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'Cult' Controversies in America (HA)

In this course we examine a variety of new religious movements that tested the boundaries of acceptable religion at various moments in American history. We pay particular attention to government and media constructions of the religious mainstream and margin, to the politics of labels such as "cult" and "sect," to race, gender, and sexuality within new religions, and to the role of American law in constructing categories and shaping religious expressions. We also consider what draws people to new religions and examine the distinctive beliefs, practices, and social organizations of groups labeled by outsiders as "cults."

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld
Religion and Social Change in Early Latin America (HA)

In this course, we will grapple with the many paradoxes in the historical role of "religion" in people's lives and society in colonial Latin America. Subjects will include: religious change; Native American cosmologies; Indigenous Christianities; women and men's daily encounters with church institutions and their participation in devotional culture; historical dynamics of race, gender, and spiritual status; and the changing relationship between the church and state.

Instructors
Jessica Delgado
Zen Buddhism (CD or EM)

Most people have heard of Zen Buddhism, but what is it? Who gets to define it? This class looks at Zen in China, Korea, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States through a range of methods from reading classic texts to studying ethnographic accounts. By considering Zen in different times and places, we explore how a religion is shaped by its political and cultural environs. We examine tensions between romanticized ideals and practices on the ground and grapple with how to study complicated and sometimes troubling traditions. Topics include myths, meditation, mindfulness, monastic life, gender, war, and death.

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Zen Buddhism (EM)

Are Zen and other religions stable entities with identifiable essences? Or do they lack a core, gradually vanishing as each layer is peeled away? Do they take on different forms in relation to cultural and power configurations? Or can they themselves shape social and political structures? In order to understand these questions and ask better ones, we will examine Zen in diverse contexts, including China, Japan, Korea, Germany, and the United States, to consider the tensions between romanticized ideals and practice on the ground. We will grapple with studying complex religious traditions with complicated and sometimes troubling histories.

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Buddhist Philosophy (EM)

An introduction to the Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition from the time of the Buddha until its decline (c. 400 B.C.E - 1200 C.E.). Topics include Buddhism's view of the world, the person, and the path to nirvana; equanimity, compassion and meditation as core elements in Buddhist ethics; early Buddhist metaphysics; the doctrine of "emptiness" and its various interpretations in the Great Vehicle schools; Buddhist epistemology and philosophy of language; and modern attempts to apply Buddhist philosophy to contemporary philosophical issues.

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
The Theology of Thomas Aquinas (EM)

The course is to serve as an introduction to the theology of one of the greatest minds in the Western Christian tradition, Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274). Based on his most systematic work, the Summa Theologiae as the main source, the course will cover some of the central themes of his theology, mainly through readings of the primary source itself, and some secondary readings. Thomas Aquinas has in recent decades become a source common to most of the mainstream Christian theological traditions. Aquinas is an essential resource for any who simply want to study a dominating intellectual force within the wider cultures of the Western middle ages.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Religion and Ethics in the Anthropocene (EM)

The term Anthropocene is meant to mark a decisive shift in the human relationship to the earth. The challenge posed by the Anthropocene is not only technological and political but also ethical and religious. In light of the growing human impact on earth's climate system, many have questioned the role of religion and challenged the adequacy of our ethical thought. This class will explore the resources of religion and ethics for confronting the Anthropocene and also consider how the Anthropocene might require us to think differently about religion and ethics.

Instructors
Ryan M. Darr
God and Humanity in Catholic Thought (EM)

The goal of this course is to examine different ways of thinking about God and humanity in the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition, focusing on the Spanish world. We will draw on four figures: St. Theresa of Avila, Francisco Suarez, Jon Sobrino, and Gustavo Guttiérez. We will first examine their views about the nature of humanity, next about the nature of God, and finally about how the two relate, with special attention to the issue of seeming divine indifference to the suffering of the innocent.

Instructors
Daniel K. Rubio
Harlots and Heroines: Readings in the Books of Esther and Ruth (SA)

We will read the books of Ruth and Esther in the original Hebrew, considering aspects of translation and Hebrew grammar and syntax, as well as the historical, literary and religious contexts of the books. Particular attention will be paid to the role of women in the larger societal context of ancient Israel, as well as the development of the genre of the Jewish novella in the Second Temple Period.

