||Course Offerings | Religion
Division of Social Studies
Tom McCollough (chair),
Richard Axtell, Beth Glazier-McDonald, Ravi Gupta, David Hall; students: Alex Riffee
Through a wide variety of course offerings and assistance with internships, the Religion Program seeks to fulfill several goals. The first is to acquaint students with the interpretations of religious belief and practice offered by the worlds major religious traditions, especially the Judaic and Christian traditions. A second goal is to develop students ability to reflect critically and independently on these traditions, to gather and interpret research materials, and to articulate their ideas well. A third goal is to encourage students to contribute to society after graduation through participation and leadership in professional, religious, and civic organizations. A final aim is to prepare religion majors for graduate and professional programs in religious studies or theology if their career goals require additional study.
Graduates who majored in religion at Centre have proved themselves to be well prepared for graduate and professional study in religion. They have acquitted themselves well in the nations best divinity schools and graduate departments of religion. Most of the majors, however, go in other directions. They have found the major to be strong general preparation for careers in banking, counseling, law, medicine, theater management, writing, and various organizations in the private and public sectors.
Majors acquire general knowledge in the discipline through survey courses in biblical history and ideas, history of Christian thought, and world religions. They then enjoy unrestricted choice of six upper-level electives. Finally they take the senior seminar. This experience involves them in discussion with the entire religion faculty, and often with visiting scholars, of important current works in the discipline; in the preparation of critical responses to these readings; and ultimately in the production and presentation of a major research paper.
Requirements for the Major
REL 110, 120, 130, 499,
500 and five additional Religion courses numbered 300 or higher.
Requirements for the Minor
REL 110, 130 and five additional
religion courses, including at least three courses numbered 300 or above,
excluding REL 499.
REL 110 Biblical History
A study of the historical setting and development of the Israelite
and early Christian communities, their literatures, and their thought,
as reflected in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.
REL 120 History of Christian Thought
An introductory study of Christian thought in relation to its intellectual
and societal context from its beginnings in the Apostolic Period to the
present day, with an emphasis on certain individuals and movements in
the ancient church, the Middle Ages, the reformations of the 16th century,
and the Enlightenment, and with an assessment of their contributions to
the present positions of Christian thought.
REL 130 World Religions
A study of the beliefs and cultural significance of the major world
religions, with special emphasis on the Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, and
other Far-Eastern and Near-Eastern faiths.
REL 140 Philosophy of Religion
A critical examination of traditional and recent theories concerning
such issues in the philosophy of religion as the existence of God, the
nature of ultimate reality, the nature and destiny of human beings, and
the validity of claims to religious knowledge. (Also listed as PHI 170.)
REL 160 Biblical Hebrew (four credit hours)
An introductory course in reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills.
REL 165 New Testament Greek (four credit hours)
After a review of grammar, this course studies passages from the Greek
New Testament (the Gospels, Acts, Revelation), leading to possible further
course work in Greek epic, tragedy, or philosophy. Prerequisite: CLA 111
or permission of the instructor.
REL 312 Biblical Archaeology
Biblical archaeology examines the archaeological records of the ancient Near East and the ancient Mediterranean as one means of shedding light on the Bible. This course introduces archaeological field methods and surveys a number of archaeological sites and discoveries (e.g., Ugarit, Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Qumran) that have some bearing on the reading and interpretation of the Bible. Prerequisite: REL 110.
REL 314 Literature of the Hebrew Bible
A study of the origins and development of the literature of the Hebrew
Bible, with special attention to historical situations and theological
implications. Prerequisite: REL 110.
REL 315 New Testament Literature
A study of the origins and development of the literature of the New
Testament. Prerequisite: REL 110.
REL 322 Medieval Civilization
A survey of the emergence and development of European civilization
from the decline of the Roman Empire to the 14th century. (Also listed
as HIS 303.)
REL 323 The Ottoman Empire
A study of the rise and fall of the vast and complex Ottoman Empire. The course examines the evolution of central instituitons and leadership, foreign relations, and social and economic change. The course also surveys the development of the beautiful and distincitive forms of Ottoman art and arechitecture. As the head of the Ottoman Empire was also the leader of Islam, the course also affords the opportunity to explore the development of Islam with particular attention given to Sufism. (Also listed as HIS 338.)
REL 336 Reading and Ritual in Hinduism
An exploration of Hindu sacred texts with special attention to their use in ritual, music, film, and festival. Prerequisite: REL 130 or permission of the instructor.
