Catalog 2016-2017

Religious Studies

Teaching Faculty

Professors Harris, McDaniel, and Sanders 
Associate Professors Gorvine (chair) and Williamson

Description

Major in Religious Studies

10 courses distributed as follows:

  • RELI 110 The World's Religions: An Introduction
  • A concentration of three courses, selected in consultation with the student's departmental advisor, that achieves a deep coverage of a particular religious tradition or set of related issues in the study of religion.  The concentration should cohere in such a way as to define and inform the student's particular interest in a tradition, a topic or a method of studying religion.  The concentration must include at least two courses in Religious Studies (one of which must be at the 300 level or above) and may include one course in other related disciplines or interdisciplinary programs (e.g., anthropology, art history, classics, English, gender studies, history, philosophy, politics, sociology).  The concentration must be finalized in writing by the end of the year prior to graduation and must be approved at that time by both the student's departmental advisor and the chair of the department.  Once the requirements for the concentration have been agreed upon in this manner, no changes may be made to the concentration unless, in extraordinary circumstances, such changes are approved by both the student's advisor and the department chair, in consultation with the department as a whole. 
  • Four elective courses in Religious Studies demonstrating learning beyond the area of concentration.  
  • RELI 395 Approaching the Study of Religion 
  • RELI 497 Senior Colloquium
  • 5 of the above courses must be 300-level or above

Note(s):

In addition to the courses, an Odyssey project in any category demonstrating engaged learning applicable to the student's concentration in the field of religion, selected in consultation with the student's departmental advisor.

Senior Capstone Experience

The Senior Capstone Experience for the religious studies major centers upon the successful completion of RELI 497 Senior Colloquium.

Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Minor in Religious Studies

6 religious studies courses, including 2 at the 300-400-level.

Program Course Listings

The courses for this program are organized into the following categories:

Religious Studies Courses

RELI 109

Religion and Contemporary Culture

What is the relationship between religion and contemporary culture? How are religious identities, faiths, and traditions, along with alternative forms of spirituality, community, or moral vision, shaped by and expressed within contemporary social institutions, the arts, politics, and public discourse? This course introduces students to different ways religion intersects with culture and society, introducing students in the process to various ways religion impacts the world, and the variety of ways people relate to the possibility of being religious.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 110

The World's Religions: An Intro

This course introduces students to the teachings, practices, spiritualities, and histories of many world religions. The religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous traditions. Since this course introduces Asian religions in an abbreviated way, students who take this course may also take RELI 111 Introduction to Asian Religions.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 111

Asian Religions: An Introduction

This course introduces students to religious traditions rooted in Asia. It examines sources to help students recognize and understand the many ways in which Asian religious communities have attempted to understand the nature of the world, human society, and the individual’s place therein. It includes narrative and philosophical texts, ritual practices, religious experiences, social relationships and historical developments. Since this course does not include Abrahamic religions, students who take this course may also take RELI 110 The World’s Religions: An Introduction.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 112

Exodus

This course examines the content and significance of this influential book in the Bible. It offers a focused way of beginning to learn about biblical literature by examining one book that has shaped countless generations of Jewish and Christian thinkers and that has deeply influenced Western literature. Attention is given to the various genres contained in the book and how its message can be relevant to today. The course provides some basic hermeneutical skills as well as promote a positive attitude towards Torah.

Literary Studies LS
RELI 121

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew I

An introduction to the basic grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew, intended for students who wish to gain reading proficiency in the language of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Cross-listed as HEBR 110.

RELI 122

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew II

A continuation of RELI 121. By the end of the course students read extended narrative texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as well as some poetic texts. Cross-listed as HEBR 120.

RELI 123

Introduction to Hebrew Bible (OT)

An introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), employing the methodologies of academic biblical scholarship. Attention is given to the major texts, characters, and themes of the Hebrew Bible, with consideration of both the literary character of the text and its relationship to the historical context of ancient Israel.

Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 124

Intro to the New Testament

This course is an introduction to the New Testament, employing the methodologies of academic biblical scholarship. Attention is given to the major texts, characters, and themes of the New Testament, with consideration of both the literary character of the text and its relationship to the historical context of early Christianity. Some attention is also given to the noncanonical texts of early Christianity, including the Gnostic Gospels.

Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 210

Native American Religions

A journey into the religious worlds of the first Americans to find out how religion and life coalesced and how the distinctive ways of life of the various tribes produced diverse religious traditions, which were connected by common perceptions of the humans’ relationships to the world and to each other. In depth study of selected tribes from a variety of geographic regions promotes an understanding of how the relationship of a people to a place shapes their worldview and way of life.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 211

African American Religions

An analysis of the role of religion in the African American community, along with a survey of key themes in the religious thought of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present, with special attention to figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and theologians such as James Cone and Delores Williams.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 213

Yoga: Tradition & Modernity

What is yoga, and what, if anything, does the practice that some 16 million Americans perform in studios and gyms, spas and ashrams have to do with the religions of India? This course surveys a variety of recent scholarship on the cultural history of yoga in the context of ancient Indian traditions, and also looks at colonial era and contemporary innovations that have contributed to the mass cultural phenomenon that might arguably be called India's greatest cultural export. Readings include early and medieval texts typically associated with yoga, such as the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and later tantric material, and we also consider the work of early cultural ambassadors, major modern interpreters and contemporary advocates.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 216

Judaism

An exploration of contemporary forms of Jewish beliefs, practices, thought, and culture, set within an historical overview. Emphasis is on the spectrum of Jewish self-identities and the lived texture of the worldwide Jewish experience in its various expressions, constructed in both the “great” and “little” traditions. This course is a deepening and expansion of ideas introduced in RELI 110 The World’s Religions: An Introduction, which is recommended as a prerequisite, but not required.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 218

Buddhist Contemplation

Central to the Buddha's teachings was a presentation of meditation practices designed to calm the mind and evoke insight into the nature of reality. Over time, Buddhist contemplative culture has come to encompass a variety of techniques, such as breathing meditation, cultivation of mindfulness, altruism, compassion, visualization, and recovering innate intelligence. This course introduces how Buddhist meditative states have been linked to doctrine and practice in different historical and cultural contexts. It invites students to participate experientially in an investigation of methods associcated with different Buddhist contemplative traditions, many of which have been researched and adapted for a variety of uses in contemporary secular society.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 222

Chinese Religions

A survey of the major religious traditions that have shaped Chinese culture: Confucianism, Taoism/Daoism, and Buddhism with some consideration of the minority traditions that constitute elements of contemporary religious life in China, including Islam, Christianity, and selected ethnic beliefs and practices. Themes such as ancestor worship, sacrifice and divination, ethics, meditation, and longevity techniques enrich an understanding of some characteristics of Chinese ways of experiencing the self, society, and the world.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 223

Introduction to Hinduism

This course is designed as an introduction to the myriad forms of South Asian religious expression designated as “Hinduism.” The course surveys Hinduism’s historical roots and developments, philosophical and ritual innovations, social and ethical ideals, and influential works of literature, relying on both primary and secondary sources. The latter part of the course centers on issues of ongoing relevance to modern-day tradition, analyzing, for example, Hindu understandings of religious art and worship, influential works of modern Indian fiction, and current scholarship on contemporary issues and communities.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 225

Introduction to Buddhism

This course is an introduction to Buddhism, spanning its origins in India, its spread throughout Asia, and its arrival in the West. The course explores the core doctrines, practices and key historical developments that have shaped the Buddhist tradition in India; considers the ways this tradition has been assimilated in an Asian context; and finally reflects upon the perspectives of leading Buddhist writers and practitioners on the relevance of Buddhism for modern society.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 227

Skeptics in Scripture: Eccl & Job

Even within the Bible itself, we find people struggling with the apparent meaninglessness of life, the injustice of the world, and the triumph of evil over good. This course examines two of the most profoundly skeptical voices in the Hebrew Bible—the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. Students consider the relationship of each text to the issues of its own day, as well as examining how they have been received, reflected, and reinterpreted in contemporary art, film, literature, and music.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 228

The Gospels & Literary Theory

Students engage in close readings of one or more of the New Testament Gospels. While some attention is given to historical context, the focus is on the Gospels as literature and on the role of the reader in the production of meaning. Students engage the text from the perspectives of contemporary literary theory, including such theoretical frameworks as gender theory, queer theory, and postcolonial theory.

