Undergraduate Courses

See the CAS online bulletin for all the courses offered by the Religion Department.

Fall 2019

CAS RN100
Introduction to Religion

Stephen Prothero     TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Religion matters. It makes meaning and provides structure to life, addressing fundamental questions about body, spirit, community, and time. But what is it? How does it work in our world? This course explores religion in ritual, philosophical, experiential, and ethical dimensions.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN101
The Bible
Michael Zank             MWF 12:20PM-1:10PM
Introduction to the great canonical anthologies of Jews and Christians. Students will learn to read for historical context and genre conventions; study classical and modern strategies of interpretation; and create a collaborative commentary or piece of “fan-fiction.”
Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS. This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Aesthetic Exploration, Historical Consciousness, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN103
Asian Religions
April Hughes              TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. Focus on the world view of each tradition and the historical development of that world view.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN104
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Jonathan Klawans     MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in historical and cultural context, origins to the present. Examines diversity of practices, belief systems, and social structures within these religions. Also addresses debates within and between communities as well as contemporary controversies and concerns.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy.

CAS RN106
Death and Immortality

Laura Harrington      TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Examines death as religious traditions have attempted to accept, defeat, deny, or transcend it. Do we have souls? Do they reincarnate? Other topics include cremation, ancestor worship, apocalypse, alchemy, AIDS, near-death experiences, otherworld cosmologies.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN200
Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion
Teena Purohit           TR 9:30AM-10:45AM
Origins and history of the academic study of religion. Different constructions of religion as an object of study and the methods that arise from them. The role of the humanities and social sciences in understanding religion’s place in history and contemporary experience. 

CAS RN205/AA225
Rel & Hip Hop
Topics in Religion and Music
Margarita Guillory  TR 12:30PM-1:45PM

CAS RN209
Religion, Health, and Medicine

Anthony Petro           TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
How religious and moral narratives inform approaches to biomedicine from the nineteenth century to the present, including understandings of disease, illness, health, sexuality, and the body. Topics include medicine and prayer, alternative medicine, and boundaries between medicine and religion. This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Social Inquiry I, Ethical Reasoning, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN243/AN243
Shamans and Shamanism
Frank Korom             MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
Shamans in global and theoretical perspectives. The origins and construction of the category of shamanism. Modern theories and debates about the category and the appropriateness of applying it cross-culturally. 

CAS RN245/PH245
Religious Thought: The Quest for God and the Good
Diana Lobel MWF 1:25PM-2:15PM
An interactive seminar, investigating the meaning and purpose of human life, the significance of God or an Absolute, the role of contemplation and action in the spiritual quest, relationships between philosophy and religious thought, East and West.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy.

CAS RN295/HI295
Religious Controversies and the Law
Simon Rabinovitch    MWF 2:30PM-3:20PM
Explores a major challenge faced by modern states, namely the regulation of religion. Case studies from Europe, North America, and Israel demonstrate the ways in which governments have weighed religious freedom against other social and legal values, rights, and needs. 

CAS RN311/AA311
African American Religious History
Margarita Guillory     TR 9:30AM-10:15AM
A historical survey of religions practiced by people of African descent living in North America. Students explore the diverse terrain of African American religiosity, which includes Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Spiritualism, and African-derived religions.

CAS RN315/XL370/GRS RN615
Spiritual Autobiography
Abigail Gillman          W 2:30PM-5:15PM
Spiritual autobiographies, classical through modern.  Focus on diverse paths of religious seekers; the crises, epiphanies, turning points, and the challenge of representing the inner life. Authors include Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Defoe, Tolstoy, Booker T. Washington, Elie Wiesel, Elaine Pagels.

CAS RN317/CL317
Greek and Roman Religion
Zsuzsanna Varhelyi   TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Survey of ancient Greek and Roman religions and their development from earliest beginnings to the eclipse of paganism. Theories and practices of these religions, comparisons with other religions, and relationships to Judaism and Christianity.
Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS. This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Social Inquiry I, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN326 /GRS RN626/STH TX818
The Kabbalah: Mysticism, Ecstasy, and Theosophy
Yair Lior                      MWF 10:10AM-11:00AM
Introduction to a major trend in Jewish mysticism that combined cosmic speculation and ecstatic practice, influenced Jewish prayer and Christian Renaissance thought and remains popular today. Discusses Kabbalah’s cultural roots, mystical techniques, major texts (including “Zohar”), and contemporary revival.

