Department of Religious Studies

Professors Emeriti: Diane Jonte-Pace, Gary Macy, Frederick Parrella, David Pinault, J. David Pleins

Senior Lecturer Emeritus: Salvatore A. Tassone, S.J.

Professors: David B. Gray (Bernard J. Hanley Professor), Thomas G. Plante (Augustine Cardinal Bea, S.J. Professor, courtesy appointment with Psychology)

Associate Professors: James B. Bennett [Department Chair], Akiba J. Lerner, Catherine M. Murphy, Thao Nguyen, S.J., Karen Peterson-Iyer, Ana Maria Pineda, R.S.M., Philip Boo Riley, Paul J. Schutz

Assistant Professors: Pearl M. Barros, Cathleen Chopra-McGowan, Roberto Mata, Daniel Morgan,  Elyse Raby, Haruka Umetsu Cho, Bryson White

Senior Lecturers: William Dohar, Margaret R. McLean, Sarita Tamayo-Moraga, Sally Vance-Trembath

Lecturers: Robert Scholla, S.J., Eugene Schlesinger

The Department of Religious Studies offers a degree program leading to the bachelor of arts in religious studies. The department also offers a minor program for those who wish to concentrate in theological and religious studies. In keeping with the University’s commitment to the Catholic faith tradition, the department offers a variety of courses in Scripture, history, and Catholic theology. Faithful to the Jesuit tradition of liberal education and engagement with other religions, the department offers a wide breadth of courses in various religious traditions and methodologies for the study of religion. The department also offers courses as part of the undergraduate Core Curriculum, at both lower-division and upper-division levels. Courses are clustered in three areas: Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP); Scripture and Tradition (SCTR); and Religion and Society (RSOC).

Requirements for the Major

In addition to fulfilling undergraduate Core Curriculum requirements for the bachelor of arts degree, students majoring in religious studies must complete the following departmental requirements:

  • Three lower-division courses, one from each of the three areas (scripture and tradition; theology, ethics, and spirituality; and religion and society)
  • Eight approved upper-division courses, one of which must be in the area of Christian theology
  • Four of the eight upper division courses consist of seminars from each of the three areas (RSOC, SCTR, TESP) and RELS 100, Seminar in Interreligious Dialogue

Requirements for the Minor

Students must fulfill the following requirements for a minor in religious studies:

  • One introductory-level religious studies course (119)
  • Two intermediate-level courses (2099)
  • Four approved advanced-level courses (100199), one of which must be a religious studies seminar. Of the seven courses, at least one must be from each of the three areas (RSOC, SCTR, TESP).

Lower-Division Courses: Scripture and Tradition (SCTR)

15. Texting God

This course explores how people express their beliefs and how the technologies they use shape what they say. Focusing on Jewish and Christian “texts” (oral, written, visual, gesture), we’ll examine the core beliefs that communities inscribe in them. We’ll also consider how scriptural memes are reconstructed in the ongoing process of building cultural memory. We’ll learn to analyze the rhetoric of various modes, and ask how changing technologies are altering our experience of text, scripture, and our relationships with God. (4 units)

19. Religions of the Book

This course offers an introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with a study of their central texts, traditions and practices. We begin the course with a paradox: religion, that which in its literal sense “binds” or “fastens together,” is also that which often violently divides our world. As we examine the sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Quran), and various methods of interpreting them, our focus will remain on what is shared and what characteristically distinguishes between the monotheistic faiths. (4 units)

26. Gender in Early Christianity

The history of early Christianity is often portrayed as a history of, by, and about men, despite clear indications that women played a prominent role in the early church. Introduces the construction of gender in antiquity, Jewish and Greco-Roman laws and customs, the biblical canon, and other Christian texts. Contemporary feminist perspectives will inform the discussion. Also listed as WGST 46. (4 units)

27. Digging Up Jesus

This course examines the archaeological and literary evidence for Jesus. We’ll use these primary “texts” to reconstruct the most plausible context for Jesus’ work so that we can better understand the Gospel message, and learn the criteria for assessing whether he really said and did what the Gospels report. We’ll also try to appreciate what the Gospel authors were doing in translating Jesus for their communities, just as we are doing ourselves with the historical approach of the course. (4 units)

