Fall '14 Course Schedule

Subj Crse Sec Title Days Time Instructor Location
REL 101 A Introduction to Religion TR 2:00-3:15pm Leann Pace Wingate 209
REL 101 B Introduction to Religion TR 9:30-10:45am Ronald Neal Wingate 306
REL 102 A Introduction to the Bible MWF 9:00-9:50am Kenneth Hoglund Wingate 306
REL 103 A Introduction to Christian Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Earl Crow Wingate 209
REL 103 B Introduction to Christian Traditions TR 12:30-1:45pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 104 A Introduction to Asian Religions MW 2:00-3:15pm Shawn Arthur Wingate 306
REL 105 A Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, Islam TR 12:30-1:45pm Elaine Swartzentruber Wingate 210
REL 106 A The Bible In America MWF 11:00-11:50am Mary Foskett Wingate 306
REL 107 A Intro to African Religions MW 12:30-1:45pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 108 A Intro to Hindu Traditions MW 12:30-1:45pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 109 A Intro to Buddhist Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am James Ford Wingate 210
REL 110 A Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 11:00-12:15pm Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 210
REL 113 A Introduction to Jewish Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 314
REL 113 B Introduction to Jewish Traditions TR 2:00-3:15pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 314
REL 200 A Approaches to the Study of Religion TR 11:00-12:15pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 206
REL 312 A The Critical Study of the Pentateuch MWF 11:00-11:50am Kenneth Hoglund Wingate 210
REL 318 A Feminist and Contemporary Interpretations
of the New Testament
MW 12:30-1:45pm Mary Foskett Wingate 206
REL 338 A Religion, Ethics, and Politics MW 5:00-6:15pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 363 A The Religions of Japan TR 2:00-3:15pm James Ford Wingate 210
REL 369 A Radical Christian Movements T 3:30-6:00pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 382 A Religion & Culture in China MW 12:30-1:45pm Shawn Arthur Wingate 306
REL 385 A Topics in South Asian Religions:
Hindus, Muslims, & Sikhs in the West
MW 2:00-3:15pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 389 A Islam in the West: Changes & Challenges TR 9:30-10:45am Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 206
REL 390 A Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms TR 12:30-1:45pm Ronald Neal Wingate 206
REL 700 A Theory & Method in the Study of Religion M 6:20-8:50pm Ulrike Wiethaus Wingate 210

 

Fall '14 Upper Level

Department of Religion Fall 2014 Upper Level Courses

REL 200: Approches to the Study of Religion (General Courses)
Prof. Glauz-Todrank, TR 11:00-12:15pm –
What are we talking about when we talk about “religion?” Why and where did the concept “religion” originate? How have scholars defined and examined religion in the past and how have scholarly approaches changed over time? This course will address the how and the why of Religious Studies as a field, focusing on both classical and contemporary approaches. We can classify some of these approaches as sociological, psychological, anthropological, historical, feminist, postcolonial, deconstructionist, and race critical. As we examine scholarly arguments, we will also apply them to concrete situations, highlighting their relevance to the study of religion and to our lives today.

 

REL 312: The Critical Study of the Pentateuch (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Hoglund, MWF 11:00-11:50am –
The Pentateuch or Torah has been the source of religious questions for generations. Containing a mixture of narratives, laws, and songs, the basic concepts of this material has been the basis of modern monotheism. This course is a study of the five traditional books of Moses (the Torah) and the various lines of analysis that modern Biblical critics have used to interpret their composition and meaning. In the process of working through selected texts, questions will be raised about the central assumptions used in interpreting the Torah.

 

REL 318: Feminist & Contemporary Interpretations of the New Testament (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Foskett, MW 12:30-1:45pm –
This course examines the aims, concerns, methods and contributions of feminist scholarship to the field of New Testament studies. Students will engage feminist approaches to the interpretation of select New Testament texts and the construction of Christian origins. The seminar will also examine the contributions of feminist thought to womanist, post-colonial and minority critical approaches to New Testament interpretation.

