Religion

The study of religion at GW promotes analysis rather than advocacy of religion or a particular tradition. The undergraduate curriculum leads the student to knowledge of the world's religions, their history, literature, and community structure. Areas of study include Biblical literature, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, ethics, sociology of religion, contemporary movements in theology, and religion in American culture.

University Professor S.H. Nasr

Professors A.J. Hiltebeitel, P.B. Duff, R.J. Eisen (Chair), R.W. Tuttle

Associate Professors X. Kang, D. Malone-France, I. Oh Koukios, K. Pemberton

Assistant Professors E. Aviv, J.D. Wood

Professorial Lecturers B.N. Hebbar, E.C. Hostetter, M. Faghfoory, N. Houghtby-Haddon, P. Reddy

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000–4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office

REL 1000. Dean's Seminar. 3 Credits.

REL 1001. Introduction to World Religions: West. 3 Credits.

Examination of the religions of the ancient Mediterranean and the major religions of the West. Religious foundations of Western civilizations. The development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their confrontations with secularization and political upheaval in the modern world.

REL 1002. Introduction to World Religions: East. 3 Credits.

Examination of the major religions of the East and comparison with religions in the West. Approaches to the cross-cultural study of religion. Hinduism, Buddhism, and the religions of Tibet, China, and Japan are studied with respect to their history and their encounter with modernity.

REL 1003. Introduction to World Religions. 3 Credits.

Introduction to the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Examination of the central aspects of these religions including the doctrinal, ethical, ritual, experiential, and social dimensions. Exploration of similarities and differences between these religious traditions.

REL 1009. The Hebrew Scriptures. 3 Credits.

The literature, history, and religious thought represented by the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Continuities and contrasts between Israel and the ancient Near East are considered through study of the world view, oral and literary tradition, main religious ideas, and chief figures and movements of the biblical literature.

REL 1010. The New Testament. 3 Credits.

Literature and history of earliest Christianity in the setting of the religious movements of the Greco-Roman world and developments within Judaism. The meaning of the earliest Christian proclamation about the significance of the life, teaching, and death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes the basis for tracing the formation and expansion of the Christian movement.

REL 1010W. The New Testament. 3 Credits.

Literature and history of earliest Christianity in the setting of the religious movements of the Greco-Roman world and developments within Judaism. The meaning of the earliest Christian proclamation about the significance of the life, teaching, and death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes the basis for tracing the formation and expansion of the Christian movement.

REL 2165. The Canonical Gospels. 3 Credits.

Study of the four canonical gospels (traditionally those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in terms of each presenting a distinct literary portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and each being the product of a religious community that shared at least some beliefs and practices with surrounding “pagan” and Jewish communities.

REL 2169. Lost Gospels. 3 Credits.

Examination of some of the gospels not included in the Christian canon. These include, among others, Q, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Judas. These lost gospels provide a fresh perspective on the development and diversity of early Christianity.

REL 2201. Judaism. 3 Credits.

A survey of Jewish thought and practice from the biblical to the modern period; introduction to the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic Judaism, Jewish philosophy and mysticism, Judaism in the modern period; an examination of the central rituals in Judaism, including Sabbath, dietary laws, and major festivals.

REL 2211. Rabbinic Thought and Literature. 3 Credits.

The thought-world of rabbinic Judaism in its formative period, 100–500 CE, through a close reading of primary texts in translation selected from Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash. Topics include Oral Torah, the mechanics of rabbinic law, conceptions of God, views on suffering. The influence of rabbinic Judaism on modern Jewish ethics and thought.

REL 2301. Christianity. 3 Credits.

Typical themes, patterns, and points of diversity within the Christian religion. Consideration of many perspectives of Christianity in terms of commonly shared as well as contested features, along with its complex relationship with broader culture.

REL 2314. Contemporary Philosophy of Religion. 3 Credits.

The arguments of major figures in contemporary schools of thought within the philosophy of religion, including analytic, continental, deconstructionist, and process philosophy.

REL 2401. Islam. 3 Credits.