CAS RN328/GRS RN628/STH  TX828
Judaism in the Modern Period
Steven Katz                TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Exploration of complex encounters between Judaism and modernity from the Renaissance and Reformation to expulsion from Spain and creation of Jewish centers in the New World; emancipation and its consequences; assimilation, conversion, Reform Judaism, Zionism, the American Jewish community, modern anti-Semitism.

CAS RN338/PH408/GRS RN638/STH TT811
Mysticism and Philosophy: Jewish and Islamic Perspectives
Diana Lobel                TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
Thematic introduction to mysticism and philosophy, with a focus on dynamics of religious experience. Readings from medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy; Sufi mysticism and philosophy; Kabbalah, Biblical interpretation, Sufi poetry, Hebrew poetry from the Golden Age of Muslim Spain. 

CAS RN340/GRS RN640/STH TX853
The Quran
TBA        MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
The emergence of the Quran as a major religious text, its structure and literary features, and its principal themes and places within the religious and intellectual life of the Muslim community. 

CAS RN364/GRS RN664/STH TX878
Buddhist Literature
Laura Harrington      TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Focuses on Buddhist sutras and other literature to explore key issues of doctrine, philosophy, and praxis in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism. Topics include the Buddha’s life, practicing the path, emptiness, and interdependence

CAS RN369/HI304/GRS RN669/HI704
Science and Religion: Dialogue and Debate

Jon Roberts    MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
Challenges conventional wisdom that science and religion have always been at war in Europe and North America. Explores their interactions, mutual existence, and conflict from Copernicus’ claim that the earth revolved around the sun to contemporary debates about evolution. 

CAS RN375/AN375/GRS RN675/AN775/STH TX875
Culture, Society, and Religion in South Asia
Frank Korom             MWF 1:25-2:15PM
Ethnographic and historical introduction to the Indian subcontinent with a focus on the impact of religion on cultural practices and social institutions. 

CAS RN384/GRS RN684/STH TX884
The Holocaust
Steven Katz                TR 3:30PM-4:45PM
Background of German (and European) anti-Semitism. Rise of Nazism and early oppression, initial Jewish reaction, mechanics of destruction, ghettos, camps, world response and nonresponse, literature of the Holocaust, and religious implications.

CAS RN385/XL281/CI269/COM CI269/GRS RN685/STH TX899
Representations of the Holocaust in Literature and Film
Nancy Harrowitz       TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
Questions of representation in literature and film about the Holocaust, including testimonial and fictive works by Wiesel and Levi, Ozick, and others; films include documentaries and feature films. Discussions of the Holocaust as historical reality, metaphor, and generative force in literature.
This course fulfills a single unit in the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Ethical Reasoning

CAS RN397/PH456/GRS RN697/PH656/STH TT821
Wisdom and Transformation
Topics in Philosophy and Religion
David Eckel                W 5:45PM-8:30PM
A study of the relationship between wisdom and moral transformation in several different philosophical and religions, from ancient Greece to the modern day, including an encounter with the classical traditions of India and China. This course is designed to run side by side with the Institute for Philosophy and Religion’s fall lecture series.

CAS RN427/GRS RN727/STH TX827
The First Practice: Wandering in the World’s Religions
Topics in American Religion
Stephen Prothero     T 3:30PM-6:15PM
Exploration of the wandering of key religious founders and how the movements they established incorporated into both practice and memory the ideals of wandering and settling, escape and return. Possible examples include Buddha, Laozi, Confucius, Jesus, Muhammad, Guru Nanak.

CAS RN435/GRS RN735/STH TX836
Women, Gender, and Islam
Kecia Ali                     M 2:30PM-5:15PM
Investigates the way Muslim religious discourse, norms, and practices create and sustain gender and hierarchy in religious, social, and familial life. Looks at historical and contemporary challenges posed to these structures.
Prereq:(CASRN104 OR CASRN214) or equivalent.