28. Women In the Hebrew Bible

This course explores stores, tropes, metaphors, poetry, and archaeology related to Hebrew Bible and Old Testament (HB/OT) women. Biblical studies methodologies and interdisciplinary lenses will be used to create access points with the material culture of the Ancient Near East (ANE), literary life and afterlives of biblical texts, as well as intersectional juxtapositions between ANE and contemporary lives of women. We will explore questions such as: Did God have a wife? Are the oldest parts of the HB/OT written by women? How many different ways can families be defined? How does the HB/OT promote leadership and women? Also listed as WGST 21. (4 units)

39. Biblical Women and Power

Hero, villain, prophet, deviantthese are some of the power roles embodied by women in the Bible. Explores the exercise of power by biblical women in actual and figurative situations, in culturally positive and negative ways. Attention will be given to the continuing impact of such traditions for gender socialization in our world today. Also listed as WGST 47. (4 units)

48. Racializing Jesus

The course explores the various ancient and contemporary ethnic representations of Jesus in art, film, regalia, and scripture. Although portraits of Jesus as a white, blue-eyed prophet, messiah, or rabbi haunt the popular cultural imagination, these often reflect the social location and racial biases of Western scholars. But, what if Jesus was black, non-white Latinx, Amerindian, Asian, or Jewish? And, why is contemporary scholarship still grappling with the idea of Jewish messiah? In order to map the politics of interpretation and presentation, the course seeks to “radicalize” Jesus by (1) exploring his Jewishness in terms of race and ethnicity; (2) critically engaging sources from the New Testament, Apocryphal narratives, Rabbinic literature, and the Quran; (3) interrogation of the racial/racist reconstructions of Western biblical scholarship; and (4) mapping the implications for marginalized ethnic communities and interracial dialogue. Key themes to explore include: race/ethnicity, colonialism and imperialism, the quests for historical Jesus, Hitler’s Third Reich, eugenics, interreligious dialogue, police violence (Ferguson & Baltimore), and the polemic over Jesus’ wife. (4 units)

Upper-Division Courses: Scripture and Tradition (SCTR)

111. Bible and Ecology

The Christian tradition has long been known for its anthropocentrism (human-centeredness), and traditional interpretations of the Bible have perpetuated the idea that God made the universe for humans, leaving other creatures to struggle amid both evolutionary forces and devastating human actions. What does the Bible really “say” about creation? What is the ethical significance of Jewish and Christian perspectives on the natural world, given our planet’s threatened state? (5 units)

112. Martyrdom

This course interrogates the role of sacred texts in legitimizing contemporary discourses on martyrdom or “Dying in God.” Crucial questions to explore include: What is martyrdom and its relationship to ancient notions of noble death? Why are notions of martyrdom so prevalent amongst Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalist groups today? How is the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran used to legitimate violence against the self and others? Key themes to explore include: notions of a noble death in antiquity, imperial violence (crucifixion), the book of Revelation, martyrdom in early Christianity, the Crusades, Jonestown, Branch Davidians, secularization, fundamentalism (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim), suicide bombing, school shootings, and the rise of the Islamic State. (5 units)

NEW 124. The Bible and Migration

This course explores the current migration crisis at the U.S/Mexico borderlands and concomitant motivations, tensions, dilemmas, and perils of the migration journey. As the current migrant caravans at the U.S./Mexico border show, the planet is experiencing massive displacement of persons as a result of climate change, economic hardships, political unrest, wars, cartel violence, and neocolonialism. In their quest for human survival and freedom, migrants face religious intolerance, racism, exploitation and exclusion. Drawing from various scriptural, theological, ethical, sociological and anthropological approaches, this course equips students with a constructive pastoral response to the migrant crisis at home and abroad and challenges them to put a human face to the migrant other. Engaging a lecture-seminar format, the course will include films, guest speakers, and a visit to migrant communities, and deportations centers, and the U.S./Mexico border. Students will collaborate with local and international organizations (e.g. PICO, the Kino Border Initiative, and Pueblo Sin Fronteras) that work for migrant rights and well-being. (5 units)

128. Human Suffering and Hope

Explores issues of human suffering, justice, and belief in light of the biblical book of Job. Best for students interested in the creative arts, fiction writing, or community service. (5 units)

