icon of a paper next to Apply online text
open door next to gray writing "Visit"
Small icon next to white bg says "Give"
plus sign and gray writing

Religious Studies Courses

Religious Studies Minor CoursesGaudi Cathedral

The Religious Studies minor requires successful completion of core and elective courses. Please contact the Program Director if you have any questions about specific courses offered during each semester.

 

Religious Studies Core Courses

 Religious Studies minor students must complete the following:

 

  • REL 201: Introduction to Religious Studies
Introduction to the academic interdisciplinary study of religion, including the basic concepts and methodologies employed in understanding religion and interpreting religious beliefs, practices and artifacts.

 Topics covered may include historical and contemporary debates on religious issues, morality, the sacred and the profane and related themes.


  • REL 395: World Religions and Spirituality
This course will examine the response of several world religions to the following issues: human origins, purpose (teleology), evil, “redemption” and the “future estate.”
We will also examine how new religions often sprang from attempts to reform preexisting religious structure, necessitating a radical reinterpretation of the older religion’s doctrines and institutions.

 

Religious Studies Elective Courses

Religious Studies minor students select elective courses from different disciplines that reflect their individual interests and advisor recommendations. Elective course options vary each semester. For the electives, students can choose from a developing list of courses from across many disciplines. 

Individual advising is provided so that students’ electives reflect their interests and educational goals.  Independent study with Religious Studies faculty affiliates is also available.

Course offerings include:

Anthropology
  • REL 308/ANT 308      Religion in Social & Cultural Contexts
Examines the dynamic relationship between religion and social institutions, including family, community, and other social and cultural entities. Includes exploration of different religious traditions, religious theory and practice, and the relation between religious belief and historic and contemporary dimensions of race and ethnicity, gender, class, work and governance. Cross-listed as SOC 308, REL 308

  • ANT 348/SOC 348     Catholic Culture in America
Social and cultural overview of Catholic America, and characteristics that distinguish Catholicism in belief and practice. Course examines social controversies surrounding the Catholic Church and its teachings. Cross-listed as SOC 348

  • ANT 366/SOC 366     Religion & Music in the African Diaspora
A comparative and interdisciplinary survey of African-derived religious and musical practices in the Americas, beginning with Haitian vodou and ending with hip-hop. We will examine the historic conditions in which these cultural forms evolved, and discuss how popular attitudes towards African-derived music and religion - often associated with unruliness and loose morals - reflect larger national anxieties about race, class and sexuality.
 
Throughout, we will pay close attention to how different social actors (colonial regimes, the police, anthropologists and practitioners) have constructed African-based religiosity and music as witchcraft, folklore, heritage and roots. Cross-listed as AAS 366, SOC 366
 
 

  History

  •   HST 180     Asian History

This course provides students with an overview of Asian civilization. It traces the formation and transformation of various institutional and cultural patterns in Asia. We will devote much of our attention to India, China, and Japan and give some attention to other Asian countries.

  By learning the historical development of Asian society, economy, culture, religion, and politics, students will obtain a basic understanding of cultural relativity and differing ways of viewing the world and organizing society. Most of major religions in the world were initiated in Asia and social values, norms and ethics in many Asian countries have been shaped by various religions.

  A central concern of this course is to study various religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Daoism, Confucianism, Shintoism and etc. and analyze the impacts of these religions upon India, China, Japan and other Asian countries.


  • HST 328 and 329: Early and Late Middle Ages (Proposed Numbers)
These courses survey life in the Medieval West, with some reference to Asia, from the decline of the Roman Empire to the rise of early modern Europe in the fifteenth century.
Topics include political and economic structures, the institution of the Catholic Church and the papacy, monastic culture and spirituality, art and architecture and its religious symbolism, chivalry, the Crusades, and the role of women in medieval life.
Emphasis will be placed on the analysis and critical evaluation of primary and secondary sources and contemporary debates related to understanding the Middle Ages.

  • HST 302 History of Religion in America I
A survey of early American religion to 1877.  We will examine the role of sectional interests in transforming traditional European, African and native movements into new “American” spiritualities.

  • HST 303 History of Religion in America II
A survey of American religion from 1877 to the present.  Emphasis will be given to the impact of modern social, economic and scientific currents on more traditional approaches to religion.

