Print Page


Chair: Associate Professor Radine
Associate Professor: Denton-Borhaug; Assistant Professor: Naraghi; Faculty Associates: Gal, Peucker

In the Department of Religion, faculty and students study the religious traditions of the world and explore the nature and function of religion in human experience. Through multidisciplinary methods engaging sacred texts, theology, ritual, belief, culture, history and more, we investigate the ways religion enriches and complicates the lives of people as a major source of people's values, ideals, and practices. Students acquire skills in thinking and reading, speaking and writing, and learn how to approach and understand cultures radically different from their own.

The Major in Religion

Religion faculty advisors will work with students to develop an individualized program of study including: 1) exposure to a variety of religious traditions; 2) opportunities for study with all the departmental faculty; and 3) learning and practice of diverse methods of religious study. A major in religion consists of nine course units from among the following areas. No more than four 100-level courses may count toward the major. (Any exception to this will require approval of the chair). All majors are required to enroll in Religion 370 and 385 in their senior year (fall and spring semesters, respectively.) See below for the requirements regarding areas of study required for the major.

Three courses overall in:
   Abrahamic Literature Religion 112, 114, 115, 116, 217, 226
   Historical Studies Religion 125, 126, 223, 224, 227, 266
Four courses overall in:
   Theological Studies Religion 121, 131, 215, 253, 255, 261, 264
   Religion and Culture Religion 110, 133, 136, 225, 248, 251, 253
   Ethics Religion 165, 210, 211, 240, 245, 246, 250, 263
   Independent Study Religion 286, 381-384
   Internship Religion 288, 386-388
   Honors Religion 400-401
In the senior year:
   Seminar Religion 370 (fall semester)
   Directed Reading Religion 385 (spring semester)

The Minor in Religion

The minor in religion consists of Religion 370 plus four course units selected with the approval of the advisor. Not more than two 100-level courses may count towards the minor.

The Interdepartmental Major

The six courses of Set I of the interdepartmental major include Religion 370 plus five other courses. These five religion courses and the six courses of Set II are selected by the student with the approval of the advisor. Two distribution areas in addition to advanced studies in religion must be studied in Set I.

Opportunities: Additional Study and Careers

Students may enroll for religion courses at other LVAIC institutions or take additional classes at Moravian Theological Seminary.

Religion majors and minors go on to become teachers, pursue law, diplomatic, social and counseling services, journalism and business, while others pursue careers as religious leaders or become active in the non-profit sector. Some pursue graduate studies in religion or other fields.

Courses in Religion

110. What Is Religion? Students will attempt to arrive at their own "thick descriptions" regarding the nature, meaning, and phenomenon of religion(s) and religious experience. Introduction to psychological, theological, sociological, and anthropological methods in exploring the ways religion functions in the lives of individuals as well as in the construction, maintenance, and daily life of societies. Engagement in cross-cultural comparison and contrast. (M4)

112. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Examination of how the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was written and what its original meanings were, using the tools of historical criticism, archaeology, and religious history. The diverse religious perspectives within the text will be explored. Knowledge of the Hebrew language is not expected. (M3)

114. Jesus and the Gospels. Exploration of what we can know historically about the life and activities of Jesus. Comparison of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, so that their separate messages and emphases can be discerned. Gospels that present different views of Jesus and his teachings but were not included in the Christian Bible will also be studied. (M3)

115. Major Themes in the Qur'an. The historical background within which the Qur’an appeared. Characteristic features of Qur'anic worldview. Topics of study include Qur'anic views of God, God-human relation, God-world relation, and ethico-religious concepts. The course addresses different approaches and methods of interpretation in the tradition of Qur’anic exegesis and explores various challenges the Qur’an faces in the modern era, such as feminist challenges and the issue of violence and human rights. (M3)

116. Paul and Early Christianity. Movement of earliest Palestinian Christianity into the Hellenistic world, studied through a focus on the Book of Acts and on the life and letters of the Apostle Paul. Historical methods for study of the Bible as a whole. (M3)

121. Introduction to Roman Catholic Thought. An introduction to the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity. Use of historical, sociological, theological and ethical methods to explore the development of the Roman Catholic Church, its social structures such as the Magisterium, its ecclesiology, doctrines, rituals, and body of social teaching. The focus will especially address the concerns, experience, and practices of contemporary U.S. Catholics. (M3)

125. Introduction to Islam. A survey of the ideals and practices of Islam across its history. It includes ritual, theological, philosophical, mystical, ethical, and political dimensions of Islam. Special attention is given to Islam's primary message and its implementation in the life of Muslims. (M3)

126. Judaism. An introduction to Jewish religion, culture, and history. The course will explore major Jewish textual resources (the Jewish Bible, rabbinic commentaries, philosophy, and mysticism) as well as Jewish religious lifeways such as worship and holidays. The diversity of Jewish cultures and languages, Jewish political nationalism (Zionism), as well as the complex and ever-changing question of Jewish identity will also be studied. (M3)

131. Jesus Saves? Salvation Metaphors in Christian Thought. Introduction to the pluralism of Christian images, metaphors, and theories of salvation. Students will read ancient and modern theological texts, and learn from visual art, film, and literature. In addition to conducting theological investigation, students will explore the social and historical underpinnings of various salvation metaphors as they occur in various cultures and epochs. (M3)

133. Native American Religions. Traditional myths, rituals, and life-cycle ceremonies of native American peoples, representing several geo-cultural regions of North America. Attention will also be paid to issues of medicine and healing, gender relations, ecological values, and indigenous responses to threats of physical and cultural genocide. Fall, alternate years. (M5)

136. Seeing and Believing: Women, Religion, and Film. (Also Women's Studies 136) Students explore how films appropriate religion in the service of the cultural production of images of women and women's lives; and investigate the ways the creation and viewing of film might share similarities with the construction and practice of religion. (M3)

165. Life Walk of Justice:  Introduction to Peace and Justice Studies.  (Also Interdisciplinary 165, Sociology 165.)  In this course students will be encouraged to identify and analyze (in)justice in our own lives, communities and world.  In addition to course readings, we will use the contemplative practices of memoir and walking as resources for critical thinking.  A majority of the course will involve students developing responses to (in)justice through various projects that reflect students’ own passion and design, including academic, artistic, political, social, service-oriented, and personal responses. (M3) 
Denton-Borhaug, Jasper

210. Christian Ethics. A careful reading and discussion of representative texts in Christian ethics, with particular emphasis upon the distinctiveness of Christian ethics, Christian faith and social responsibility, the relation between Christian ethics and Christian theology, and the diversity of Christian ethics among the various Protestant and Catholic traditions. (U2)

211. Christian Ethics and War. How should humans respond to the perennial human problem of war? This course provides an introduction to ethics from Christian perspective through focus on this social issue. Students will be exposed to a wide spectrum of responses, including pacifism, nonviolent direct action, just war theory, Christian realism, warrior ethics, and more; and will develop their own ethic as their final project for the semester. (U2)

213. Christian Theology. Who/What is "God"? What is "Christology" and where does Jesus of Nazareth fit in? How do Christians understand "the church," "the human person," and "ultimate hope"? Why is there such a literature as “Theology” and what is its purpose? In this course, students will have the opportunity to understand an extremely important aspect of Christian tradition by exploring the nature of Christian theology by gaining exposure to it “from the inside out.” Reading Christian theology as literature, we will study some diverse examples of Christian theology. Along the way of our study, we will think critically about the classic structure of systematic Christian theology and its loci, focus on the ultimate questions it raises and explores, think about the contexts and questions of the human beings in different times and places that have been compelled by it, and compare and contrast very different expressions of the genre of “theology”. (M3)

215. Christian Theology. Major issues within mainstream Christian faith, with attention to God, the nature of Christ, death and the ultimate Christian hope.

217. Paul through Jewish and Christian Eyes. An introduction to the complex, perilous and fascinating world of New Testament biblical interpretation through focus on the writings of Paul of Tarsus. We will explore the robustly debated topic of how to understand Paul, his letters, and his theology through study of the history of Christian antijudaism and antisemitism, exposure to contemporary biblical criticism, archeology, and other scientific findings, and via service learning. (M3)

223. Religions of India: Hinduism and Buddhism. An introduction to the basic beliefs and practices of Hinduism and Indian Buddhism through the study of primary sources. Secondary sources will be used to examine popular Hinduism and contemporary South Asian Buddhism. (M5)

224. Religious Thought of China and Japan. A study of the Confucian, Daoist/Taoist, and Buddhist traditions and their contribution to the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual life of East Asian cultures. Local traditions will also be discussed. (M3)

225. Pilgrimage: Searching for God in a (Post)modern World. Pilgrimage: Searching for God in a (Post)modern World. This course will provide students with the opportunity to study and reflect on the relationship between Christian thought and (post)modern life. We will look at the way supposedly “secular culture” makes reference to “signals of transcendence,” and expresses longing for spiritual meaning, focusing on the changing nature of “pilgrimage” and its relationship to religious authority, theology, spiritual conviction, tourism and movement, and the role of culture. Students will embark upon their own pilgrimage as a part of their class work, in addition to studying diverse sites and pathways of pilgrimage (secular and religious) in the U.S. and world (M3)

226. From Prophecy to Apocalyptic. An exploration of the phenomenon of prophecy as a social institution as known in the ancient Near East as well as prophetic literature in biblical texts. The development of apocalyptic thought in Judaism and Christianity will be studied, up to the book of Revelation. (M3)

227. Ancient Near Eastern Religion. A study of the religions of the ancient Near East, this course will explore the myths and rituals of the peoples of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt before the Roman era. Foundational to western civilization in general, these religions also form the cultural context and background for the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (M3)

231. Atheism. Atheism is the belief that there is no God or gods. This course is a systematic and sympathetic examination and critical evaluation of atheism. It is primarily focused upon understanding contemporary arguments against theism, such as arguments from evil and divine hiddenness; sociological and psychological theories about the origin of religion (e.g., Freud and Durkheim); and the implications of atheism with respect to the questions of moral values, the meaning of life, and possibility of immortality. (U2)

240.  Religion and Feminist/Gender Studies. (Also Women's Studies 240). Students study methods from feminist and gender studies to explore the intersection of women's lives and experience, and traditions of  Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  We investigate the personal and political through case studies that address issues such as leadership/ritual roles in diverse institutions; religious text/law; image(s) of  the divine; gender, violence, and "religious extremism"; religion and the body; and feminist theological exposition.

245. Religion and Politics. What is "civil religion"? This course examines the relationship between religious ideas and values, and political structures, decision-making, and culture. Topics include the historical background of civil religion in the U.S., church-state relations and the First Amendment, the role of religion in politics post 9/11, the intersection of politics, religion and race, and other current issues. (U2)

246. War and Peace in the Biblical World. This course will explore ideologies of warfare and other forms of sanctioned mass violence, as well as ancient hopes and expectation for peace. Ancient Near Eastern texts and practices will be studied in addition to biblical texts. (U2)

248. Topics in Religion and Literature. How the religious dimension of human experience is expressed and interpreted in literature, with focus on a particular author, group of writers, theme, or school of critical interpretation. Identification and evaluation of the way human religious experience is articulated through the literary imagination, whether classical, modern, or contemporary.

250. Environmental Philosophy. An overview of the ethical, metaphysical, cultural, and political issues involved in understanding humankind's complex relationship with the natural world and with other-than-human animals. Examines positions and philosophies of radical environmentalists, environmental ethicists, animal-rights advocates, and political ecologists. Fall, alternate years. (U2)
Canteñs, Falla

251. Modern Jewish Religious Movements. Modern Judaism exists in a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices, from ultra-traditionalism to secular humanism. This course will explore both the making of modern Judaism and the religious "map" of Jewish life today. Topics will include Hasidic Judaism, Zionism, and contemporary North American trends in Judaism. (M5)

253. Philosophy of Religion. (Also Philosophy 253) The nature of religion and beliefs concerned with existence, nature, and knowledge of God, with alternative positions to theism. (U2)

255. Latin American Liberation Theology. Introduction to the study and practice of liberation theology in the Latin American context through classroom study of the history, method, and content of liberation theology. Our purpose will be to investigate how this movement emerged and the effects it continues to have culturally, politically, religiously, and personally. All students and professor will embark on a travel seminar during Spring Break to the border region between Mexico and Arizona. (M5)

261. Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Mysticism. (Also Philosophy 261) An exploration of key notions and figures in Islamic philosophy, theology, and mysticism. Some issues embedded in the enormous body of scholarship in Muslim intellectual heritage are employed to examine current global issues such as the struggle for justice and peace and the fight against violence and absolutism. Special attention is given to the structure of Being, the notion of the truth, and the way to attain the truth in the three systems. (M5)

263. Civil Rights and the Moral Life. (Also Interdisciplinary Studies 263) Many forces and ideas shaped the civil rights movement. Through both a historical and a theological/philosophical lens, students will examine those forces and ideas and will consider how the power and depth of the movement continues to challenge us with its continued relevance today. The course includes in-close examinations of key events in the movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Nashville sit-ins, in order to view the movement from the vantage of people involved in the movement. (U2)

264. Science and Theology. Is it (im)possible to hold religious beliefs and convictions, and simultaneously to be a modern person of science?  This course will examine the interface between science and theology from a variety of perspectives.  We will explore key questions and supposed conflicts between science and religion, emphasizing the interaction between the two, how science impacts religion and vice versa.  A capstone paper, a Credo, will ask the student to reflect on how one’s understanding of scientific theories affects his/her beliefs about certain key religious ideas such as Creation or human nature.  Prerequisites:  Junior or senior class standing. (U1)

266. History of the Early 18th Century Moravians.  This course explores the history of the Moravians as an 18th-century transatlantic community. Their communities are an interesting example of 18th-century intentional communities. How were their congregations organized? What did Moravians believe, and how does this relate to other religious groups? How did they perceive their own history, and how did Moravians record history? Eighteenth-century Moravians were highly controversial; we will take a look at some of the polemical writings. In the course we will also explore issues of gender, race and sexuality. (M1)

310. Methods in Religious Study. Historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, comparative, and theological methods used in scholarly study of religion. Readings drawn from classical and contemporary interpreters of religion. 

370. Seminar in Religion. Selected topics significant in current religious studies, drawing together several themes or methods within religious studies and posing issues of broader interdisciplinary significance. Required for majors, minors, interdepartmental majors, and open to others by permission of instructor. Spring, alternate years. Two 70-minute periods. Writing-intensive.

385. Directed Study in Religion. A required course for religion majors. Students will select and conduct an individual research project under the direction of a faculty member. Ideally the student will have already taken Religion 370. The first part of the course will be focused on methodology.

190-199, 290-299, 390-399. Special Topics.

286, 381-384. Independent Study.

288, 386-388. Internship.

400-401. Honors.