132. Apocalypse Now

This course provides a comparative introduction to ideas/symbols/theologies of the “End of the World” in three major monotheistic religions. In view of the influence of apocalyptic thought upon contemporary American culture in particular, and Western and non-Western societies in general, this course prepares students to responsibly engage in discussions of End of the World scenarios and their religious, socioeconomic, political implications. Themes germane to the course include: colonialism, environmental disasters (e.g., Pentecostalism), and alternative religious violence (e.g., Jonestown). In order to help students explore and articulate these themes, the course will provide various interpretive approaches from the theories and methods in the study of religion. We conclude the course by reflecting on the influence of apocalyptic thought upon our own spirituality, hopes, and religious traditions. (5 units)

148. From Babylon To Birmingham

This course examines the role of prophets and prophecy in diagnosing social, theological, and political problems and instigating calls for justice and social change. Beginning with texts from the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia, this course will introduce students to the variety of ways humans have sought to decipher the will of the gods (through dream interpretation, omens, extispicy, and visions) as well as to complex rules which governed prophetic and interpretive activity. We will focus on figures like Moses, Isaiah, Amos, and Habakkuk to develop our paradigm of prophecy. In the second half of the course, we will examine modern day American prophets like Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, looking for points of continuity and discontinuity from the framework developed from our readings of biblical texts. (5 units)

150. Warfare/Statecraft in Hebrew Bible

What role do rivers and olive groves play in the propagandistic program and military machine of empire? What purpose does it serve Israelite kings to cut the trees, salt the fields, and destroy grain houses of their enemies? Are there laws which govern the conduct of armies at war? Drawing on texts like Deuteronomy 20, which outlines acceptable practices during war, as well as Neo-Babylonian and Assyrian omen texts, historical inscriptions, and iconographic reliefs, this course will introduce students to the strategies of war in regards to the built and natural environment in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near East. We will also examine how gods, such as Yahweh, Adad, and Ishtar, are mobilized in battle to aid in the defeat of one’s enemies. Towards the end of the course, we will also consider the afterlives these ancient texts as they are codified into modern law such as the Geneva and Hague Conventions about stewardship of the environment during times of war. (5 units)

NEW 154. Flooding the World

Why does Noah need an ark? How does flood imagery function in the film Day After Tomorrow? How do climate concerns show up in literature? From Genesis to the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Rig Veda to modern novels like Jeanette Winterson's Boating for Beginners (1997), humans have repeatedly accounted for, imagined, ironized, and threatened civilizational collapse (and restoration) through geo-mythological stories of catastrophic floods. These texts, both modern and ancient, are fraught with political, religious, and historical background. In this course, we will ask how sacred and secular imaginings of a deluge are productive and generative, while being attuned to the complex differences between the ancient narratives and their significantly different modern afterlives. [5 units]

157. The Bible and Empire

This course explores how politics shaped the Bible as it was being written and as it has been interpreted. Specifically, we will study how the experiences of empires in antiquity colored the assumptions about power, the portrait of God, and narratives of salvation that fill biblical books. We will also examine how the Bible is implicated in recent imperial adventures, both as a tool of European and American empires, and as a liberating resource for those they colonized. Also listed as WGST 153. (5 units)

158. Postcolonial Perspectives on the New Testament

Introduces students to postcolonial critical theory and uses it to explore the political contexts of New Testament texts, raising new questions about the ethical implications of how we read these texts today. Also listed as WGST 147. (5 units)

165. Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretations

This course opens the Bible to critical readings from feminist and queer theory. It examines the original contexts of contested passages (creation, the destruction of Sodom, the role of women in early Christianity) as well as subsequent interpretation, and exposes the insights and ethical challenges that gender studies pose to these classic texts. Also listed as WGST 148. (5 units)

175. Wealth, Work, and the Gospel

This course explores how Jews and Christians understood the significance of wealth and work in the Bible and in later interpretation of those texts. Beginning with the Jewish scriptures, we will probe the economic contexts of emerging beliefs and practices, and then trace how these traditions were reshaped in the New Testament, the early and medieval churches, and the Protestant Reformation. This course concludes with the rise of capitalism and a comparison of capitalist and Gospel values. (5 units)

198. Practicum

(15 units)

199. Directed Reading and Research

For religious studies majors only. (15 units)

Lower-Division Courses: Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP)

2. Magicians, Athletes, and God

An introduction to Catholic Christianity’s notion of transcendence using fantasy literature to describe and inspect the selected Christian truth claims about reality: a personal God, grace, sin, doctrine, ritual, sacred texts, and the nature and role of authority. The course makes use of narratives to disclose the foundational concepts in Christian discourse. (4 units)