 

REL 338: Religion, Ethics, and Politics (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ilesanmi, MW 5:00-6:15pm –
The course is an examination of ethical approaches to international affairs and the role of religion in international politics. It explores diverse models for relating ethics to international affairs and specific areas of international politics where ethical questions are likely to arise, especially the protection of human rights, the historical development and contemporary formulations of ethical norms for the use of force, and distributive justice in the global economy. Special emphasis will be given to religion as a source of conflict, religious communities as transnational agents for justice, protection of human rights, and peace; and ethical and religious contributions to reconciliation, solidarity, and peacemaking.

 

REL 363: The Religions of Japan (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ford, TR 2:00-3:15pm –
In Japan—traditional and modern—being religious is in many respects a matter of being Japanese. While this course is a study of the religious traditions of Japan from pre-history to the present, it is also an exploration into how the Japanese people understand the religious dimensions of their own cultural identity.  In addition to examining indigenous Shintō and Japanese folk religion, we will also study the introduction and adaptation of Buddhism (including Zen), Daoism, Confucianism, and Christianity to a distinctive Japanese worldview and context.  The course will combine thematic and historical approaches, with a focus on the functional role of religion in Japanese history and culture. We will spend the last half of the semester studying the popular practice of religion in contemporary Japan. The main goal of the course will be to explore the rich syncretism that has constituted religious practice for most Japanese people.  Finally, this course will also explore general themes relevant to the study of religion, such as myth and ritual, gender issues, particularistic versus universalistic values, religion and the state, and religion and modernity. 

 

REL 369: Radical Christian Movements (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Boyd, Tuesdays 3:30-6:00pm –
A study of selected radical movements in the Christian tradition and their relation to perennial and contemporary social and theological issues. The material we’ll read includes texts by Gnostics, 16c. radical reformers (Thomas Muntzer, John Denck), Quakers, (Margaret Fell),  and nineteenth and twentieth century figures such as feminists/womanists Sarah Grmike &  Jacquelyn Grant, African Americans & Howard Thurman, Native American George Tinker, and Nazi resister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

REL 382: Religion & Culture in China (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Arthur, MW 12:30-1:45pm – This course will explore contemporary religions in China – especially Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and popular/folk religion – and the continued relevance of religion in a region where, until recently, it was outlawed. Grounding our discussions on the fundamental ideas and practices of these social and religious traditions, we will examine a wide range of materials – such as primary source scriptures, images, video, and religious paraphernalia – to trace some of the recent developments that have allowed religion to flourish in China and to reflect on the centrality of religious ideas and practices to Chinese culture more generally. Throughout the semester, we also will pay particular attention to the social and gender issues at the root of the course topics.

 

REL 385: Topics in South Asian Religions: Hindus, Muslims, & Sikhs in the West (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ramachandran, MW 2:00-3:15pm – Because of contemporary concerns about terrorism, misinformation from the media, parodied representations in popular culture, and outright ignorance, individuals with brown skin are seen as  indistinguishable .  This course examines the racialization of  Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism in North America.  Through an analysis of historical documents, immigration laws, mainstream and social media, popular culture, and academic texts, this class explores how religions are racialized throughout Canadian and US history in  political, religious, and social settings. Using a postcolonial and intersectional approach, we will examine how race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class interact to stigmatize or empower certain individuals and/or groups.

 

REL 389: Islam in the West: Changes & Challenges (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. van Doorn Harder, TR 9:30-10:45am – This class introduces the situation of Muslims living in Western, non-Muslim countries, especially in the USA. The material consists of overviews, theoretical analyses, biographical stories, novels, and primary texts produced by Muslims and Muslim organizations. Part of the class is a community-based project for which students connect with Muslims in the Piedmont area and interview them about their background, daily life and how it is to practice their faith in the USA.

