All RLST undergraduate classes satisfy the Arts & Sciences General Education: DistributionArts & Humanities.

Religious Dimensions of Human Experience

*Required course for all RLST majors
RLST 1620-010 | 3.0
Aun Hasan Ali, MW 1:25–2:15, HLMS 201  (*Note you must also sign up for a recitation section.)   

Surveys different approaches to the study of religion. Students will grow familiar with key thinkers, texts, and movements that shape how we understand religious phenomena. Students will also examine critiques of how religion is studied. In the end, students will have gained insight into significant aspects of religious life, belief, and practice that will empower them to navigate a world in which religion is increasingly relevant.

A&S Core: Ideals and Values

Jewish History to 1492

RLST/HIST/JWST 1818-001 | 3.0
Gregg Drinkwater, TTH 2:00–3:15, HUMN 250   

Focus on Jewish history from the Biblical period to the Spanish Expulsion in 1492. Study the origins of a group of people who call themselves, and whom others call, Jews. Focus on place, movement, power/powerlessness, gender, and the question of how to define Jews over time and place. Introduces Jews as a group of people bound together by a particular set of laws; looks at their dispersion and diversity; explores Jews' interactions with surrounding cultures and societies; introduces the basic library of Jews; sees how Jews relate to political power. 

Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityGlobal Perspective

Holocaust and Global Genocide

RLST/HIST/JWST 1830-001 | 3.0
Thomas Pegelow, TTH 12:30–1:45, HLMS 211

Examines the interplay of politics, culture, psychology and sociology to try to understand why the great philosopher Isaiah Berlin called the 20th century, "The most terrible century in Western history." Our focus will be on the Holocaust as the event that defined the concept of genocide, but we will locate this event that has come to define the 20th century within ideas such as racism, imperialism, violence, and most important, the dehumanization of individuals in the modern world.

A&S Core: Historical Context
Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityGlobal Perspective

Introduction to the Old Testament

RLST/JWST 1900-001 | 3.0
Samuel Boyd, MWF 10:10–11:00, HUMN 1B90

Examine the content of the Hebrew Bible and critical theories regarding its development. Explore the development of these texts, as well as their foundational role for rabbinic literature and the New Testament. Assess the enduring influence of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in world literature and culture (such as in art and music). 

Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityGlobal Perspective


RLST 2202-001 | 3.0 
Aun Hasan Ali, TTH 12:30–1:45, CASE E240

Introduces students to foundational Islamic concepts, texts, core practices, historical narratives and intellectual, spiritual and literary traditions. Topics covered include: the figure of Muhammad; the Quran; the emergence of distinct Muslim identities; Hadith; Sharia; Islamic theology; Islamic philosophy; science in Islamic civilization; Islamic mysticism; the impact of colonialism and modernity on the Muslim world; gender and sexuality; and political Islam.

A&S Core: Ideals and Values
Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityGlobal Perspective
Arts & Sciences General Education: Diversity
U.S. Perspective

The Muslim World, 600–1250

RLST/ARAB 2320-001 | 3.0 
Brian Catlos, TTH 9:30–10:45, MUEN E431

Focusing on the history of the Muslim World in the age of the caliphates (650-ca1200 CE), this course takes an interdisciplinary, comparative approach to the development, tracing the evolution of Islamic religion, society and culture from the era of pre-Islamic Arabia through the “Golden Age of Islam.”

A&S Core: Human Diversity
Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityGlobal Perspective

Religions in the United States - Honors 

RLST 2500-880 | 3.0 
Deborah Whitehead, MWF 10:10–11:00, LIBR N424A

Explores the development of various religions within the shaping influences of American culture, including separation of church and state, the frontier experience, civil religion, and the interaction of religions of indigenous peoples, immigrants, and African Americans.

** Enrollment restricted: Enrollment allowed for first-year A&S students invited into the Honors Program for the current academic year (not including Honors RAP students) and continuing A&S students with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.30. Email with questions.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

RLST/JWST 2600-001 | 3.0
Samuel Boyd, MWF 12:20–1:10, MUEN E432

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Abraham is described as a founding figure. In recent times, the label “Abrahamic Religions” has become increasingly important both as a way to describe the origins and beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and as a means for finding common ground in political and religious discourse. Yet in each religion Abraham is also used in strikingly different ways and for distinct purposes. In this course, we will look at these three religious traditions and how each one imagines Abraham. In particular, the focus will be on how each religion uses Abraham to construct foundational stories of a special relationship to God, stories that ultimately serve to promote religious identity over time.  

A&S Core: Ideals and Values
Arts and Hum: Ways of Thinking

Yoga: Ancient and Modern

RLST 2612-001 | 3.0 
Loriliai Biernacki, TTH 2:00–3:15, HUMN 150

What is yoga? Is it a way to get enlightened? A way to get washboard abs? This class looks a yoga through its many transformations, from its beginnings in ancient India 3500 years ago to its present forms in the West, in American yoga studios. We look at key ideas in yoga, its links to ideas of the body and conceptions of karma. We explore the many varieties of yoga techniques developed throughout its long history, from practices with the breath, to working with the mind, to postures designed to make the body stronger, with a view to understanding both the history of yoga and its impact on a mental and physical level.