Islam as both a religion and a civilization. The basic Islamic beliefs and practices: the Qur’an, Hadith, and Islamic intellectual legacy; and the history of Islam from 632 to the present with particular attention to its encounter with the West.

REL 2506. Religion, Myth, and Magic. 3 Credits.

Theories of religion developed by anthropologists; survey of world religions with emphasis on non-Western societies; religious processes and change. (Same as ANTH 2506).

REL 2562. Mythologies of India. 3 Credits.

The lore of Indian gods (Vedic, Puranic), heroes (epics), and holy men (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Tantric); ties with Indian art, caste, cult, cosmology, and spiritual ideals.

REL 2601. Buddhism. 3 Credits.

Consideration of the Buddhist tradition both thematically and historically, focusing on topics such as Buddhist doctrine, meditation, and rituals. The lived tradition in the pre-modern and modern periods.

REL 2811. Confucian Literature in East Asia. 3 Credits.

Introduction to Confucian literature in China and other parts of East Asia, from its beginnings to the present day. The various historical, philosophical, and religious dimensions of Confucian texts and practices; the role of Confucianism in the formation and development of Chinese and East Asian political systems, family systems, and gender relationships; recent intellectual debates on Confucianism in East Asia. Same as EALL 3811.

REL 2814. Religion and Philosophy of East Asia. 3 Credits.

Historical introduction to the major religious and philosophical traditions in China, Japan, and Korea, with focuses on ancestor worship, shamanistic cults, Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Shinto. The interactions of common East Asian religious and philosophical traditions how these traditions evolved over time, and the way each cultures assimilates foreign elements. How the very ideas of religion and philosophy are formulated and practiced differently in East Asia from those in the Western tradition. Same as EALL 3814.

REL 2921. The Religions Wage Peace. 3 Credits.

Resources in various world religions that contribute to peacemaking in interpersonal relations and in domestic and international politics. Consideration of ways in which religions contribute to intolerance and violence. Case-based approach to religions as related to peace and conflict resolution.

REL 2922. Ethics and World Religions. 3 Credits.

Modern concepts of ethics and their relation to major world religions, religion as stimulus and barrier to moral change, and modern moral issues ranging from bioethics to war.

REL 2981. Women in Western Religion. 3 Credits.

Historical, theological, and ethical investigation of the image and role of women in Judaism and Christianity; special consideration of the Biblical experience, the sexual qualifications for religious office, use of male and female images and languages, and contemporary issues. Same as WSTU 3981.

REL 3141. Second Temple/Hellenistic Judaism. 3 Credits.

History of Judaism from the time of Ezra through the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE—canonization of the Pentateuch, Hellenism, Maccabean revolt, growth of sectarian movements, Herod, ferment against Rome in context of Eastern and Western political currents. Use of primary sources, especially the Bible, Josephus, and noncanonical writings.

REL 3149. Biblical Issues. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 3149W. Biblical Issues. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 3151. Jesus. 3 Credits.

Comprehensive study of the life and teachings of Jesus with critical attention to sources. Quest for the historical Jesus.

REL 3151W. Jesus. 3 Credits.

Comprehensive study of the life and teachings of Jesus with critical attention to sources. Quest for the historical Jesus.

REL 3161. The Life and Thought of Paul. 3 Credits.

Backgrounds of early Christianity, first-century religious and social conditions affecting the spread of Christianity, the life and journeys of Paul, Paul’s presentation of the Christian faith.

REL 3161W. The Life and Thought of Paul. 3 Credits.

Backgrounds of early Christianity, first-century religious and social conditions affecting the spread of Christianity, the life and journeys of Paul, Paul’s presentation of the Christian faith.

REL 3221. Issues in Jewish Ethics. 3 Credits.

Exploration of current debates about major ethical issues among Jewish thinkers in the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform denominations; issues in bioethics, feminism, attitudes towards non-Jews, social action, the ethics of war.

REL 3291. Modern Jewish Thought. 3 Credits.