4. The Christian Tradition

A theological examination of the Christian tradition covering such topics as religious experience and the meaning of God; Jesus in the Gospels; the development and history of the Christian churches; and the relevance of Christianity in the 21st century global world. (4 units)

16. Religion, Science, and Ecology

Science and religion provide distinctive ways of seeing, knowing, and living in the world. Yet they are often seen as being in conflict—to the detriment of religious practice and concern for the natural world. Must religion and science compete? How might they come together to promote the flourishing of the universe and all its creatures? This course engages religious perspectives on science from the standpoint of the world’s religions, exploring how religion and science might cooperate for the good of all life on a planet threatened by ecological degradation. (4 units)

114. Latinx Pentecostal Christianities

The course begins with the historical background of the Azusa Street Revival and the development of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities in Latinx communities in the United States. Building on this historical background, students then explore the current-day structures and diverse practices of Latinx Pentecostal/Charismatic communities. Students will reflect on how Latinx Pentecostal/Charismatic religious and ethical principles apply to their own beliefs, whether they be Christian, another religion, agnostic, or atheist. (4 units)

26. Sustainable Theologies

How do religious traditions, beliefs, and practices shape human attitudes toward earth and earth’s creatures? Using scientific discussions of ecology and sustainability, this course critically evaluates religious and theological traditions’ potential to promote the flourishing of life and sustainable living on a planet in peril. (4 units)

34. Mary and Guanyin: Catholicism and Buddhism

Comparative study of the popular devotion to Guanyin in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and Marian devotion in the Catholic tradition will be the focus of this course. It will explore the historical development, religious practices, and important role of the female deities in these two religious traditions. (4 units)

42. Global Christianities

This course offers critical inquiry, analysis, and theological dialogue with Christian communities considering the demographic shifts that are changing global Christianity. This study challenges Eurocentrism in theology by looking at emerging contextual theologies, considers interpretations of scripture, including feminist and womanist theologies, faith, and practice. Regions and cultures of the world include: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. (4 units)

46. Faith, Justice, and Poverty

Who is my neighbor, and how are we to be a community? This course examines biblical theologies of social responsibility and solidarity, selected Christian social movements concerned with care for the other, and major theologians and ethicists on poverty and justice. (4 units)

50. Catholic Theology: Foundations

An examination of the fundamental theological issues of Catholicism such as the experience of God, revelation and faith, the historical foundations of the tradition, the mystery of Jesus, grace, sin and redemption, the Church sacraments, and religious pluralism, etc. (4 units)

52. Incarnating the Word: Theology and Theatre

Despite the often anxious relationship between Christianity and the performing arts, Jesuit education has long emphasized the importance of performance in forming integral human beings conscious of their place in the universe and competent to assume their roles on the stage of the world ad maiorem Dei gloriam. This interdisciplinary course aims at reverencing this educational tradition by exploring the dynamic relationships between fundamental theology and theatrical performance. By reading and considering theological texts alongside plays from a variety of historical periods, students will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of theology as theatrical and theatre as theological. Also listed as THTR 109. (4 units)

59. Sex and Spirituality in Latinx and Chicanx Literature and Theologies

This course takes an interdisciplinary theoretical approach to investigate understandings of suffering, sexuality, and spirituality within the work of three major Chicanx thinkers: Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, and Ana Castillo. It analyzes how Latinx and Chicanx Christian theologians draw upon these authors to articulate their own theologies of liberation. Also listed as WGST 44 and ETHN 25. (4 units)

60. Hispanic Popular Religion

Study of the popular expressions of faith of the Hispanic people, exploring their theological underpinnings. Includes both classroom and field experience. (4 units)

65. U.S. Hispanic Theology

Acquaints students with the historical development of Hispanic theology in the United States. Attention will be given to the works of representative U.S. Hispanic theologians and to the themes and concerns that these works address. (4 units)

68. Creativity, Self, and Religion

Combining Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and a study of creation stories throughout the world, this course explores the link between human creativity and divine creation. Topics covered include a multidisciplinary approach to the study of creation myths and exercises to access and unblock personal creativity. (4 units)