Paganism to Christianity

RLST 2614-001  CLAS 2610-001 | 3.0 
Celene Lillie, MWF 9:05–9:55, KTCH 1B71

Offers a cultural history of Greek and Roman religion. Students read ancient texts in translation and use evidence from archaeology to reconstruct the shift from paganism to Christianity in antiquity. No Greek or Latin required. 

A&S Core: Ideals and Values

Women and Religion

RLST/WGST 2800-001
Celene Lillie, MWF 10:10–11:00, HUMN 135

What is a woman?  What is religion?  How does the answer to one inform the answer to the other?  In this course, we will explore a range of literature from ancient Greek and Roman mythology to first and second century Jewish and Christian writings alongside contemporary readings from Buddhist, Muslim, Indigenous, and Christian traditions.  To frame these explorations, we will engage theories of gender and religion, particularly the ways in which they intersect with race, class, and violence.

A&S Core: Human Diversity
Arts & Sciences General Education: DiversityU.S. Perspective
Arts & Hum: Lit & Humanities

Christian Traditions

RLST 3000-001 | 3.0
Brian Catlos, TTH 11:00–12:15, HLMS 141

What are Christian Traditions?
Many would say that Christianity defines western culture and society. Media figures constantly reference “Christian values” and “Christian traditions.” But what are the origins of Christianity? Have Christian values and traditions been constant over time? And what are the forces that shaped Christian beliefs today. Over the course of the semester RLST 3000 traces Christianity from its remotest origins in ancient Mesopotamia, through the time of Jesus and the Church Fathers and on through the age of Crusade to the Reformation and the Wars of Religion -- the dawn of modern Christianity. 

A&S Core: Historical Context

Foundations of Buddhism

RLST 3300-010 | 3.0
Dan Hirshberg, MW 10:10–11:00, HUMN 250  (*Note you must also sign up for a recitation section.)

This course provides an introduction to Buddhist thought and practice in the variety of its historical and cultural contexts. We begin with the story of the Buddha, his teachings, and the early Buddhist community in India. We then trace the expansion of the Theravada to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia with a focus on the role of images and relics in Buddhist ritual and kingship. Next, we consider the rise of Mahayana in India including the bodhisattva ideal, key doctrinal concepts of emptiness and buddha nature, the cosmology of buddha lands, and the Buddhist path in Mahayana contexts.

Asia Content

God and Politics

RLST 4170/5170-001 | 3.0
Elias Sacks, TH 3:30–6:00, HUMN 270

Does God have anything to do with politics, and does political life have anything to do with God?  This course will explore diverse approaches to these questions, examining accounts of the relationship between religion and politics in ancient, medieval, and modern sources.  We will devote special attention to the implications of these accounts for a variety of contested issues, such as the status of religious minorities, the nature and purpose of the state, and the role of religion in contemporary debates surrounding topics such as torture, climate change, sexuality, and economics.  We will focus primarily on Jewish and Christian sources, while also placing this material in conversation with works drawn from other traditions.

Topics in Hinduism: Gandhi: Social Engagement and Spiritual Philosophy

RLST 4200/5200-001 | 3.0
Loriliai Biernacki, T 3:35–6:05, HUMN 270

Gandhi accomplished something in the 20th century that had never been done before. He overthrew the greatest, most expansive empire the world had ever seen with a “bloodless revolution.” His method of social, political engagement, what he termed “satyagraha” – “hanging on to truth” has forever changed the way we think about how ordinary citizens can change the course of a nation. His methods offered a way for marginalized groups of people, those without power, on the outside, to help shape the life of a nation.  Many others have followed in his path, using his methods, including Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the student activists protesting the Parkland shooting, and recently, climate activists like Greta Thunberg. This course looks at how Gandhi himself understood his method of “hanging on to truth.” We will look at how Gandhi connected his belief system to his social activism, and especially we will look at how Gandhi articulated his social goals in light of spiritual concerns and his idea of religion.

Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion

RLST 6830-001 | 3.0
Holly Gayley, W 3:35–6:05, HUMN 270

What is the academic study of religion? What do we mean when we talk about “religion,” and what does it mean to adopt an “academic” approach to this subject? This course will explore diverse approaches to these questions, providing an introduction to a wide range of methodological options and theoretical perspectives in the field of religious studies. We will devote attention to topics such as the relationship between practice and belief, the promise and perils of comparing different religious traditions, and the role of the body and materiality in religious life. We will also examine the complicated history and political stakes of the field of religious studies itself, wrestling with issues including the role of colonialism in forging a comparative approach to religion, the development of concepts such as “religious” and “secular,” and the role of political advocacy in scholarly work.