CAS RN452/GRS RN752/STH TT838
The First Practice: Wandering in the World’s Religions
Topics in Religious Thought
Stephen Prothero T 3:30PM-6:15PM
Exploration of the wandering of key religious founders and how the movements they established incorporated into both practice and memory the ideals of wandering and settling, escape and return. Possible examples include Buddha, Laozi, Confucius, Jesus, Muhammad, Guru Nanak.

CAS RN454/WS454/GRS RN754
Sexuality and Religion in the U.S.

Anthony Petro                       T 3:30PM-6:15PM
Religion and sexuality in the U.S., including theoretical and historical approaches to religious and sexual desire, identity, ritual, and regulation. Possible topics include religious and sexual freedom, plural marriage, the Sexual Revolution, reproductive justice, sex and secularism, and LGBTQ rights.

CAS RN524/XL560 A1/STH TX510 A1
Topics in Religion and Literature

Abigail Gillman          W 2:30PM-5:15PM

CAS RN561/PO589/IR561
Religion and International Relations
Timothy Longman     M 2:30PM-5:15PM
Explores the role of religion in contemporary international relations in the context of questions about the common core of modernity. Reviews scholarly and policy literature, and case studies, in order to elucidate religion’s intellectual and operational diversity in international relations.


Spring 2019

CAS RN100
Introduction to Religion

Anthony Petro           TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
Religion matters. It makes meaning and provides structure to life, addressing fundamental questions about body, spirit, community, and time. But what is it? How does it work in our world? This course explores religion in ritual, philosophical, experiential, and ethical dimensions.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN103
Religions of Asia
David Eckel   TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. Focus on the world view of each tradition and the historical development of that world view.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN106
Death and Immortality
Stephen Prothero TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Examines death as religious traditions have attempted to accept, defeat, deny, or transcend it. Do we have souls? Do they reincarnate? Other topics include cremation, ancestor worship, apocalypse, alchemy, AIDS, near-death experiences, otherworld cosmologies.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN203/CI268/XL560
Religion and Film

Abigail Gillman   TR 3:30PM-4:45PM
How do visual media influence spiritual sentiments, social prejudices, erotic boundaries, faith, and secularism? How does religion regulate the impact of film? This course considers religion on the Hollywood big screen and in video games, animation, and student cinema.

CAS RN204/AH204
Introduction to Buddhist Art
Topics in Religion and the Visual Arts
Laura Harrington   TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Explores selected movements in Buddhism and its arts in pre-modern India, Tibet and contemporary America. Special attention will be given to how key Buddhist concepts — karma, merit, interdependence – are communicated through visual narrative and iconographic strategies.

CAS RN206
Scriptures in World Religions
Diana Lobel   MWF 1:25PM-2:15PM
Introduction to scriptures in world religions, investigating the ways sacred books express, interpret, and make possible religious experience.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Ethical Reasoning, Writing-intensive Course.

CAS RN208/HI213
Sacred and Secular Power in Christianity and Islam
Haberkern   TR 9:30AM-10:45AM
Explores the relationship between sacred and secular power within the Christian and Islamic traditions, with a focus on how their foundational texts and earliest communities established models for negotiating the porous boundary between the sacred and the secular.

CAS RN209
Religion, Health. and Medicine
Anthony Petro   TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
How religious and moral narratives inform approaches to biomedicine from the nineteenth century to the present, including understandings of disease, illness, health, sexuality, and the body. Topics include medicine and prayer, alternative medicine, and boundaries between medicine and religion.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Social Inquiry I, Ethical Reasoning, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN210
Buddhism
David Eckel    MWF 12:20PM-1:10PM
A historical introduction to the major themes of Indian Buddhist thought and practice with special attention to the development of Buddhism in Tibet.

CAS RN213
Hinduism
Frank Korom   TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
Introduction to the Hindu tradition. Ritual and philosophy of the Vedas and Upanishads, yoga in the Bhagavad Gita, gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology, “popular” aspects of village and temple ritual, and problems of modernization and communalism in postcolonial India.