69. Christian Social Ethics

This course explores the content, language, methods, and concerns of Christian social ethics. It aims to foster an ethical awareness that can be applied to the variety of moral challenges experienced in individuals’ lives, churches, and society. Through the course, students will gain an understanding of the theological foundation for a system of ethics. Furthermore, in order to practice Christian ethical reflection, students will engage theological examination of significant contemporary social issues, including economics, migration, gender, marriage and the family, death and dying, violence and reconciliation, and ecology. (4 units)

71. Mysticism in Catholicism

An introduction to mysticism in the Catholic tradition and its relationship to both theology and spirituality. Special attention to the origins of the term within Catholicism, issues of gender, the relationship between hierarchy and a personal relationship with God, and historical controversies and discussions surrounding the possibility of union with God. (4 units)

78. East Asian Literature and Christianity

This course will explore how literary art (stories, narratives) informs and shapes diverse human experiences of religion, particularly the Christian traditions in the East-Asian and Asian-American contexts. How have people in different social, economic, political, cultural, racial/ethnic and gender/sexual contexts experienced Christianity in diverse ways? How would fiction, poetry and film shape or reshape our conceptions of the Christian traditions and theological perspectives? We will read modern Japanese, Korean, and Asian-American narrative art on Christianity from diverse perspectives that range across cultural exchanges, socio-political upheaval, race discourse, body/gender, war and trauma, migration, and inter-religious dialogue. Students are invited to immerse themselves in the depths of religious and cultural discourse not only by interpreting these stories but also by reflecting on their own contexts and understanding of religion, culture, politics, race/ethnicity, and gender/sexuality. Also listed as ENGL 62. (4 units)

79. Women in Christian Tradition

History as written mostly by men has obscured the important role that women have played in Christian tradition. This course will investigate the official and unofficial positions women have held in the Christian church as well as read works by particular Christian women in an attempt to restore the women to their rightful place in Christian history. Also listed as WGST 48. (4 units)

82. Witches, Saints, and Heretics: Religious Outsiders

Survey of the experience of religious exclusion across the realms of magic, holiness, and heterodoxy. While anchored in the premodern Christian tradition, the course also explores more contemporary phenomena, persons, and movements. (4 units)

Upper-Division Courses: Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP)

108. Human Trafficking and Christian Ethics

This course will examine the global phenomenon of human traffickingspecifically sex trafficking and forced labor traffickingusing the lenses of Christian theology and ethics. Social-scientific, legal, public policy, and autobiographical sources will be used to frame the phenomenon of human trafficking; and theological/ethical categories such as human dignity and freedom, sin and redemption, neighbor love, and solidarity will be used to illuminate and assess its dimensions. Special attention will be given to the question of human agency as well to social, political, cultural, and gender-based analyses as these impact and shape an adequate response to human trafficking. (5 units)

109. Hispanic Spirituality: Guadalupe

One of the most popular Marian devotions for Hispanic people (of primarily Mexican descent) is that of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Study of the history and tradition of Guadalupe, exploring its religious and spiritual significance in both the past and the present. (5 units)

110.  Theologies of Freedom and Justice

In response to global freedom struggles and other social movements during the latter half of the twentieth century, the face and character of contemporary Christian theology dramatically changed as new theological voices from within the United States and around the world, primarily from peoples of color and women in addition to other traditionally marginalized and excluded communities, arose in resistance and self-affirmation to expose and decry systematic injustice, inequality, and oppression in various contexts. This course aims to investigate, analyze, understand, and critique the theological assertions, contributions, and limitations of these new theological perspectives. (5 units)

119. Theology, Sex, and Relationships

This course will explore the ethics of romantic and sexual relationships, including friendship, dating, intimacy, and the phenomenon of “hooking up” in contemporary campus culture. We will engage theological, philosophical, and social science sources, with the aim of developing a “theology of relationship” that reflects our best insights about our deepest human and religious identity. (5 units)

122. Good and Evil

This course explores the theological theme of good and evil, with a particular focus upon evil. The nature of the good requires our attention, but not our explanation. By definition, the good show be; we desire it, and desire that it be. Evil, on the other hand, arrests our attention and demands a response. Why is there evil? Whence does it come? Is there a “solution” to the problem of evil? Is our suffering simply meaningless? Can it be understood? Or should it merely be recognized? Most centrally, the question arises: what is the relationship between good, especially God, and evil? Should we hope? Can we? Is hell stronger than heaven? Does fire burn hotter than love? This is a text-driven course, built around “primary sources,” mainly of a historical nature. We’ll explore drama, biblical texts, philosophical writings, theological works, works of literature, film and television, and so on. (5 units)

