancient and modern portrayals of Jesus are shaped by individual and cultural expectations.

RELS 315B Monsters and Beasts in the Bible (1)

Whether plain old monsters such as dragons and sea creatures, or divine entities with wings, biblical narratives exhibit monstrous figures galore. Why are these monsters here?  What do they do and represent?  This course explores various monsters in writings that were included in or excluded from the Bible.  We will discover the ways that monsters may function to demarcate uncertainties in both the physical and heavenly realms, whether in the ancient world or contemporary representations.

RELS 317V The Gospels (1)

A study of the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the four gospels in the New Testament. This course gives major attention to the differences among the gospel accounts and the emphases of the individual gospel writers.

RELS 318V Life and Letters of Paul (1)

A study of one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity-Paul of Tarsus. the course includes an examination of the life and background of Paul and an investigation of the purpose and content of his letters.

RELS 332 Asian Philosophy (1)

An introduction to the philosophical foundations of Asian thought. Students gain an understanding of key schools and philosophers of Indian and East-Asian philosophy. Emphasis is given to comparing ideas of selfhood, divinity, salvation, community and ethics found in different Eastern philosophical systems.

RELS 334E Buddhism: The Middle Way (1)

An examination of the history, philosophy, rituals, mythology, and art of Buddhism. Beginning with the life of the Buddha, the course traces the development of Buddhism in India and its transplantation to other parts of Asia. Schools studied include Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and American forms of Buddhism. The course also discusses the complex interaction between Buddhism and Hinduism.

RELS 336B Society and the Supernatural in Asia (1)

An exploration of literary and folkloric accounts of the supernatural in several Asian milieus. Students will explore beliefs about Indian demons, Chinese fox spirits and Japanese ghosts, and examine how these beliefs are shaped by history and religious traditions. Major themes will include family life, religious specialists and community activities, all of which respond to the threat or promise of the supernatural in various ways.

RELS 337B The Religion and Culture of Hinduism (1)

A study of the religious life and practices of Hindus, examines the pre-Aryan roots of Hinduism, the philosophy of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita, the mythology and iconography of key Hindu gods and goddesses, primary modes of Hindu worship and devotion, and emerging forms of Hinduism in America.

RELS 339D Sexual Bodies, Gendered Lives: Women in Asia (1)

An introduction to key thinkers and movements in the field of gender studies. The course encourages students to consider how the issues raised by these thinkers relate to the lives of women in Asia. This course also examines how religious phenomena (symbols, rituals, narratives, texts) relate to "gendered-ness"- to people's experiences as females and males.

RELS 341B The Idea of the Devil (1)

An exploration of the origins of the idea of a supreme, evil being and the various shapes that idea has taken from ancient Zoroastrianism to contemporary Christianity.

RELS 344B Religion and American Politics (1)

An exploration of the ideologies of the Founders of the United States with regard to the relationship of religion and public policy. Students reflect critically on that relationship and consider the proper role of religion in politics in contemporary culture addressing such issues as school vouchers, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, and religious affiliation of candidates for political office.

RELS 352E Nature, the Sacred, and Ethics (1)

An investigation of religious traditions about nature and their relevance for developing an ecological ethic. Central to this study is an understanding of the significant relationship between particular religious views and an ethic of the natural world. Also included is inquiry about concepts of the sacred in connection to nature, as well as conflicts and connections with science.

RELS 358E-JS Frontiers in Bioethics (1)

An investigation of contemporary ethical issues about human life: How ought we to define life? When does it begin and end? Should we technologically assist reproduction? Should we select the sex of our children? Should we allow humans to be cloned? Should we use stem cells to repair the body? Should we genetically engineer humans? This inquiry will necessitate the integration of multiple fields of inquiry, especially biology, philosophy, religion, and law.

RELS 361B. Reform and Revolution in Modern Islam (1)

This course examines Islam and its adherents from the era of colonial modernity to the present, with a focus on figures and movements of reform, renewal, and revolution in the wake of Western political and cultural domination. The course will investigate a basic question: What happened to different Muslim communities and intellectuals (specifically those in the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and West Africa) as they responded to the challenges posed by “Westernization” and “modernization?" Moreover, it will explore the relatively new phenomenon of Islam in America. The class concludes with an investigation of various contemporary debates in the Islamic world, including feminism, the refugee crisis, and American/Western responses to Islam and Muslims.

RELS 362J. JS Religion and Human Rights (1)

An exploration of the relationship between religious traditions across cultures and the theory and practice of human rights. Students examine the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the debates concerning the concept of human rights in different cultural settings. Students pay close attention to the ways that religious traditions can both protect and endanger universal human rights.

RELS 363B. Resisting Religion (1)

This course will explore the conceptual developments behind atheism, agnosticism, and irreligious perspectives in world history. Using the lens of religious studies, students will examine nonreligious positions through the negotiations, tensions, and challenges they pose to religious traditions. This course does not promote or advocate atheism or irreligion, rather, students will examine and critique voices reacting against religious hegemonies. The course will also explore ritualized atheism in the Church of Satan and parody religions like Jediism. The goal of this course is to instill a proper understanding of nontheistic perspectives and consider the fluctuating boundaries of seemingly defined religious traditions.