 

REL 390: Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. R. Neal, TR 12:30-1:45pm -

 

REL 700: Theory & Method in the Study of Religion
Prof. Wiethaus, Mondays 6:00-8:30pm –
This course will introduce major theorists, theories, and methodologies that have shaped the field of Religious Studies from its inception to the present. The course will enable graduate students to identify strengths and weaknesses of each contribution in its historical context, and, as a consequence, to apply an informed theoretical and methodological set of academic tools to their own individual research projects.  Special emphasis will be placed on cross-disciplinary contemporary perspectives on race, class, gender, and post colonialism. The class will be offered as a discussion-based seminar with the expectation that graduate students will assume active leadership roles in generating a semester-long collaborative learning community.

Tentative '15 Spring Upper Level

REL 310. The Prophetic Literature. (3h, Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Ken Hoglund – Examines the development and theological contents of the literary products of Israel’s prophetic movement.

REL 332. Religion and Public Engagement. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Stephen Boyd – Examines the interface between religious communities and the public sphere, and the potential for social change in contemporary global and local contexts through a range of readings, guest lectures, field trips, and films. Traditions and emphasis may vary with instructor.

REL 335. Religious Ethics and the Problem of War. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Simeon Ilesanmi – Examines the causes and characteristics of war, various religious responses to it, and approaches to peacemaking, with attention to selected contemporary issues.

REL 366. Gender and Religion. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Tanisha Ramachandran – Examines the historical and contemporary interaction between religion and sex roles, sexism, and sexuality. Also listed as WGS 333.

REL 367. Christian Mysticism. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Ulrike Wiethaus – Historical study of the lives and thought of selected Christian mystics with special attention to their religious experience.

 REL 390. Special Topics in Religion. (3h, General Courses)
Prof. Luke Johnston – Religion topics of special interest. May be repeated for credit. Group I-III with department approval. P—POI.

 

Spring '14 Course Schedule

Subj Crse Sec Title Days Time Instructor Location
REL 101 C Introduction to Religion TR 11:00-12:15pm Lucas Johnston Wingate 210
REL 101 D Introduction to Religion TR 2:00-3:15pm Ronald Neal Wingate 210
REL 101 E Introduction to Religion TR 12:30-1:45pm Ronald Neal Wingate 314
REL 102 A Introduction to the Bible TR 9:30-10:45am Jason Staples Wingate 314
REL 102 B Introduction to the Bible TR 2:00-3:15pm Jason Staples Wingate 314
REL 103 A Introduction to Christian Traditions TR 12:30-1:45pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 103 B Introduction to Christian Traditions MWF 10:00-10:50am Earl Crow Wingate 209
REL 103 C Introduction to Christian Traditions MWF 11:00-11:50am Earl Crow Wingate 209
REL 104 A Introduction to Asian Religions WF 11:00-12:15pm Jarrod Whitaker Wingate 314
REL 105 A Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, Islam MWF 9:00-9:50am Ken Hoglund Wingate 209
REL 106 A The Bible In America MWF 11:00-11:50am Mary Foskett Wingate 306
REL 107 A Intro to African Religions MW 12:30-1:45pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 108 A Intro to Hindu Traditions MW 12:30-1:45pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 108 B Intro to Hindu Traditions MW 2:00-3:15pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 109 A Intro to Buddhist Traditions WF 2:00-3:15pm Jarrod Whitaker Wingate 209
REL 110 A Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 2:00-3:15pm Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 209
REL 110 B Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 306
REL 110 C Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 12:30-1:45pm Leah Kinberg Wingate 306
REL 200 A Approaches to the Study of Religion MW 12:30-1:45pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 206
REL 244 A Religion, Terrorism and Violence TR 12:30-1:45pm Lucas Johnston Wingate 210
REL 245 A Religion, Poverty and Social Entrepreneurship MW 5:00-6:15pm Ulrike Wiethaus Wingate 210
REL 317 A Wisdom Literature MWF 11:00-11:50am Ken Hoglund Wingate 210
REL 328 A Jewish-Christian Relations & the New Testament TR 12:30-1:45pm Jason Staples Wingate 206
REL 330 A Pope, Jefferson & Imam: A Study in Comparative Ethics MW 5:00-6:15pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 357 A Jews in the United States MW 2:00-3:15pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 206
REL 362 A Islamic Bioethics TR 11:00-12:15pm Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 306
REL 367 A Christian Mysticism MW 2:00-3:15pm Ulrike Wiethaus Wingate 210
REL 372 A History of Christian Thought T 3:30-6:15pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 386 A Indian Epics: Mahabharata WF 9:30-10:45am Jarrod Whitaker Wingate 206
REL 390 A Religion and Hip Hop TR 9:30-10:45am Ronald Neal Wingate 206
REL 390 B Archeology of Religion & Ritual TR 9:30-10:45am Leann Pace Wingate 210
REL 390 C Jerusalem in the Abrahamic Traditions TR 2:00-3:15pm Leah Kinberg Wingate 306
REL 390 D Religion in the Development of American Higher Education TR 3:30-4:45pm Thomas Frank Tribble B-117