124. Theology of Marriage

An examination of human relationships, intimacy, sexuality, and marriage through the social sciences, philosophy, and theology, and exploration of human love in the unconditional commitment to spouse as the expression of divine love. (5 units)

129. Religion and Peace

This course will explore the relationship between religion and peace by examining the call to peacemaking in several religious traditions. Understanding peace to be more than the absence of warfare, the class will consider foundational connections between justice and peace, varied definitions for peace and diverse perspectives on peacemaking, as well as distinct theological, ethical, and spiritual approaches to peace. A community-based learning placement through Arrupe Partnership will give students the opportunity to ground reflections on justice. (5 units)

130. Judaism and Political Philosophy

This course focuses on the intersection of modern Jewish thought and political philosophy. From the Hebrew Bible to modern thinkers like Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, the Frankfurt School, and Leo Strauss, Jewish thinkers have generated a remarkable textual conversation over what makes for a holy, just, and good society. We will explore the diverse philosophical and theological interpretive narratives by Jewish thinkers over the uses and abuses of political power in the modern era. This course provides an introductory overview of these conversations by additionally focusing on topics such as messianic resistance to empire, capitalism, religious violence, secularism, nationalism, Zionism, critical theory, ecology, feminism, liberal democratic rights, and redemption. (5 units)

131. Feminist Theologies

Through the analysis of a selected sample of feminist theological voices and themes, explores the phenomenon of feminist theologies in their emerging unity and diversity. Focuses on themes of inclusion, exclusion, and representation, which have also been major catalysts in the emergence of diverse feminist theologies. Also listed as WGST 149. (5 units)

141. Bioethics: Dignity and Justice

This course will examine both general approaches and specific topics/issues in the field of contemporary bioethics, with a particular focus on the theological understandings of dignity and justice. The course will emphasize (but not be limited to) Christian understandings and frameworks of these topics, including the controversies they entail. We will examine and make use of not simply “traditionalist” Christian theological approaches, but also liberationist and feminist theological lenses, with an eye towards assessing the dimensions and implications of dignity, justice, and human flourishing for various contemporary bioethical issues. (5 units)

142. Conscience, Christianity, and Politics

A study of the significant role that conscience has played in the history of Christian engagement with politics. We will study the meaning of conscience itself as it emerges in the works of great figures in the tradition. We will also consider the different ways in which the conscience of Christians has confronted the political order ranging from conscientious objection to civil disobedience to resistance to the collective conscience of a church in opposition to the state. Finally, conscience and Christianity and politics will be considered in light of crucial contextual matters like race and gender. (5 units)

143. Theology and Ethics of Thomas Aquinas

A study of the life, thought, and ethics of Aquinas. Basic topics to be discussed include the existence of God, human nature, and human participation in society. (5 units)

148. Christian Ethics and Controversial Topics

Have you ever wondered if Christians should take “sides” on public, controversial topics? Does Christian thought specify how we should begin to think about immigration, the death penalty, euthanasia, or racial justice? This course examines several contemporary social issues using the lenses of Christian theology and ethics, with a particular emphasis on Catholic Social Teaching. We will examine themes such as human dignity and human rights, the common good, economic justice, sin, solidarity, and a preferential option for the poor. In light of these themes, the course invites students to assess responses to various social topics, such as U.S. immigration, racism and civil rights, capital punishment, and state-sanctioned medically-assisted death. Although we will be using the lenses of Christian ethics to approach these topics, no assumptions will be made that students taking the course identify as Christian. (5 units)

149. Radical Theology: Death of God

This course introduces the student to the discipline of radical theology as a controversial modern method of understanding God in light of secularization. Beginning with suggestions of God’s death in the Bible; then in Nietzsche, through an analysis of death-of-God positions submitted in 19th-century theology and philosophy; a consideration of Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton; and finally, the curriculum offers consideration of current Christian responses to secularization, human suffering and death-of-God (DOG) theology. (5 units)

152. Faith, Ethics, and Biodiversity

Critical investigation of the global collapse of biological diversity. Religious implications of the environmental crisis, and a survey of the religio-ethical analysis and response by major faith traditions in light of the greening of religion. Examines the role that ethics can play in articulating conversation initiatives. Also listed as ENVS 152. (5 units) 

