Religion in Science and Medicine Minor

Are religion and science really at war with one another? Does health take on a salvific role in modern society? How do religious ideas shape how we think about the natural world, health, and the human body?

Students pursuing a minor in Religion in Science and Medicine explore the long history of the perceived divide between religion and science and consider how religion has shaped how people understand healing, medicine, and the formation of the world: What’s natural? Supernatural? Science and pre-health majors can complement their degrees with humanities approaches to the sciences and medicine.

Understanding the religious, cultural, and ethical aspects of science and medicine prepares students for the diversity of human perspectives and experiences they will encounter in their future careers, allowing them to understand their clients or patients more holistically.

RiSM Course Requirements
The minor requires five courses:

  • One of the following courses (but students are welcome to take both):
             o CAS RN 209 Religion, Health, and Medicine
             o CAS RN 242/HI 203 Magic, Science, and Religion 
  • One of course must be at the 300-level or above
  • Up to one course at the 100 or 200 level that is comparative or tradition based, that need not come from the list below (e.g., RN100, RN103, RN105, RN200, RN214, RN296, etc)

Any of the following courses may count toward the minor (see course descriptions below). Other relevant courses may count with an advisor’s approval. 

CAS RN 106 Death and Immortality
CAS RN 209 Religion, Health, and Medicine
CAS RN 239 Religion and Science
CAS RN 242/CAS HI 203 Magic, Science, and Religion
CAS RN 246 Sex, Death, and the Buddha
CAS RN 248 Food and Religion
CAS RN 345 Shariah Law
CAS RN 356 Religion in the Digital Age
CAS RN 369 Science and Religion: Dialogue and Debate
CAS RN 450 Topics in Religion, Health, and Medicine
CAS RN 439 Jewish Bioethics and Holocaust Studies

Students should consult with their minor advisor to select a coherent program of courses that allows for both sufficient breadth and deeper investigation of selected themes, such as bioethical debates in various religious traditions, the intersections of religion and technology, or differing conceptions of personhood. Students may also take one relevant course in another department and have it count towards their minor, with the approval of their advisor in the Department of Religion.

This minor is also an excellent way to satisfy Hub area requirements. Courses for the minor satisfy ten Hub areas including: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings; Historical Consciousness; Social Inquiry I; The Individual in Community; Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy; Ethical Reasoning; Oral/Signed Communication; Critical Thinking, Teamwork/Collaboration; and Creativity/Innovation. Please see the course descriptions below for the Hub areas associated with each course.

Students in this minor will:
 · Consider how various religious traditions understand healing, medicine, and the natural world.
 · Learn how religion and science (including medicine) come to be thought of as distinct approaches to   understanding the world.
· Investigate how religious traditions engage with medical and scientific advancements and how such advancements lead to religious adaptation and change
· Pursue questions about religious ethics and the politics of religion in medicine and science.
· Demonstrate knowledge of multiple religious traditions, including their histories, ideas, rituals, and vocabulary.
· Explore debates about religion versus science or religion versus medicine, in which religion is understood to be in opposition to scientific and medical advancements.
· Understand how religion, science, and medicine have been sometimes harmonious and sometimes competing forms of knowledge and meaning-making in the modern world.


These descriptions explain how the courses address the theme of Religion in Science and Medicine. The titles are linked to our regular course description.

CAS RN 106 Death and Immortality
This course explores the ways a range of Euro-American and Asian religious and philosophical traditions have attempted to accept, deny, defeat, transform, or transcend death. Topics for discussion may include reincarnation, martyrdom, damnation, salvation, ancestor worship, mourning, grief, burial, and cremation. Hub Units: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Creativity/Innovation.

CAS RN 209 Religion, Health, and Medicine
This course examines 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. Hub Units: Social Inquiry I, Ethical Reasoning, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN 239 Religion and Science
This course examines the complex relationship between science and religion from the ancient worldviews of the earliest humans, to the emergence of more theoretical modes of thinking in ancient Greece, and major historical events such as the Copernican revolution, the “Galileo affair,” Darwinism, and current controversies surrounding intelligent design and natural selection.

CAS RN 242/CAS HI 203 Magic, Science, and Religion
This course explores boundaries and relationships between the culturally constructed categories of magic, science, and religion in Europe from antiquity through the modern period. We explore global cultural exchange, distinctions across social, educational, gender, and religious lines, and the way that assumptions about God, Nature, and humanity affect the understanding of science, health, and medicine across time. Hub Units: Historical Consciousness, Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN246 Sex, Death, and the Buddha
This course examines the place of ethics and moral reasoning in Buddhist thought and practices throughout Asia and North America, especially those that relate to the body. Topics include Buddhist perspectives on: life, death and dying (including suicide and euthanasia), abortion, contraception, vegetarianism, and sexual ethics. Hub Units: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Critical Thinking, Ethical Reasoning.

CAS RN248 Food and Religion
In this course, we explore the intersection of religion and food, using foodways as a means to learn about religion and religion as a way to learn about the role of food in human societies. There are many ways that people across the globe incorporate food and drink practices into their religious traditions so as to establish communal boundaries and identities; to build and maintain connections to ancestors, spirits, God(s) or other divine beings; to assure the health and prosperity of individual, family, community, and land, among other things. This course prepares students who are interested in health care and public health concerns to develop a more holistic understanding of the role of food in such things. Hub Units: The Individual in Community, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration

CAS RN 345 Shariah Law
This course, addressing a religio-legal and ethical system that is influential for more than one in five people on the planet, addresses a variety of relevant topics such as assisted reproduction or, recently, ritual adaptation during a pandemic. Hub Units: Historical Consciousness, Social Inquiry I.

CAS RN 356 Religion in the Digital Age
This course draws from Internet studies, digital religion studies, and gaming theory to analyze diverse expressions of religion across various digital platforms. Students will engage this interconnection between religion and technology using web-based analyses, mobile application development, and techniques in Digital Visual Research. Topics include: data science, engineering, artificial intelligence, and biology (e.g., biohacking) in the engagement of religion.

RN369 Science and Religion: Dialogue and Debate
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. Hub Units: Historical Consciousness, Social Inquiry I.

CAS RN 450/ CAS RN 750 Topics in Religion, Health, and Medicine
Topics vary from year to year. Seminars in this area examine science, health, or medicine from the perspective of religious studies, which includes attention to the religious, historical, and cultural contexts in which science, health, or medicine take on meaning. Topics might include religion and the HIV/AIDS crisis; religion and the Black Death in Medieval Europe; religion, health, and the body; or bioethics in Islam. Hub Units: Historical Consciousness, Oral/Signed Communication, Critical Thinking.

CAS RN 439 Jewish Bioethics and Holocaust Studies
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.