RELS 364B. Resisting Religion Genies, Saints, and Superheroes: The Moral Imagination of Muslim Literatures (1)

In this course, we will explore historic and contemporary Muslim literatures as sources of moral wisdom and social critique.  From the ancient Middle Eastern folktales of One Thousand and One Nights to the poetry of Rumi to the comics superhero Ms. Marvel, these literary traditions seek to entertain, impart wisdom, and imagine alternative worlds for the purposes of conveying critical truths about this one.  In reading such literary works, students will gain a better understanding of Islam and its many cultural expressions, explore the use of literature as a source of moral formation and social critique, and address contemporary social issues around Orientalism/Islamophobia and the politics of representation in popular media.

RELS 370 Methods and Theories in the Study of Religion (1)

An examination of the scholarly attempts to understand, describe and relate to the sacred. Attention is given to critical methods of social science, philosophy, theology, history, textual studies and phenomenology. The course also focuses on preparation for the senior research project. Prerequisites: RELS major and junior status.

RELS 380, 480 Department Colloquium (noncredit course)

Critical examination of current developments in religious studies. Prerequisite: RELS major or minor.

RELS 385, 485 Independent Study (.5, 1)

RELS 390 Topics in Religion: Contemporary Christian Thought (1)

This course will explore topics in Christian thought that have peaked the interest of my recent students as of importance to their faith development. First, we will engage in Interfaith Relations, then explore the relationship between Protestant and Catholic Christianity and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). We will also focus on the identity of Jesus, both before his death (as a Galilean Jew) and after his resurrection (as the Christ of faith).

RELS 391B Topics in Religion: Islam in the Modern World (1) 

This course examines Islam and its adherents from the era of colonial modernity to the present, with a focus on figures and movements of reform, renewal and revolution in the wake of Western political and cultural domination. The course will investigate a basic question: What happened to different Muslim communities and intellectuals (specifically those in the Arab world, Iran, Turkey and West Africa) as they responded to the challenges posed by “Westernization” and “modernization”? Moreover, it will explore the relatively new phenomenon of Islam in America. The class concludes with an investigation of various contemporary debates in the Islamic world, including feminism, the refugee crisis and American/Western responses to Islam and Muslims.

RELS 391E-JS Wickedness, Suffering, and Pain: The Bane of Evil (1)

Understanding the causes of suffering and pain, learning how people respond to them, and assessing strategies for dealing with the anguish inflicted.

RELS 395 Teaching Internship (1)

Provides an opportunity for select religious studies majors or minors to work closely with a faculty member in planning, teaching, and evaluating a lower-division course. The student also pursues independent study in the subject matter of the course.

Prerequisite: junior or senior status and permission of the department chair.

RELS 397. Internship in Religious Studies. 0.5 or 1 Units.

Pass/Fail only. Through placement in an approved setting such as a religious institution, a non-profit organization, or a social-service agency, students will have an opportunity to enrich their classroom knowledge with experience in religious, ethical, or social justice issues

RELS 412V Envisioning the Psalms (1)

An introduction to the world of the psalmists, examining the prayers and laments of ancient Israel. The images and metaphors of the psalms are explored in order to comprehend the worldview behind the texts. Students explore how both ancient and modern readers find instruction, prayer, and praise in the poetry of the psalms.

RELS 415 Alternative Scriptures: Jewish and Christian Non-canonical Texts (1)

A study of early Jewish and Christian writings that are not included in all Jewish and Christian Bibles. Texts that will be studied include works from the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi writings, and the New Testament Apocrypha. The course will also examine the process of canonization, the reasons why certain works were excluded, and the value of non-canonical writings.

RELS 435E Spiritualities East and West (1)

An examination of the perennial human striving across cultures to communicate with, worship, and enter into an intimate relationship with the sacred. Students explore Roman Catholic spirituality, Pentecostal worship, Jewish Kabbalah, Islamic Sufism, the New Spirituality movement, Nature Spirituality, Hindu spirituality, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and Zen Buddhism.

RELS 446J Slaves, Whores and Poors: Religion and Oppression (1)

An examination of both historical and contemporary events and movements shaped by the interplay of religion with race-gender-class issues. Topics include the marginalization of humans along race, gender and class lines, justified by traditions of religious domination and oppression. Equally significant are religious voices that challenge these traditions, resulting in calls for liberation, freedom and equality.

RELS 459E The Ethics of Mortality (1)

An inquiry into the religious ethics of death and dying. Students study different religious traditions with regard to their attitudes toward definitions of death, termination of treatment, and actively causing death. Secular challenges to religious involvement are also included.

RELS 480 Department Colloquium (1)

A critical examination of current developments in religious studies.

RELS 499 Senior Project (1)

Directed, independent research, culminating in a major research paper and an oral presentation. It is a capstone course in which the student demonstrates her/his research, critical thinking, and communication skills. Prerequisites: RELS 370, senior status, and permission of the department chair.