Upper Level Spring Schedule '14

REL 200: Approches to the Study of Religion (General Courses)
Prof. Glauz-Todrank, MW 12:30-1:45pm –
What are we talking about when we talk about “religion?” Why and where did the concept “religion” originate? How have scholars defined and examined religion in the past and how have scholarly approaches changed over time? This course will address the how and the why of Religious Studies as a field, focusing on both classical and contemporary approaches. We can classify some of these approaches as sociological, psychological, anthropological, historical, feminist, postcolonial, deconstructionist, and race critical. As we examine scholarly arguments, we will also apply them to concrete situations, highlighting their relevance to the study of religion and to our lives today. 

REL 244: Religion, Terrorism and Violence (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Johnston, TR 12:30-1:45pm – This course investigates definitions of terrorism and examines religious motivations, justifications and legitimizations of the use of violence in a number of religious systems. Students will explore historical instances of religious violence as well as contemporary terrorism.

REL 245: Religion, Poverty & Social Entrepreneurship (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Wiethaus, MW 5:00-6:15pm – This course will explore the evolving interface between religion, poverty reduction, culture, and social entrepreneurship on an individual and communal scale. The course will integrate theory and practice through a collaborative research project with a community partner and by practicing deep listening and empathy (Einfühlungsvermögen). Social entrepreneurship is a relatively recent concept, yet its roots reach deep into cultural and religious history. Traditionally, religious values and kinship practices have supported social entrepreneurship in distinct regional economic and religious cultures to overcome suffering caused by social stressors such as war, famine, and poverty. The course will ask questions about how traditional forms of religious creativity and social entrepreneurship (e.g., monasteries, alms giving) compare with contemporary manifestations (e.g., prophetic support of labor unions).

REL 317: Wisdom Literature (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Hoglund, MWF 11:00-11:50am –
An examination of the canonical and deuterocanonical wisdom literature of ancient Israel. Specifically, the course offers an in-depth analysis of the books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus). The study will emphasize an understanding of the literary forms in these books, the evidence for growth and development, as well as the interpretive problems raised by these elements. The unique theological insights of Israel’s Wisdom literature will be a continuous concern of the class. A great deal of emphasis is placed on class discussion and interaction.

REL 328: Jewish-Christian Relations & the New Testament (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Staples, TR 12:30-1:45pm –
This course will focus on the long history of rivalry, enmity, persecution, and other aspects of Jewish-Christian relations during the first four centuries, with a few units also dedicated to more recent issues in Jewish-Christian relations and the scholarship thereof, including the rise of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. This course will emphasize a close reading of New Testament and other early Jewish and Christian texts relevant to Jewish-Christian relations. Topics to be covered will include ethnicity in antiquity, conversion, anti-Judaism in the New Testament, Jewish and Christian polemics, the rise of anti-Semitism, and post-Holocaust interfaith developments.