REL 340 Poverty and Homelessness
A study of poverty and homelessness in the United States in light
of major theological and philosophical approaches to economic justice.
Students compare alternative perspectives on root causes of American poverty
and evaluate competing public policy proposals. The course is designed
to create an enlightening encounter with "the other America" through readings, movies, discussions with poor and homeless persons,
interviews with service providers and activists, site visits, and experiential
REL 343 Theories of Religion
An exploration of the manner in which religion is theorized and studied
in a number of different disciplines including, sociology, psychology,
and philosophy. Focus is on theories that have arisen in the 20th century
and remain influential. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120 or 130.
REL 344 Religion and Violence
An analysis of the major approaches to issues of violence, war, and
peace in religious ethical teaching. The course examines the roots of
Christian pacifism, Just War theory and Holy War as well as alternative
theories on the origins of conflict. Students work to develop positive,
practical strategies for conflict resolution informed by the rich resources
available in biblical teaching, theological ethics, and Gandhian philosophy.
REL 345 Christian Ethics and Public Issues
A consideration of the ethical dimensions of contemporary problems of institutional life and social policy in theological perspective. Poverty and economic justice; criminal justice; eco-justice; institutional racism and sexism; and international conflict and peace are among the topics considered.
REL 348 Theological Existentialism
Focusing on thinkers like Soren Kierkegaard, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Gabriel Marcel, this course addresses theological currents within philosophical existentialism. These philosophers and theologians follow the principle existentialist thinkers—Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus—in asserting that existence precedes essence, but argue that this assertion does not rule out the possibility of the existence of God. Prerequisite: One introductory course in religion or philosophy or permission of the instructor.
REL 350 The Holocaust
This course examines the event of the Holocaust by exploring its history and background, its impact on the Jewish community in Europe and worldwide, the responses to the event, and its consequences. The course deals with a variety of disciplinary frameworks, including history, theology, literary studies, and political science. The class will take an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the Holocaust Museum. (Also listed as HIS 322.)
REL 352 Sociology of American Religion
A survey of the main religions and denominations found in the United States . The course examines the competition of denominations and religions in the “religious marketplace.” It further examine how a generalized Judeo-Christian or Biblical religious tradition, as well as the idea of the competition of all the “disestablished” religious institutions itself, becomes part of a broad American civil religion. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or ANT 110 or REL 120 or permission of the instructor.
REL 360 Advanced Topics in Hebrew (four credit hours)
Selected prose readings from both the Hebrew Bible and modern Israeli
writers. Continued emphasis on grammar skills and vocabulary acquisition.
May be repeated. Prerequisite: REL 160. Note: May be applied toward major
requirements only twice and minor requirements only once.
REL 374 Basketball as Religion
A study of the various social/communal activities people adopt as surrogate religions. Examples include sports (college and professional), clubs (the Masons, Elks, fraternities and sororities), political affiliations, etc. (Part of the course requirements include physical activity; students need not be skilled but should be willing to participate.) Prerequisite: One 100-level religion course or permission of the instructor.
REL 453 World Hunger and the Environment
An analysis of the world hunger and ecological crises and of competing
diagnoses of root causes. The course 1) examines alternative economic
theories and related theories of development on issues of poverty and
ecology, 2) compares underlying theological and ideological presuppositions
that shape perception of causes and ethical judgements about effective
solutions and 3) develops theological resources for practical, responsible,
and compassionate actions in the midst of widespread hunger and ecological
REL 454 Religion and Human Rights in a Global Society
An examination of the religious and secular origins of human rights conceptions. Study of primary declarations and documents and comparison of alternative notions of human rights and their theoretical foundations sets the stage for application of key concepts in current debates about genocide and humanitarian intervention, the International Criminal Court, the economic policies of international financial institutions, and the rise of religious fundamentalism.
REL 457 Civil Society and Sustainable Development
A study of alternative theories of social and economic development in the current Latin American context (e.g., Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba). Briefings with officials, interviews with religious and social activists, and visits to rural and urban civil society groups engaged in creative community development alternatives provide concrete case studies for understanding the interrelationship between social, political, economic, environmental, religious, and ethical aspects of a country's development process. Offered in Mexico.
REL 499 Senior Seminar Research (one credit hour)
A course intended to oversee and guide research for the major paper to
be presented in the senior seminar. Senior religion majors only.
REL 500 Senior Seminar