CAS RN216
Judaism
Jonathan Klawans   MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
Systematic and historical introduction to doctrines, customs, literature, and movements of Judaism; biblical religion and literature; rabbinic life and thought; medieval mysticism and philosophy; modern movement and developments.

CAS RN220
Holy City: Jerusalem in Time, Space, and Imagination
Michael Zank   TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Transformation of an ordinary ancient city into the holy city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and development of modern Jerusalem, as shaped by British rule, Zionism, and Palestinian nationalism. Jerusalem’s past, present, and meanings considered through analyses of religious and secular rhetoric.

CAS RN239
Religion and Science
Yair Lior   TR 9:30AM-10:45AM
Examines the complex relationship between science and religion, focusing on historical episodes (e.g., the “Galileo Affair”) and current controversies (e.g., “Intelligent Design” movement’s influence on school curricula, “Spirituality and Health” research, and “Ecology and Religion.”)

CAS RN308/GRS RN608/STH TN809
The Open Heaven: Apocalyptic Literature in Early Judaism and Christianity
David Frankfurter   T 12:30PM-3:15PM
Examines literary and historical roots of “apocalypticism” in early Judaism and Christianity. Attention to literary genre, symbolism, metaphor, heaven, hell, angelology, demonology, attitudes toward the end of the world. Examines relationship of apocalypticism to shamanism, mysticism, magic, gnosticism, liturgy.

CAS RN311/AA311
African American Religious History
Margarita Guillory MWF 11:15AM-12:05PM
A historical survey of religions practiced by people of African descent living in North America. Students explore the diverse terrain of African American religiosity, which includes Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Spiritualism, and African-derived religions.

CAS RN325/GRS RN625/STH TX818
Jewish Mysticism I: Formative Traditions
Steven Katz   TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
Analysis of the development of Jewish mysticism from the biblical to the early medieval era. Emphasis on the forms of mysticism–and the texts in which they are embedded–from the rabbinic era. No knowledge of Hebrew is required.

CAS RN341/GRS RN741/STH TX844
Islamic Mysticism: Sufism
Teena Purohit
R 12:30PM-3:15PM
Rise and development of the mystical movement in early Islam; analysis of the thought of leading Sufi brotherhoods, their organization, liturgy, and religious life; the impact of Sufism on classical and postclassical Islam.

CAS RN348/LZ381/GRS RN648/STH TX881
Rumi and Persian Sufi Poetry
Sassan Tabatabai   TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Introduction to the Persian Sufi poet Rumi’s narrative and lyric writings. Focus on Islamic mysticism, the innovative aspects of Rumi’s poetry, and the problem of profane vs. sacred love. All readings in English translation. Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.
This course fulfills a single unit in the following BU Hub area(s): Aesthetic Exploration, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy.

CAS RN350
Comparative Religious Ethics
Catherine Klancer   TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
This course invites students to consider what organized religion has to offer those seeking to live a good life by looking at the ethical teachings of two Western (Judaism and Christianity) and two Eastern (Confucianism and Buddhism) traditions.
This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Ethical Reasoning, Writing-Intensive Course.

CAS RN355
Religion and Violence
Teena Purohit   TR 9:30AM-10:45AM
What is the relationship between religious belief and violence enacted in the name of religion? This course will explore historical, social, ideological, and political contexts from which violent acts, conducted in the name of religion, emerge through studies of sacred texts, religious activists’ writings, and recent case studies in multiple traditions and geographic contexts.

CAS RN364/GRS RN664/STH TX878
Buddhist Literature
Laura Harrington   TR 3:30PM-4:45PM
Focuses on Buddhist sutras and other literature to explore key issues of doctrine, philosophy, and praxis in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism. Topics include the Buddha’s life, practicing the path, emptiness, and interdependence.

CAS RN382/AA382/HI349/GRSRN682/AA882/HI749/STH TX883
History of Religion in Pre-Colonial Africa
John Thornton   TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
The study of the development of religious traditions in Africa during the period prior to European colonialism. An emphasis on both indigenous religions and the growth and spread of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the continent as a whole.

CAS RN387/AN384/GRS RN687/AN784/STH TX887
Anthropology of Religion
Frank Korom   TR 11:00AM-12:15PM
Myth, ritual, and religious experience across cultures. Special attention to the problem of religious symbolism and meaning, religious conversion and revitalization, contrasts between traditional and world religions, and the relation of religious knowledge to science, magic, and ideology.