REL 330: Pope, Jefferson & Imam: A Study in Comparative Ethics (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ilesanmi, MW 5:00-6:15pm –
Are human beings capable of creating a good society? Can religious traditions help or frustrate the efforts to create such a society? Is there a difference between religious morality and non-religious morality? What is the difference between Dai Lama or Pope Francis and Thomas Jefferson? How do we give an account of that difference, if any? Do religious people speak the same moral language? What is moral language and how is it like and unlike religious language? What are the advantages and perils of religious pluralism in the effort to construct an ethical vision for society? Is a common ground for morality possible, or even desirable?

The course will examine these kinds of theoretical and practical questions from a comparative perspective.

REL 357: Jews in the United States (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Glauz-Todrank, MW 2:00-3:15pm –
Who are Jewish Americans today? When and why did Jews emigrate to the U.S.? How have Jewish immigrants been transformed by the American context? Correspondingly, in what ways have Jewish cultures, religiosities and politics informed American culture? In the course, we will address these questions, and others, as we think about the dynamic relationship between Jewish Americans and the multifaceted religious and political landscape of the United States.

REL 362: Islamic Bioethics (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. VanDoornHarder, TR 11:00am-12:15pm –
Islamic Bioethics: in this class we will study the principles, duties and rights that are foundational to the way Muslims take decisions concerning bioethical issues. As these decisions are located within the framework of values of the Qur’an, the Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Islamic law, we will look at Islamic texts as well as at modes of Islamic reasoning. Furthermore we will analyze case studies and make comparisons between the modes of bioethical decision-making in the West and in some Muslim majority countries.

REL 367: Christian Mysticism (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Wiethaus, MW 2:00-3:15pm – This interdisciplinary course will explore the nexus between mysticism, religion, place, and history through a selection of foundational medieval and neo-medieval primary texts, films, and select secondary sources. We will consider the boundaries and gateways between the sacred and the secular in places: the desert and the forest, the college campus, the mead hall and the cathedral, the monastery and the open road. We will employ literal and symbolic viewpoints, including mystical, political and gendered experiences of place and soul.

REL 372: History of Christian Thought (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Boyd, Tuesdays 3:30-6:15pm – Why are the disagreements about faith and morals among Christians so strong? Why do some Christians seem to have more in common with people of other faiths, or of no faith,  than they do with other Christians? This course will explore recurring patterns in Christian theological systems that have often been in tension with one another. We will view these patterns in ancient, medieval, reformation and modern figures, analyze some of the implications of the differences, and look for avenues toward unity or, at least, mutual understanding.

REL 386: Indian Epics: Mahabharata (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Whitaker, WF 9:30-10:45am –
As the world’s largest and most well-known epic, the Mahābhārata is 8 times the size of the Odyssey and Iliad combined or 3 times the size of the Bible. It was composed in north India over a long period from 150 BCE to 300 CE. It is a tragic story of fratricidal war between 5 heroic Pāṇḍava brothers, who are the sons of gods,  and their 100 Kaurava cousins, who are demonic incarnations. Along with their co-wife, Draupadī, and their divine councilor, Kr̥ṣṇa, the 5 demi-gods, are driven to an apocalyptic war to regain their kingdom. This course will introduce students to the epic through a translation of the text, film, and secondary readings. In addition, students will learn about ancient India, particularly its social, political, and religious realities at the turn of the first millennium of the Common Era.  Cultural Diversity (CD); Group III: World Religions.

REL 390A: Religion and Hip Hop (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ronald Neal, TR 9:30-10:45am –
This course explores the relationship between religion and popular culture. This course will examine the religious element(s) in hip hop culture. We will examine the various ways in which religious language, images, ideas, rituals, and overall religious sensibilities are expressed in the performance of hip hop. Because hip hop is an intensely visual phenomenon we will pay close attention to the visual dimensions of hip hop, particularly, the body. The body will be treated as a stage for drama and will be read as a religious text. Tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks, and shaved heads are among the embodied aspects of hip hop that we will consider. Moreover, close attention will be given to issues pertaining to gender. We will attend to the dynamics of masculinity and femininity and the manner in which they are expressed in lyrical and visual imagery. Overall, we will examine the ways the work of hip hop artists and producers mirror the influence of religion. To this end, we will interpret hip hop in light of religious traditions such as Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Rastafarianism, and Voodun. At the end of this course, students should have a rich appreciation and multifaceted view of religion, especially as it relates to popular culture.