Instructors
Laura E. Quick
Religion and Modern Moral Philosophy (EM)

The story of the development of modern moral philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is inseparable from religion. This course explores the role of religion in that story. We will consider, among other things, the relationship between morality and divine intellect and will, the possibility of moral community between God and creatures, the moral significance of evil, and the moral significance of divine providence. In addition, we will consider how the logical space of moral philosophy changes when religious convictions are rejected and what difference that makes for the legacy of modern moral philosophy.

Instructors
Ryan M. Darr
Mystical Theologies in the Western Christian Traditions (EC)

The noun "mysticism" is of recent invention, the most common traditions of theorizing about it today derive from William James' Varieties of Religious Experience. Older vocabularies go back to the very beginnings of Christian reflection, see Andrew Louth's Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition. In this course we will be reading from selected texts in the Christian mystical traditions, from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century to Elisabeth of the Trinity in the nineteenth, women and men in equal numbers, leaving theoretical issues about the nature of "mysticism" to the end.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Mandalas: Theory and Application in Tibetan Buddhism (SA)

The very first Tibetan Buddhist and mandala in the west was constructed (and ceremonially destroyed) in 1988 at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Tibetan Buddhist mandalas have since become a more familiar visual image to most westerners. Nevertheless, few are aware of the philosophical connection between their visually powerful aesthetic aspect and their soteriological function. In this course, students learn the theory and application of Tibetan Buddhist mandalas as they look into exactly how and why they make such a strong impression in hearts of Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Instructors
Christopher Kelley
Kierkegaard: Religion, Philosophy, and Existence (EM)

This course is an in-depth examination of the authorship of Søren Kierkegaard and his call for an existential revision of religious, theological, and philosophical inquiry. With focus on the dynamic, but complex relation between religion and philosophy in his writings, we will consider topics such as the relationship of ethics and religion; paradox and the limits of philosophy; the task of selfhood; faith and reason; subjective vs. objective thought; the concept of existence; the religious individual in society and culture; neighbour love; freedom, sin, and despair, and critique of state religion.

Instructors
Elizabeth X. Li
Christians and Incarceration (HA)

Christianity and incarceration have a long and storied history. One way of telling the history of Christianity is through its changing relationship to the carceral practices and geographies. The course explores the changing relationship between Christians and carceral practices and geographies throughout its history, beginning at the origins of what became Christianity in 1st century Palestine and ending with the 2017 Alabama State Legislature's passing of a bill allowing churches to police their communities.

Instructors
Matthew Larsen
Hindu Ethical and Political Thought (EM)

A course in questions of justice, civic virtue, and good governance, as addressed by Indian thinkers ancient and modern. Is politics a realm of ethical action? What are the ideal virtues of a king or minister? What legitimate justifications for violence are there, if any? Should we be concerned primarily with duties (deontology) or the effects of our actions (consequentialism)? Course readings include the Mahabharata, The Law Code of Manu, Gandhi's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, B.R. Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste, and V.D. Savarkar's Hindutva: Who is a Hindu.

Instructors
Andrew J. Nicholson
Religious Existentialism (EC)

An in-depth study of the existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, Martin Heidegger, Hans Jonas, and Emmanuel Levinas. Most broadly, we will consider arguments about the relations between philosophy and existence, reason and revelation, divine law and love, religion, ethics and politics, and Judaism and Christianity. More particularly, we will focus on arguments about the meanings of different affective and cognitive states such as anxiety, boredom, and enjoyment as well as about historical and individual suffering and trauma.

Instructors
Leora F. Batnitzky
Religious Existentialism (EC)

An in-depth study of the existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. The course begins with a reading of Ecclesiastes and then focuses on the category of "existence" in its relation to time, revelation and eternity. The course also focuses on the existential meanings of different affective and cognitive states such as anxiety, boredom, and enjoyment as well as historical and individual suffering and trauma.

Instructors
Leora F. Batnitzky