CAS RN400
Writing Religion

Stephen Prothero   T 3:30PM-6:15PM
A writing-intensive seminar focused on the close reading and careful writing on spirituality and religion in various non-fiction genres (memoir, Instagram essays, op-eds, academic articles). Possible authors: Ann Lamott, Jeff Sharlet, J. Z. Smith, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Annie Dillard.

CAS RN406/GRS RN706/STH TN849
Biblical Fakes and Forgeries
Jonathan Klawans   M 2:30PM-5:15PM
Examines issues relating forged documents and artifacts relating to the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Examples of forgeries (alleged and certain) include: book of Daniel, Letter of Aristeas, Gnostic Gospels, Secret Gospel of Mark; forged Scrolls in museum collections.
Prereq: Religion majors or minors with junior or senior standing, or consent of instructor.

CAS RN420/PH409/GRS RN720/PH609/STH TX879
Maimonides
Michael Zank   M 6:30PM-9:15PM
A study of major aspects of the thought of Maimonides. Primary focus on the Guide of the Perplexed, with attention to its modern reception in works by Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, Leo Strauss, and others.

CAS RN439/GRS RN739/STH TX859/SPH LW739
Jewish Bioethics
Michael Grodin   R 3:30PM-6:15PM
Exploration of Jewish perspectives on life, death and dying, abortion, the new reproductive technologies, organ transplantation and genetic engineering. Examination of the impact of the Nazi doctors, racial hygiene, euthanasia, and genocide on contemporary bioethics.
Prereq: junior standing or consent of instructor.

CAS RN452/PH485/GRS RN752/STH TT838
Happiness, East and West
Topics in Religious Thought
Diana Lobel   TR 2:00PM-3:15PM
What is happiness? How can we achieve a balanced, healthy, fulfilling life? Classical thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, Chuang Tzu; Stoic, Epicurean, Confucian, Buddhist paths; comparison with contemporary studies of happiness and mindfulness.

CAS RN460/GRS RN760/STH TX805
Holocaust Studies
Steven Katz   TR 12:30PM-1:45PM
This seminar will examine ethical and religious issues raised by the Holocaust, including: anti-Semitism; treatment of Jewish women; nature of the perpetrators; actions of different countries; importance of ideology; the nature and degree of Jewish resistance; post-Holocaust theology.

CAS RN468/GRS RN768/AN568/ STH TX868
Symbol, Myth, Rite
Adam Seligman   TR 11:00AM-12:30PM
Historical overview of ritual behavior, the role of symbolism in the study of culture, and the narrative quality of worldview and belief. Emphasis on verbal performance and public display events in specific cultural contexts.

CAS RN561/IR561/PO589/STH TX874
Religion and International Relations
Timothy Longman T 3:30PM-6:15PM
Explores the role of religion in contemporary international relations in the context of questions about the common core of modernity. Reviews scholarly and policy literature, and case studies, in order to elucidate religion’s intellectual and operational diversity in international relations.



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CAS RN100
Introduction to Religion
Faculty: Stephen Prothero
MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM
Religion matters. It makes meaning and provides structure to life, addressing
fundamental questions about body, spirit, community, and time. But what is it? How does it work in our world? This course
explores religion in ritual, philosophical, experiential, and ethical
dimensions.

CAS RN101
The Bible
Faculty: Michael Zank
MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM
Designed for the student who will take only one or two courses in religious
studies, this course introduces the Bible as a foundational source of Western
culture. In addition to basic knowledge of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the
student may expect to gain an appreciation of biblical themes in Western
literature and art.

CAS RN102
Sacred Journeys
Faculty: Emily Hudson
MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM
An introduction to the comparative study of religion through the theme of the
sacred journey/religious quest in Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and popular
literature. Topics include heroic, romantic, and/or mystical quests; voyages to
the underworld; apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic journeys.

CAS RN103
Religions of the
World: Eastern

Faculty: David Eckel
MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM
Study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. Focus on the
world view of each tradition and the historical development of that world view.