REL 390B: Archeology of Religion & Ritual (General Courses)
Prof. Pace, TR 9:30-10:45am –
This course will introduce students to the basics of archaeological evidence collection and interpretation and how these processes are employed to reconstruct and understand human religious behavior and experience.  We will also think critically about the role archaeology plays in ongoing political and religious conflicts in the world, as well as how the beliefs and rituals of living ethnic and religious communities should affect the way in which archaeologists deal with material remains associated with these groups.  We will consider questions like:Do intentional Neanderthal burials represent the earliest religious behavior? What happens when archaeological evidence represents a community’s religious practices differently than their sacred texts? Can archaeology contribute positively to resolving the ongoing conflict over sites sacred to Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem?  Is it appropriate for archaeologists to disturb burials in order to gain historical information?

REL 390C: Jerusalem in the Abrahamic Traditions (General Courses)
Prof. Kinberg, TR 2:00-3:15pm –
Jerusalem, which lives in the hearts of vast numbers of people of different religions and cultures, has always been associated with imaginative descriptions and often viewed as the earthly counterpart of the heavenly city of God. Abraham was tested with the command to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah, identified with the Temple Mount, which houses sanctuaries of the three major religions: The Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Via de la Rosa.  For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest site in the world, after Mecca and al-Medina, from which, according to a majority of Muslim traditions, Muhammad ascended to Heaven.  Many Christians believe that the Second Coming of Jesus will take place on the Temple Mount, and possibly, concomitant with the building of the Third Temple. For Jews, Jerusalem is the one and only holy place, to which they face while praying and the name of which is continuously mentioned in rituals and ceremonies. The course will not deal with contemporary aspects or occurrences, but will rather examine Jerusalem as an idea. While dealing with basic events that occurred in the city throughout 3000 years, it will focus on the mythic topoi that have been attached to Jerusalem throughout the years.

REL 390D: Religion in the Development of American Higher Education (General Courses)
Prof. Frank, TR 3:30-4:45pm –
Why were so many private — and a lot of public — colleges and universities started by religious groups in America? What was the connection between religion and a liberal arts education? Why did a lot of colleges drop their religious affiliations 30-50 years ago?  What difference does a university’s religious heritage make in today’s world of knowledge? What role should religion have in 21st century higher education?  These are some of the questions we will explore. Readings include historical surveys, college histories, presidential memoirs, and opinion pieces from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, as well as research reports and analysis of more recent years.  We will also interview leaders from Wake Forest and other local schools to understand the current scene.  This course is cross-listed with HMN282 and HST382.

REL 704: Conceptions of the Ultimate
Prof. Ford, TR 2:00-3:15pm –
Conceptions of ultimate reality, the divine, or sacred in the history of religions may be too numerous to count. The Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses (2004) contains over 2500 entries, undoubtedly a small portion of the total. Hinduism alone boasts a proverbial 330 million deities. God, Yahweh, Allah, Brahman, Vishnu, the Dao, Nirvana, and Emptiness are but a few examples from major world religions. How are we to make sense of this multiplicity? How are we to understand the changing conceptions, symbolic and doctrinal, manifest over time in any given tradition? What are we to make of the fact that, within one tradition, deities who offer personal relationships with devotees function side-by-side with highly transcendent and impersonal conceptions of the Ultimate? Using a variety of methodological lenses (e.g., phenomenological, sociological, philosophical, and theological), this course will study various models of ultimate reality—in their cultural and historical context—found in a range of religious traditions, with special focus on early Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.