Literary Studies LS
RELI 230

Early & Medieval Christianity

The development of Christian thought and institutions from 100-1500 CE. Discussion of questions surrounding the formation of orthodoxy, the interplay between religion and politics and the variety of ways in which Christians practiced their faith.

Historical Perspectives HP
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 231

Modern Christianity sn Reformation

A survey of Christian thought and institutions from 1500 to the present. Special attention is given to the Protestant Reformation and the ongoing impact of cultural trends on Christian beliefs and practices.

Historical Perspectives HP
RELI 233

Jesus through the Centuries

Who is Jesus and what did he accomplish? This course surveys the widely divergent answers in history including the gospels, the early church councils, the modern search for the historical Jesus, and contemporary portraits.

Historical Perspectives HP
RELI 238

Tibetan Buddhist Culture

This course begins with how Tibet and Tibetan religion have been conceived and depicted in scholarship and in contemporary culture, and proceeds by exploring key elements of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, cultural history, and socio-religious diversity. The course addresses the assimilation of Indian Buddhist thought and the development of Tibetan traditions. The course considers the interface of religion and politics in Tibet, the development of sects, and the historical rise of monasticism. The course assesses vital ongoing traditions of ‘popular’ or ‘folk’ religion and it concludes by considering contemporary issues of religious revival and identity among modern Tibetans.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 243

Contemporary American Religions

An attempt to understand and to analyze what contemporary social institutions, the arts, politics, and ideas reveal about Americans’ religious perceptions regarding such questions as the means of human fulfillment, the state of the world, and the nature of religious or spiritual experience.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 245

Amer Religions: A Historical Survey

Historical approach to America’s diverse religious traditions that contribute to America’s religious pluralism from selected Native American religions to the American experiences of contemporary Muslims and Buddhists. The course also traces the historical developments of the varieties of Judaism and Christianity in the United States. A key question is “How has religion shaped the history, culture, and sense of place of the American people?”

Historical Perspectives HP
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 270

Ecotheology:Reli, Animals & Earth

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries an important form of religious thinking is emerging called ecotheology. It involves exploring how spirituality is connected with an appreciation of the earth and its many forms of life and how the earth needs to be protected from excessive exploitation. There are Christian versions of ecotheology, Jewish versions, Buddhist versions, and many others, including feminist versions called ecofeminism. This course looks at a wide variety of forms of ecotheology. A component of the course focuses on human relations to animals, with attention to the animal rights movement and constructive religious responses to it.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 280

Topics: Issues in Religious Studies

This course engages students in understanding the complexity of religion through acquaintance with a topic chosen from among the areas of world religions, biblical studies, Christianity, religion and culture, and philosophy of religion and theology.This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Recent section topics include Buddhist Contemplation; Rock, Roll & Religion; The Bible in Black and White, Religion and Popular Music. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 314

Globalization & Religion

This course focuses on the dynamics of globalization as they affect people's religious and spiritual self-understandings. Particular focus is on modernization in Latin America and China. For China, emphasis is placed on an intellectual movement in China called "Constructive Postmodernism" which seeks to integrate Western and Chinese ways of thinking into a single whole. Emphasis is also placed on the rise of Christianity and Buddhism, and on the orientations of people who think of themselves as "spiritually interested but not religiously affliated." For Latin America, discussion centers on the concept of syncretism, both in an historical context and in contemporary society, and on the ways in which religious affiliation connects to other aspects of an indivdual's social identity. Cross-listed as ANTH 314.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 317

Religion and Politics

An exploration of historical perspectives on the nature of the relationship between religion and politics as evident in such concepts as “the separation of church and state,” disestablishment, and “the free exercise” of religion, combined with an examination of factors that have altered the religious and political landscapes, in particular some important Supreme Court decisions. Also involves an analysis from a variety of perspectives some pressing issues facing American people.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 327

Race, Gender,Empire & the Bible

The course explores contemporary methods in biblical interpretation such as feminist criticism, postcolonial criticism, critical race theory, and queer theory. While some attention is given to scholarly works employing these theories and methods, the focus of the course is on students developing their own interpretive abilities. The specific biblical texts considered varies by semester. Prerequisite: RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended.

RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended.
Literary Studies LS
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 328

The Bible and/as History

This course considers the sources and methods used by scholars to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel, including biblical texts, archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern epigraphy, among others. Attention is given to contemporary scholarly debates over the history of Israel, particularly concerning the extent to which the Bible may be considered a reliable historical witness. Prerequisite: RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended.

RELI 123 or RELI 124 recommended.
Historical Perspectives HP
RELI 330

Religion, Gender and Sexuality

Issues related to women’s roles in religious institutions and questions about the nature of women’s spiritual lives and experiences are considered along with questions related to the ways that religious traditions have understood the nature of human sexuality.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 331

Revelation and Resistance

This course examines the New Testament book of Revelation as a call to for resistance to Empire in both its historical context and today. Attention is given to both the literary and historical contexts of Revelation within the early Christianity of the Roman Empire. More contemporary interpretations of Revelation are considered, including popular “End Times” prophecies, among others. The course requires engaged learning outside of the classroom, exploring what “resistance to Empire” may mean in Conway, Little Rock, and beyond.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 332

Concepts of God

What is God like? Should God be understood as a person or a force? How is God related to the world? This course surveys primarily Western thinkers from the times of the biblical writers, through Plato, Aristotle and early Jewish and Christian sources to the development of modern atheism and beyond it to contemporary understandings of God. Issues such as evil, human responsibility and prayer are discussed in relation to divine power and knowledge. Cross-listed as PHIL 332.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 334

Buddhist Sacred Biographies

What makes for a life well-lived from a Buddist persepctive? How do literary works portray the lives of highly accomplished Buddhists? Beginning with the Buddha, this course explores the life-stories of ideal monks, masters and meditators, examining the religious values, literary practices and cultural dynamics evident in religious biographies over the centuries and across Asian traditions. We also consider the relationship between biographical texts, historiography, and the act of venerating living Buddhist figures both historically and in the contemporary world.

Literary Studies LS
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 335

Shamans & Spirits

What does the idea of the shaman tell us about indigenous peoples, their religious identities, and their cultural practices? Who or what are spirits, and how do they function amidst ordinary life and in times of crisis, illness, and healing? And how do people who "shamanize" understand and represent themselves in the present context? In addressing these questions, this course examines various ways in which anthopologists, historians of religion and others - including native people themselves - have attempted to articulate and interpret the dimensions of global indigenous culture deemed "shamanic." In the process, the course considers contemporary perspectives on the value and problems associated with comparative studies, ethnographic representation, and intercultural communication; examines ethical and philosophical issues in light of cross-cultural (mis)understandings of healing modalities; and discusses contemporary shamanism as an aspect of popular culture.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 336

John Wesley & Methodism

A study of the life and thought of John Wesley followed by a survey of the leading people, organizations, ideas and practices of the Wesleyan tradition in America.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 337

Contemporary Buddhist Thought

In the twenty-first century Buddhists are developing ways of thinking and approaches to life that are intended to be relevant throughout the world. Some contemporary Buddhist thought engages in dialogue with the natural sciences; others stress the relevance of Buddhism to environmental concerns; still others emphasize the role that Buddhism can play in enabling people to live spiritually in an age of consumerism. Focus is on contemporary Zen and Tibetan writing. The course includes an engaged component that involves undertaking a regular practice of breathing meditation or doing a creative art project.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 339

Contemporary Islamic Thought

In the twenty-first century Muslims are developing ways of thinking and approaches to life that are intended to be relevant to contemporary Muslims and the wider world. Some build upon the mystical traditions of the Muslim past, especially Sufism; some build upon what they call “liberal” or “progressive” currents of more recent Muslim history, seeking to show how Islam can promote freedom of thought, democracy, respect for the rights of women, appreciation of science. Other strands of contemporary thinking emphasize that Islam provides a constructive alternative to Western ways of thinking.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 346

Contemporary Christian Thought

A survey of the key thinkers, issues and movements that shaped Christian thought in the twentieth century. The course studies the rise of Protestant liberalism, the Neo-Orthodox reaction (e.g. Karl Barth) and the contemporary proliferation of different types of theology such as liberationist, feminist, process, evangelical, and Asian.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 358

Theology in the Flesh

Topics such as God, sin, salvation, morality, meaning, and truth are examined in light of the interdisciplinary field known as cognitive linguistics. Students are first introduced to the key ideas of cognitive linguistics such as embodied cognition, image schemas, radial categories, conceptual metaphors, and cultural frames. This approach to human cognition is then applied to biblical and theological concepts.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 370

Philosophy of Religion

Study and evaluation of classical and contemporary arguments regarding such issues as the nature and existence of God, the nature of religious faith and its relationship to reason, the meaning and epistemic value of religious experience, the “problem of evil,” and the relationship between religion and morality. Cross-listed as PHIL 370. Prerequisite: a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.

a previous course in philosophy or consent of instructor.
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 392

Process Philosophy/Theology

In the twentieth century a form of philosophy emerged called “process philosophy.” Influenced by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, it sees the whole world as a dynamic process of becoming, emphasizing that all living beings are dependent on all others, and that even God is “in process” along with the world. This course introduces students to the philosophy of Whitehead and its religious expressions, with special focus on Christian process theology. The course also includes ways process philosophy is being applied to contemporary social issues.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 393

Inter-Religious Dialogue

There can be no peace in the world unless there is peace among religions. This course explores ways in which people of different religions approach one another at theoretical and practical levels. The course introduces various Christian approaches to inter-religious dialogue, both liberal and conservative. The course then introduces Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish approaches to dialogue. The course includes hands-on component in which students develop and facilitate inter-religious dialogues in central Arkansas.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 394

Mysticism, Meditation and Prayer

This course focuses on religious experience rather than on doctrine or belief. Mysticism lies in experiencing the presence of natural world, invisible spirits, the divine reality, or the fathomless source of life in the immediacy of the present moment. Prayer lies in listening to a divine reality and communicating with that reality through various emotions. Meditation ranges from quiet, to shamanic experiences in which one pays attentions to disclosures of the unconscious, to dancing and gardening. The course introduces students to mysticism, meditation, and prayer as they are found in world religions, and to the spiritual disciplines involved. It includes an engaged component in which students spend one day fasting and one day in silence.

Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 395

Approaching the Study of Religion

This course, a prerequisite to RELI 497 Senior Thesis, prepares students to conduct advanced research and undertake critical thinking in the academic study of religion. Students examine several major theorists who have historically defined “religion” as a field of academic inquiry, and who represent a variety of methodologies for understanding it—including psychological, sociological, phenomenological and anthropological approaches. The course also considers issues of theoretical importance in the present-day study of religion, considers the relationships of religious studies to philosophy and theology, and introduces students to several major areas of current scholarly research.

Writing Level 2 W2
RELI 410

Topics in Asian Religions

An intensive analysis of a critical issue in the study of Asian religion. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Recent topics range from a thematic treatment of religious phenomenon across more than one tradition (e.g., Pilgrimage, Saints and Sages, Death and Afterlife, Gender and Status) to an in-depth study of particular texts and traditions (Hindu Epic and Devotional Literature, Tibetan Meditation). Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Junior standing and two courses in religion or instructor’s consent. Recommended: one of either RELI 110, 121, 221 or 223.

Junior standing and two courses in religion or instructor’s consent.
one of either RELI 110, 121, 221 or 223.
Special Projects SP
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 440

Topics in Biblical Studies

A topics course in Biblical studies. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Consent of instructor.
Historical Perspectives HP
Literary Studies LS
RELI 450

Topics in Religion and Culture

A topics course in religion and culture. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Consent of instructor.
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 460

Topics in Phil of Reli & Theology

A topics course in the philosophy of religion and theology. This course can be repeated for additional credits as long as the section topics are different. Check the online course schedule for information about the topics currently scheduled to be taught. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.

Consent of instructor.
Values, Beliefs and Ethics VA
RELI 497

Senior Colloquium

The colloquium is a writing intensive course that functions as the capstone for the Religious Studies major. At the judgment of the department, the course consists of either (1) a thesis project involving substantial individual research or (2) a seminar in which students write one or more significant papers. Philosophy and Religious Studies majors and interdisciplinary studies majors who have taken RELI 395 Approaching the Study of Religion may elect this course for their senior capstone.

Writing Level 2 W2
Back to Program Course Listings

Question about the Catalog?