  • HST 393 Western Man & the Cosmos I
An historical examination of man's interaction with nature. The course surveys that interaction from the prehistoric era to the Scientific Revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Here the cosmos in understood in its broader meaning: it encompasses man's immediate biological and geological environments, but special attention is placed upon the heavenly cosmos.
Culturally, man's understanding of that cosmos is expressed in a variety of ways-through myth, religion, and empirical evidence. A major theme of this course is the complex interplay between "religion" and "science" and how those terms have come to be defined.

  • HST 394 Western Man & the Cosmos II
An historical examination of the rise of science in the West from the high Middle Ages and the Scientific Revolution to the present, in its cultural and intellectual contexts. Here the "cosmos" is to be understood in its schemas of human thought. Central to this course is the theme of the complex interaction between science and religion.

  • HST 332 The Reformation
Traces the reformation movements of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reform. The various strands of this movement were attempts to provide an answer to the fundamental Christian problem: 'What must I do to be saved?'
Students study the answers provided to this question by such thinkers as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Ignatius Loyola. Students discuss how their ideas affected, and were affected by, contemporary social and political affairs, paying special attention to the appeal of their message to women, the urban working classes, and peasants.

  • HST 357 Empires of Central Asia
Survey of the cultures and ethnic groups of Islamic Central Asia (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc.) from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century. Provides an introduction to Islam and the various empires of Central Asia such as the state of Attila the Hun, Arab Empire, Mongol Khanates, Soviet Union and Taliban in Afghanistan.

  • HST 359 History of Terrorism in the Middle East
A broad cultural, religious, political, geographic survey of the historical roots of terrorism in this strategic region. Special emphasis on understanding Osama bin Laden, Iraqi insurgents, 9/11, and trans-national jihadism.

  • HST 397 A History of Christianity to the Reformation
An historical, cultural, and religious study of the emergence of Christianity from its Biblical and Jewish origins through its Greek and Roman influences to the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

  • HST 402 Seminar: Science and Religion: Historical Perspectives

 This seminar is an inquiry into the history of the interaction and relationship between religion and science in the West from the ancient world to the present.  It is primarily treated as an exercise in intellectual history with specific reference to questions of conflict and/or compatibility and the exchange of ideas in the context of social and cultural experience. 

 

Philosophy

  • PHL 325 Philosophy of Religion
Analytical and constructive study of central concepts and essential manifestations of religion. Both historical and contemporary readings are required.
Political Science
  • PSC 366 Islam and Politics
The political and cultural history of Islam. Students will learn about the contemporary revolutionary religious movements in Muslim countries and their effect on world politics.
Special Topics Courses:
Offered as needed to introduce historical and/or current topics or themes in Religious Studies, engaged at an advanced level. The list below describes past and proposed topics. May be repeated with change of content.
  • REL 300/ANT 350 Jews and Judaism
  • REL 300: The Hebrew Bible and Its Influence
This course focuses not only on the content of the Hebrew Bible and its events and people but also on the larger question of what a modern reader is to make of it. This will mean examining several quite different ways and methods of understanding the Bible from a modern scholarly perspective while considering the Bible’s historical context.
  • REL 300/PHL 300 Israel in the Religious Imagination
  • REL 300: Ethical and Religious Responses to the Holocaust

This course discusses the death of 6 million Jews and millions of others at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators during the era of World War II. The Holocaust necessarily represents a serious and radical challenge to Judaism, Christianity and Western Humanism.  How and why did this horrific event occur? How is this event to be understood?  Historical documents, art , literature, and film will be used to examine  the issues surrounding the Holocaust. 

  • REL 300 Women and the Bible
  • REL 300 Religion and Human Rights
  • PHL 300 Buddhism
  • HST 300 History of Islam


For the electives, students can choose from a developing list of courses from across many disciplines.  Individual advising is provided so that students’ electives reflect their interests and educational goals.  Independent study with Religious Studies affiliates is also available.

Please contact the program director with your questions.

Prof. Robert E. Pontbriand, Ph.D.
Director of Religious Studies
History Department
Email: rpontbriand@umassd.edu

Office: LARTS 331
Phone: 508-999-8602

 

QuickLinks

x

+