Jewish thought from 1800 to the present through an exploration of six preeminent Jewish theologians: Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, A.J. Heschel, J.B. Soloveitchik, and Mordecai Kaplan. The relationship between these thinkers and the major Jewish denominations: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist.

REL 3292. Seminar: Issues in Jewish Thought. 3 Credits.

In-depth exploration of a selected thinker or issue in Jewish thought. Recommended for students with academic background in the study of religion or Judaic studies. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 3310. Apocalypse and Social Change. 3 Credits.

Investigation of typical ideas, patterns, and areas of social engagement associated with the genre of religious literature known as apocalypse. Why and how diverse groups within Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions crafted apocalypses that have shaped cultures across the globe from past to present.

REL 3321. Christian Ethics and Modern Society. 3 Credits.

Nature and principles of Christian life as developed by the Christian community; problems of personal conduct; application to various social institutions.

REL 3341. Christianity in the Ancient World. 3 Credits.

Rise and development of Christianity in relation to the culture, philosophy, mystery religions, and general religious life of the Greco-Roman world to A.D. 500.

REL 3342. Medieval Faith and Symbolism. 3 Credits.

Christian life and thought in the Middle Ages; mystics, saints, popes, and philosophers.

REL 3343. Religion in the Renaissance and Reformation. 3 Credits.

Transformation of the Western understanding of human identity and destiny from the end of the Middle Ages to the Age of Reason.

REL 3344. Christianity in the Modern World. 3 Credits.

Changes in Christian life and thought since 1700, as seen in theology, literature, political life, and religious institutions.

REL 3405. Shi'ite Islam. 3 Credits.

This course examines the emergence and development of Shi'ism as a branch of Islamic orthodoxy with particular emphasis on its doctrine, practices, theology, the law, politics, and the geographical and political context within which a distince Shi'i identity developed.

REL 3414. Islamic Philosophy and Theology. 3 Credits.

The major schools of Islamic philosophy and theology, considered in both a morphological and historical manner. The relation between revelation and reason, determination and free will, and divine and human knowledge as well as the relation among science, philosophy, and religion. The development of various schools of thought, from the classical period to the present.

REL 3425. Islamic Political Thought. 3 Credits.

In contrast to many courses on this topic that focus on modern period, this course investigates Islamic political thought from its inception during the lifetime of the Prophet to its elaboration and expansion by philosophers, theologians and political theorists, and to its encounter with political though coming from the Western world in modern period.

REL 3431. Sufism (Islamic Mysticism). 3 Credits.

The foundation of Sufism in the Quranic revelation, its subsequent development, and its significance within Islamic civilization. Doctrines and practices of Sufism; history of the Sufi orders; Sufi literature, particularly in Arabic and Persian. The influence of Sufism upon social and political life and its state and role in the contemporary world, both Islamic and non-Islamic.

REL 3475. Islamic Religion and Art. 3 Credits.

Investigation of major forms of Islamic art, such as calligraphy, architecture, and urban design; Quranic chanting, poetry, and music in relation to the principles of Islamic revelation. Same as AH 4119.

REL 3481. Women in Islam. 3 Credits.

The ways in which Islam has articulated gender identity and male–female relationships, and conversely, how women have constructed, interpreted, and articulated Islam and their places within it. Same as WSTU 3481.

REL 3482. Gender and Piety in Islam. 3 Credits.

Issues related to gender, sainthood, and piety in Islam. Reading of classical primary texts and historical, ethnographic, and philosophical works. Focus on mysticism and metaphysics in Sufi and Shi’i traditions. Final projects are creative or research oriented.

REL 3501. Hinduism. 3 Credits.

Study of continuity and change in Hinduism, with emphasis on historical development and the consolidating features of the religion. Attention to relations between classical and popular living forms.

REL 3566. Dharma in Hinduism and Buddhism. 3 Credits.

Development of working definitions of dharma as it is used in law, religion, ethics, and narrative in Buddhist and Brahmanical/Hindu texts of India’s classical period.

REL 3611. South Asian Buddhism. 3 Credits.