157. Ethics in the Health Professions

Introduction to the major issues in biomedical ethics. Basic principles of biomedical ethics, genetic interventions and reproductive technologies, euthanasia, professional responsibilities, confidentiality, and public policy issues regarding the system of delivery of health care. (5 units)

159. Ethics of War and Peace

Examination of the history of moral deliberation about war and peace in Western religious traditions, as well as contemporary, theological, and philosophical analyses of the diverse moral principles that those traditions have generated. Studies the application of theological and moral reasoning to contemporary wars. (5 units)

163. Christianity and Politics

An ethical investigation into the relationship between Christianity and the political order and into the contemporary experience of this relationship, drawing on Scripture, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. A special focus on contemporary issues of Christianity and political ethics. (5 units)

164. Religious Ethics in Business

This course is an introduction to religious ethics in a business setting. Discussions include how one might live their religious ethics at work without compartmentalizing their faith tradition when religious faith or ethics conflict with business ethics. Cases may include: deception in advertising and marketing; flawed products; affirmative action; environment and pollution; discrimination; workplace issues. (5 units)

165. Romero and the Salvadoran Martyrs

The age of martyrs is not a relic of the past but a reality of our own times. In many parts of the world, people are being murdered for their faith. This course will focus on the life of the martyr, Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador, and other Salvadoran men and women whose life and death exemplify the consequence of a socially conscious faith. (5 units)

175. Women’s Theologies from the Margins

Women of diverse cultural communities enrich theology by voicing their lived experience from global and local perspectives. Course explores the theological works of African-American, Asian-American, and U.S. Latina women in their historical and cultural contexts. Also listed as WGST 151. (5 units)

183. Ignatian Spirituality

An exploration of the historical background, sources, theology, and practice of Ignatian spirituality in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Jesuit documents, and a comparison of Ignatian methods of meditation and contemplation with other traditions of spirituality, Christian and non-Christian. (5 units)

184. Jesus Across Cultures

An exploration and study of selected significant and diverse interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth, and of the historical and cultural contexts that have shaped images and theologies of Jesus Christ (or Christologies). Approaches include biblical, Asian, African, Latin American, and feminist interpretations. The aim is critical exposure to the cross-cultural diversity of understandings of Jesus within Christianity itself. (5 units)

187. Christ and Catholic Theology

A study of contemporary Catholic Christology approached as Christology “from below.” Initial consideration of some fundamental theological concepts and then Jesus Christ as a historical figure and object of faith. Course pivots around Jesus’ proclamation of the “Kingdom of God” and considers his history through the resurrection. (5 units)

194. Interreligious Studies

This course is a comparative study of the beliefs, ethics, values, and religious expressions of the major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, and Confucianism. This course also explores the interactions between these religious traditions as they encountered one another in each geographical and social context. (5 units)

NEW 196. Eros, Lovesickness, and Religious Imagination

This course explores the role of religious imaginations in diverse textual expressions, focusing on the themes of sex, gender, and sexuality as significant, yet often dismissed, issues of human lives. What are the roles of religious imaginations in humans' past and present explorations of sex, gender, and sexuality Why are sex, gender and sexuality important in our examinations and reimaginings of religious ideas? How do we talk about religion and sex, gender, and sexuality, which are almost always interwoven with other issues, such as culture, race/ethnicity, class, and various kinds of violence? This course will address these questions by equipping students with theoretical frameworks and exploring various textual genres, including: myths, feminist/queer theology, Medieval and modern mysticism, novels and poems. Students are invited to immerse themselves in the depths of religious imaginations from past and present and to open themselves up to open-ended questions of sex, gender, and sexuality as one of the most crucial and pressing socio-cultural, political, and theological issues today.  [5 units]

198. Practicum

(1–5 units)

199. Directed Reading and Research

For religious studies majors only. (15 units)

Lower-Division Courses: Religion and Society (RSOC)

7. South and Southeast Asian Religious Traditions

Introduction to the major religious traditions of India and its neighbors in the subcontinent and Southeast Asia: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam; historical development of each faith; what is distinctive in each tradition; and particular attention to the ways in which these traditions have influenced each other. (4 units)

