Religious Studies

Requirements & Courses

  • Religious Studies examines the way a person or community makes sense out of life (world views) and the way a person or community acts out and lives in a world view (practices). The study of religion includes (1) exploration of the nature and meaning of the religious dimensions of human experience; (2) study of the major traditions which remember and transmit religious experience and expressions; (3) encouragement of an inquisitive, analytical and open approach to multiple religious perspectives; and (4) exploration of the ethical frameworks in various religious perspectives. Many graduates of Alma’s Religious Studies program have continued their studies in graduate schools or seminaries. Others have entered church work, chaplaincies, teaching, social work agencies, personnel offices, communications, journalism, law and business or have volunteered for service in VISTA and the Peace Corps.

  • Major Requirements
    1. Thirty-six credits in Religious Studies including REL 100 and 400.
    2. Remaining program of study will be constructed on an individual basis in consultation with members of the department.
    3. Foreign language study (either ancient or modern, depending on the student’s academic interests) is strongly encouraged for all majors.
  • Minor Requirements
    1. Twenty-four credits in Religious Studies including REL 100 and 400.
    2. Remaining program of study will be constructed on an individual basis in consultation with members of the Department.
  • Four credits from REL, with the exception of practicum or independent study courses, count towards the Distributive Requirements in the Humanities.

Courses

  • REL
    100
    .
    Introduction to World Religions
    4 credits
    An introduction to the histories, major figures, sacred texts and belief systems of selected “world religions” such as Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and/or newer religious movements such as Mormonism or Baha’i Faith.
  • REL
    101
    .
    Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
    4 credits
    Introduction to the Hebrew Bible from its origins to the Babylonian Exile (587-6 B.C.); focuses on history, literature and interpretation. Examination of assumptions and methodology.
  • REL
    102
    .
    Introduction to the New Testament
    4 credits
    Introduction to the New Testament, its history, environment, literature and interpretation. Formative years of Judaism and growth of the Christian community.
  • REL
    103
    .
    Vocation in Christian Traditions
    4 credits
    Examination of history of Christian thought and traditions from early church through modern period. Analysis and interpretation of selected documents.
  • REL
    130
    .
    Creation Stories and the Religious Traditions
    4 credits
    Examination of diverse creation myths from many cultures and the role cosmologies play in forming a culture’s worldview.
  • REL
    150
    .
    Good Life in World’s Religions
    4 credits
    Examination of what constitutes a good life according to Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
  • REL
    180-*380
    .
    Topics in Religion
    4 credits
  • REL
    181-*381
    .
    Topics in Biblical Study
    4 credits
    Topics may include Torah, Paul’s Letters, Prophetic and Wisdom Literature, Synoptic Gospels, and/or Biblical Ethics and Social Problems. May be repeated for credit for distinct topics.
  • REL
    202-*302
    .
    Women, Gender and Religion
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    This course addresses questions about women in various religious traditions and examines the ways feminist theory interacts with the study and practice of religion. (Cross listed with PHL 202.)
  • REL
    205-*305
    .
    Christianity
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    An introduction to Christian thought and practice from the first century to the present. Course includes reading, discussion, and written analysis of a variety of primary and secondary texts; individual and group work; off-campus site visits; and/or academic service learning.
  • REL
    206-*306
    .
    Reformation
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    An examination of the theological debates surrounding the Protestant and Catholic Reformations of 16th century Europe. Includes reading, discussion, and written analysis of various primary and secondary texts.
  • REL
    207-*307
    .
    Religion in America
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Examination of history of religious thought and traditions in America. Analysis and interpretation of selected documents. Non-traditional forms of religion also included.
  • REL
    210
    .
    Biblical Ethics and Community Service
    4 credits
    Examines the Biblical ethic which underlies the religious understanding, worship and community service of Jewish and Christian religious communities. Opportunities to participate in community service agencies and programs.
  • REL
    215-*315
    .
    Philosophy of Religion
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Examination of classical and contemporary issues in the philosophy of religion such as arguments for and against the existence of God, religious language, the relation between faith and reason, the evidential value of religious claims, and the relationship between morality and religion. (Cross listed with PHL 215.)
  • REL
    216-*316
    .
    Existentialism
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Examination, evaluation and discussion of selected subjects — the individual, freedom, responsibility, anxiety, hope, death, meaning of life — as treated in various essays, short stories and dramas. Focus on analysis and interpretation of texts. (Cross listed with PHL 216.)
  • REL
    217-*317
    .
    Eastern Philosophy and Religion
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Exploration of the major religious traditions and philosophical systems of the Far East: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. History, thought and contemporary role of these non-Western religions and philosophies. (Cross listed with PHL 217.)
  • REL
    219-*319
    .
    Judaism and Islam
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    An examination of Judaism and Islamic thought and practice from the formative periods to the present, including contemporary debates. Includes reading, discussion, and written analysis of various primary and secondary texts.
  • REL
    *
    220
    .
    Bible and Society
    4 credits
    Permission
    Explores how the social context (ethnic, economic, class, etc.) of faith communities shapes the study, understanding, and use of scripture in worship and impacts the values and daily lives. Emphasis on lectionary readings shared by Protestants and Roman Catholics, and the Hebrew scriptures. (Cross listed with SOA 221).
  • REL
    220-*320
    .
    Creation and Cosmology
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Examination of diverse creation myths from many cultures and the role cosmologies play in forming a culture’s worldview.
  • REL
    225
    .
    Environmental Ethics
    4 credits
    Examination of ideas of nature, relation of humans to nature and human responsibilities to, for and with nature from Western (inherited and current), alternative Western (deep-ecology, ecofeminism, Gaia) and Eastern perspectives. Focus on understanding various environmental ethical perspectives and their personal, social and environmental consequences.
  • REL
    230-*330
    .
    Religion and Science
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Examination of the relationship between religion and science through both historical and contemporary issues. (Cross listed with PHL 230.)
  • REL
    240-*340
    .
    Jesus in Gospel and Film
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    An introduction to the context, life, and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth through the media of film, primary texts (canonical and non-canonical gospels), and secondary texts in biblical criticism.
  • REL
    250-*350
    .
    Christian Ethics
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    An exploration of current Christian debates on ethical issues such as human reproduction, homosexuality, pacifism and just war, racism, nationalism, genetic engineering, and/or economic and environmental justice. Prior knowledge of Christian traditions is helpful but not required.
  • REL
    280-*380
    .
    Special Topics in Religious Studies
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Special topics in Religious Studies will be explored.
  • REL
    281-*381
    .
    Special Topics in Biblical Studies
    4 credits
    1 REL course or Permission for 300 level
    Special topics in Biblical Studies will be explored.
  • REL
    299
    .
    Independent Study
    2-4 credits
    Permission
  • REL
    *
    385-*386
    .
    Practicum
    2-6 credits
    Permission
  • REL
    *
    399
    .
    Independent Study
    2-6 credits
    Permission
    Individual study of particular subject in religion. Intensive acquaintance with selected part of the literature through planned program of reading.
  • REL
    *
    400
    .
    Theory and Method in Religious Studies
    4 credits
    REL 100
    Upper level seminar addresses current issues in the field of religious studies (such as postmodernism, postcolonialism, disability studies, and/or queer theory), approaching these issues with a variety of disciplinary methods (such as historical, theological, phenomenological, ethical, and/or anthropological). Required for, but not limited to, majors and minors in religious studies.
  • REL
    *
    500
    .
    Senior Thesis
    4 credits
    Permission
    Individual research culminating in preparation of major paper and departmental oral examination. Required for departmental honors.