Professor Adam L. Porter
Assistant Professor Gwendolyn Gillson
Religious literacy is vital for social networking, civic responsibility, global understanding, and professional work in all fields. Religion is integral to a liberal arts education, as it explores dimensions of human life that have had a profound and decisive effect on our conception of human nature, destiny, and action. All courses in the Religion program emphasize traditional liberal arts skills of thinking and writing. Close reading of primary texts and development of analytical skills allow students to explore ideas and values that form the basis of human civilization. Emphasis is also placed on expressing ideas clearly and persuasively through writing. Courses in Religion are designed to serve as a focus of a liberal arts education, preparing students for a variety of careers: public service, teaching, ministry, law or medicine among them.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn't have a single meaning. Rather, it means different things to people depending on the questions they ask, when they live, how they understand the world, and their social location. This class will explore this by reading three Bible stories: Creation and the Garden of Eden, the Exodus, and Revelation. We will then examine how different people (other Biblical authors, ancient Jews and Christians, Renaissance artists and writers, and modern Americans, both black and white) have found different meanings in these texts.
This class helps students expand beyond their own religious tradition in order to see the way other traditions view their worlds and explore how religion can be understood as a reflection of attempts to comprehend the human condition. In this course, we examine Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese Traditions, alongside a select number of additional traditional and new religious movements to reflect the diversity inherent in religious experiences across the globe. Using the lived experience of religion as a launching point, we compare and contrast these religions and critically examine texts from each one to illuminate how misunderstandings about religion can easily arise. We pay particular attention to the ways that historical practices and beliefs are present in contemporary expressions of religious identity.
In this course, you will learn about global politics as manifest in religious terrorism from five global religions, one case study of a violent new religious movement in the United States, and the intersection of religion and the physical and imagined body. Drawing together historical, textual, philosophical, and theoretical examinations of religion and violence, this class will question the enduring relationship of the two, with a particular focus on the contemporary landscape and all that came to form it. The class will conclude with an examination of responses to religious violence like Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Mohandas Ghandi's work on nonviolence.
Illness is a universal human experience and so is the desire to give meaning to illness. Nevertheless, cultural and religious differences can produce very different interpretations of the meaning and significance of illness for both individuals and those around them. In this course we will examine religiously-informed understandings of illness (of body, mind, and spirit) as well as the interpretative and healing strategies different cultures have developed to explain, address, and alleviate it. We will cover faith healing, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, shamanism and a variety of alternative ways of thinking about health and the human body in order to make sense of why people pursue non- Western biomedical forms of medicine. In addition, we will explore how different ways of healing raises questions about the differences between disease and illness, curing and healing, and religion and folk tradition.
Many people's ideas about religion are shaped by how it is presented in film. This class will introduce the vocabulary of film analysis to students and then use it to study a variety of films. We will see that films often reflect the concerns of the time in which they were made, even if they claim to represent the life of Jesus or other biblical figures. Films to be studied include several Bible films (that is, films adapting stories from Bible), films that represent Jewish and/or Christian ideas, and films representing other religions. Films are one of the most complex art forms, but most people watch them passively. In this class we will learn to “read” them carefully, analyze them, and reflect upon them. While the content of the films will be biblical and religious, the skills learned in this class are applicable to any film-based medium.