8. Jews, Judaism and Film

This course introduces students to Judaim, Jewish history, philosophy, ethnicity, and religion through the viewing of various films. Additionally through a combination of readings, lectures, and film, we will explore central theological and ethical ideals that have defined the evolution of Judaism and the Jewish experience, particularly in the modern period. Further topics include Enlightenment and Emancipation, Kabbalah Mystical Ecstatic Experiences, Secularism, Nationalism, Zionism and Socialism, Immigration and Assimilation, Anti-Semitism, Racism, the Holocaust, Feminism, Freedom, Peoplehood, Jewish Humor and Identity. (4 units)

9. Ways of Understanding Religions

Introduces the categories by which religion is formally studied. Explores distinct perspectives or ways of thinking about religion (e.g., psychological, phenomenological, anthropological, theological, and sociological); also considers a variety of religious data (e.g., symbols, myths, rituals, theologies, and modern communities). (4 units)

10. Asian Religious Traditions

This course will introduce students to the history, major teachings, and practices of the major Asian religious traditions of South, Central, East, and Southeast Asia, namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism. It will do so from a historical perspective, and will also explore the development of key theological and religious/philosophical doctrines as well as the associated practices. (4 units)

11. Asian Christianity

This course explores the world of Asian Christianity and its varied expressions of worship, arts, spirituality, and interactions with Asian religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Hinduism. (4 units)

14. Exploring Living Religions

Introduces academic approaches to the study of religion as practiced by ordinary people in everyday life. Explores religion as living practice enacted through fashioning and controlling of religious bodies and identities; appropriation, production, circulation, and consumption of religious goods; social and political structuring of authority and resistance; cultivation and nurturing of domestic, social, economic and other relationships through religious frameworks; creation and maintenance of spaces understood as “sacred” or “spiritual,” etc. Draws upon approaches form anthropology, cultural studies, and critical theory to research and reflect upon what religion allows people to know, think, and do in local Bay Area communities. (4 units)

16. Ecstatic Experience, Film and Religion

This course is devoted to investigating the intersection between ecstatic experiences, film, and religion. Historically, religious traditions have drawn on dance, music, and various contemplative practices that often induce an experience of ecstasy amongst practitioners. With the increase of secularism in the modern period. Various cultural industries—particularly film, sports, and music industries—have appropriated this role of providing avenues for collective and individual ecstatic experiences. This course explores possible intersections and tensions between religious and “secular” forms of ecstatic experience, with a particular emphasis on film, music and physical activities that tend to induce states of “flow” (such as dancing, surfing, biking, swimming, hiking, etc.). (4 units)

21. Urban Religion

This course explores how cities of the Bay Area shape and are shaped by the religious practices of the people who inhabit them. The course applies methods from cultural anthropology, human geography, and social theory to develop insight on how religion is lived in urban environments. Through fieldwork-based independent projects, students with an interest in anthropology, creative writing, filmmaking, journalism, political science, sociology, and other fields will document, analyze and communicate the complex relationship between religious practice and urban culture. (4 units)

51. Religion in America

Traces the development, character, and impact of religion in America from the precolonial era to the present. Course readings and discussions will center on the relationship between religion and the development of American culture. Includes Native American traditions; slavery and religion; the rise of revivalism; gender; religion and war; immigration; modern pluralism, etc. (4 units)

61. Nonreligion in America

Investigates the historical and socio-cultural development of various modes of nonreligious practice in the United States, including atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism, and the recent growth in religious non-affiliation and disidentification. Course involves fieldwork with local “freethinker” communities and practitioners to analyze their participation in, contributions to, and deviation from, wider national religious and nonreligious trends, patterns, and practices. (4 units)

81. Islam

Introduction to the Islamic tradition focusing on the dialectic between normative theology and popular devotion. Readings include the Quran, Sufi literature, and devotional poetry. Discussion of Quranic concerns in the Sunni and Shia traditions, ecstatic mysticism, Islamic law, and contemporary issues relating to the status of women, Westernization, and modernity. (4 units)

85. Hinduism

Exploration of the historical development, theologies, symbols, rituals, scriptures, social institutions, and 20th-century politics of Hinduism, primarily in India. Main focus on the interaction of religion and culture. (4 units)

86. Buddhism

Exploration of the whole Buddhist tradition, including Indian origins, Theravada traditions of Southeast Asia, Mahayana traditions of Central and East Asia, and Buddhism in the West. Emphasis on cultural impact of religion, Buddhist philosophy and practice, and modernizing tradition. (4 units)

87. Buddhism and Film

Explores the portrayal of Buddhism in contemporary global cinema. