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Interfaith Studies

Course Descriptions

Interfaith Studies Courses


IFS 100 Understanding the Bible (RP) (4.00 SH).

IFS 130 Religion, Terror, and Violence (RP) (4.00 SH). Is religion unavoidably connected with violence? How has religion been used to motivate and justify violent conflict, aggression, and persecution? Does religion have a greater power to make war or to make peace? Scholars take a wide range of stances on these central question about the relationship between religion and violence. This class will study critical theories about religion and violence and compare them to historical data. It is organized around four modes of violence: 1) martyrdom and redemptive suffering, 2) the violence of social stratification and "othering," 3) traditional, political war and 4) apocalyptic and spiritual warfare. Case studies include early Christian martyrs, the American Civil War, attacks on abortion clinics and on theTokyo subway to clarify patterns and types of religious violence. Classes will consist of discussion, debates, films, and student presentations and explore the representation of religion and violence in the media, literature and film.

IFS 131 Faith and Science (RP) (4.00 SH). This course is a general introduction to and an exploration of various matters regarding faith and science. The main springboard for the course will be the writings of C. S. Lewis that discuss and provide critical reflection on topics like atheism, the Big Bang theory, Christianity, culture, evolutionary theory, imagination, logic, myths, rationality, reason, religion, secularism, science, spirituality, theology, and theory. As an atheist who converted to Christianity to become its most significant defender in the twentieth century, C. S. Lewis continues to be relevant, perhaps even more so than in his time, for understanding the relationship between faith and science in a religiously pluralistic and increasingly secular world. Even though his reflections are from a Christian (and European) perspective, they provide a nexus of questions that can help all people from all perspectives think more clearly.

IFS 160 Understanding Christianity (RP) (4.00 SH). This introductory course will cover basic questions about Christianity and its continuing significance: What is Christianity? How have various Christians expressed and explained their faith in different times and places? How have they related to the rest of the world and the issues of the day (e.g., today’s concerns about equality, feminism, politics, racism, multiculturalism, relativism)? Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 162 History of Religion in Russia(RP) (4.00 SH). An introduction to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, with particular attention to how it evolved and was celebrated in Russia. Students will explore the dogmas, liturgy, iconography, and history of the Orthodox Church; and attention will be given to the relationship between the Church and the State, particularly under communism. Students will also be asked to compare Orthodoxy with Western Christian traditions and with their own notions of worship and religious expression. Also listed as HIS 253. Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 171 Religion in the Western World (RP) (4.00 SH). The Western World is dominated by the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This course inspects the contents and the histories of these traditions as well as other less well-known traditions such as Zoroastrianism, indigenous traditions of Africa and America, and the New Religious Movements of the modern era. Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 172 Religions from India (RP) (4.00 SH). Hinduism and Buddhism are the major, but not the only, religious traditions to have emerged from the Indian sub-continent. This course studies the histories, narratives, rituals, scriptures, concepts, and meditative practices of the religions of India, including their increasing influence in our own society. Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 173 Religion in China (RP) (4.00 SH). Religious practices in China are a mixture of Daoism, Confucianism, Chinese Buddhism, and folk traditions, although Christianity and Islam are also present. The interactions of these traditions through China’s long history is a fascinating insight into the human behaviors that we call “religion.” Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 174 Religion in America (RP) (4.00 SH). This introductory course examines the ways religion has influenced the United States from the colonial period to the present. As well as the characteristics of the country’s diverse spiritual traditions, four interconnected themes are addressed: religious pluralism, religious freedom and its relationship to state power, individual spiritual experience, and social reform and religion. How, at various times, have these themes reflected, contradicted, inspired, and reinforced broader dynamics in the American past? Meets Religious & Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 176 Religion and Art (VP) (4.00 SH). Religion and art are intimately connected. Visual arts such as painting and sculpture express and enhance religious narrative, but more—music, dance, drama, and all performative and productive arts are seen as somehow giving access to the Extraordinary. How can art “express the inexpressible”? What might this tell us about religion? Meets Visual and Performing Arts Intellectual Perspective requirement (VP).

IFS 177 Religion and Society (RP) (4.00 SH). A study of contemporary religious beliefs, practices and organizations, primarily in the United States, as they derive from and influence a social context. Significant study of the Old Order Amish, as well as of the debate about secularization, the increased importance of evangelical Christianity, and new religions. Prerequisite: One lower-level sociology course or permission of instructor. (Also listed as SOC 303). Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

IFS 260 Text and Meaning (4.00 SH). Hermeneutics is an interdisciplinary study of interpretation. It examines how human beings experience the world and life as intelligible. We will ask fundamental questions regarding such intelligibility: What is a text? What is a context? What is language? What is meaning? Can everything we perceive be considered texts, including people and the world itself? What are the principles and methods of understanding the world of human “objects”—i.e., forms of human expression such as paintings, laws, literature, music, and religions? Prerequisite: Junior or senior status or permission of the instructor.

 

Supporting Courses


HIS 253 History of Religion in Russia (RP) (4.00 SH). An introduction to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, with particular attention to how it evolved and was celebrated in Russia. Students will explore the dogmas, liturgy, iconography, and history of the Orthodox Church, and attention will be paid to the relationship between the Church and the State, particularly under communism. Attention will also be given to a comparison of Orthodoxy with Western Christian faiths. Meets Religious and Philosophical Though Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).

SOC 303 Religion and Society (RP) (4.00 SH). A study of religious belief systems, organizations, and movements as they derive from and influence a social context. Attention is given to the debate about secularization and to the increased importance of evangelical Christianity and new religious movements. Prerequisite: Four semester hours of sociology or criminal justice studies coursework or permission of instructor. (Also listed as IFS 177.) Meets Religious and Philosophical Thought Intellectual Perspective requirement (RP).