The life of Buddha, the Buddhist Councils, doctrines of the schools of Hinayana Buddhism, philosophies of the schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhism, history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, early history of Tibetan Buddhism, and the decline of Buddhism in India.

REL 3614. Buddhist Philosophy. 3 Credits.

Development of working definitions of dharma as it is used in law, religion, ethics, and narrative in Buddhist and Brahmanical/Hindu texts of India’s classical period.

REL 3666. The Book of Revelation and Other Apocalypses. 3 Credits.

Examination of the Book of Revelation in its original historical context. This includes investigation of the origins of apocalyptic thought within Judaism and comparison of the Book of Revelation with other apocalypses such as Daniel, 1 Enoch, and 4 Ezra.

REL 3701. Religion in the United States. 3 Credits.

Growth of religious groups and institutions in relation to American culture, development of religious thought, and analysis of the contemporary religious scene.

REL 3711. Religion in Contemporary America. 3 Credits.

Trends and currents in American religion in the past fifty years. The nature and meaning of religious pluralism in the United States.

REL 3711W. Religion in Contemporary America. 3 Credits.

Trends and currents in American religion in the past fifty years. The nature and meaning of religious pluralism in the United States.

REL 3814W. Religion&Philosophy/East Asia. 3 Credits.

General introduction to the religions and philosophical tradition of China, Japan, and Korea. Same as EALL 3814.

REL 3831. Daoism in East Asia. 3 Credits.

Study of the early history of the formation and development of Daoism, its growth into an institutionalized religious organization in China, and its role in the religious and philosophical history of Japan and Korea. Same as EALL 3831.

REL 3831W. Daoism in East Asia. 3 Credits.

Study of the early history of the formation and development of Daoism, its growth into an institutionalized religious organization in China, and its role in the religious and philosophical history of Japan and Korea. Same as EALL 3831.

REL 3832. Myth, Ritual, and Popular Religion in China. 3 Credits.

Key aspects of popular religious myths, symbols, rituals, and practices in China, such as ancestor worship, spirit possession, fengshui theories, and pilgrimage.

REL 3841. Religion in Modern China. 3 Credits.

The changes, destructions, and reconstructions of Chinese religions from the late 19th century to the present day. The relationship between the (re)making of Chinese religions and the making of a modern Chinese nation-state. Same as CHIN 3841.

REL 3881. Women, Gender, and Religion in China. 3 Credits.

A historical introduction to the concepts of body, gender, and womanhood in Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, and popular Chinese religious traditions. Women’s roles in religious ritual and practices; the influence of Christianity and modernity. Same as WSTU 3881.

REL 3901. Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion. 3 Credits.

Seminar taught jointly by the faculty of the Department of Religion. Analysis of different ways in which religious phenomena can be approached. Readings and discussion of some of the epoch-making books in the development of the study of religion.

REL 3915. Islam and Hinduism in South Asia. 3 Credits.

Investigation of the historical development and contemporary practice of Islam in South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan). Particular attention to devotional traditions within Sufism and Bhakti Hinduism.

REL 3923. Violence and Peace in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 3 Credits.

Historical analysis of the violent and peaceful dimensions of the three Abrahamic faiths, with focus on the relationship of the scriptures of each of the three traditions to the later interpretations that supported both violent and peaceful readings of those texts.

REL 3931. Interfaith Dialogue in World Religions. 3 Credits.

Comparison of certain families of religions and the doctrinal debates in which they have engaged, including Hindu–Buddhist, inter-Hindu, inter-Buddhist, Buddhist–Confucian, Jewish–Christian, inter-Christian (Catholic–Protestant), Christian–Islamic, and inter-Islamic debates.

REL 3945. The Psychological Study of Spirituality. 3 Credits.

The complex interrelationship between psychology and spirituality: health and wellness; development of a spiritual life; psychological factors involved in spirituality; therapy and multicultural issues. Same as PSYC 3945.

REL 3951. Myth, Epic and Novel. 3 Credits.

Religious themes and images of the hero and their cultural significance in literature: e.g., Indo-European, Biblical, Babylonian narrative traditions; Greek epic and drama; Dante, Milton, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hesse, Faulkner, Beckett.

REL 3989. The Goddess in India and Beyond. 3 Credits.

The goddess traditions of Hinduism, with some attention to goddess traditions in the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean. Classical Sanskritic, Tantric, and popular expressions of Hindu goddess worship. Comparative studies and issues of gender.

REL 3990. Selected Topics in Religion. 3 Credits.

Critical examination of religious phenomena rendered timely by current events or special resources. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 3990W. Selected Topics in Religion. 3 Credits.

Critical examination of religious phenomena rendered timely by current events or special resources. Topic announced in the Schedule of Classes. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 3999. Readings and Research. 2-3 Credits.

REL 4101. Senior Capstone Seminar. 3 Credits.

Required of and open to students majoring in religion.

REL 4191W. Senior Honors Thesis. 3 Credits.

REL 5701. Selected Topics. 0-4 Credits.

REL 6201. Special Topics in Religion. 3 Credits.

May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs.

REL 6401. Islamic Historiographies. 3 Credits.

Muslim historiographic traditions from the 7th to 15th centuries, including what they looked like and how they developed; the development of scholarly methods used to evaluate the source materials for these traditions in the formative and classical periods ofIslam; key developments in postclassical, non-Arabic Muslim historiographic traditions in the Indian Subcontinent, Ottoman Turkey, and the Persian lands.

REL 6402. Qur'an and Hadith. 3 Credits.

The structure, major themes, and literary aspects of the twin sources of Islam. Commentaries written by Muslim scholars and their part in spreading the teachings of the sacred book of Islam. The general principle elements of Islamic theology, law, politics, ethics, philosophy, and art and architecture. The science of Hadith, its types, its relation to the Qur'an, and methods used for authentication of the sayings of the Prophet. The historical role of the Qur'an and Hadith both in classical as well as modem period with particular emphasis on its part in forming Muslim perception of society, history, and politics.

REL 6441. Islamic Law. 3 Credits.

Islamic positive law in the contemporary context. The family law of Islam (marriage, dowry, custody, guardianship and various forms of divorce); the law of inheritance and public trust (waqf) as two selected topics of Islamic private law. Examination of theories of jihad and siyar in the contemporary context of nation-state systems of international relationships. Islamic rituals ('ibadat) whose spirituality prevails the totality of the Islamic set of laws and regulations.

REL 6460. Topics in the Study of Islam. 3 Credits.

Study of sources and approaches to the investigation of Islam by both Western Islamicists and Muslim scholars, with discussion of the main controversial issues and differences in methods used by various schools of scholarship. Prerequisite: A course on Islam or permission of instructor.

REL 6461. Topics in Islamic Thought. 3 Credits.

Perennial major issues in Islamic theology, philosophy, and Sufism such as Divine Unity, prophetology, eschatology, religious knowledge, sacred law, and ethics. Prerequisite: A course on Islam or permission of instructor.

REL 6511. Currents of Modern Hinduism. 3 Credits.

Hinduism since the early seventeenth century. Colonialism, the impact of missionaries, orientalism, reform, relations between Brahmanical and popular Hinduism, Sanskritic and vernacular traditions, regionalism, communalism, nationalism, fundamentalism, politicized “syndicated” Hinduism, and secularism.

REL 6557. India's Great Epics. 3 Credits.

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are treated in alternate offerings of the course. These founding epic texts of devotional (bhakti) Hinduism are taught in English translation. Vernacular and performative versions of the epics and Western adaptations.

REL 6771. American Religion to 1830. 3 Credits.

Religious thought and life during the Colonial and early National periods.

REL 6773. American Religion Since 1830. 3 Credits.

Religious thought and life from the Civil War to the present.

REL 6911. Myth, Ritual and Language. 3 Credits.

Method and theory in the interpretation of myth and narrative, ritual and sacrifice, and symbolism, with primary reference to the history of religions.

REL 6997. Readings and Research. 2-3 Credits.

Investigation of special problems.

REL 6998. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.

REL 6999. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.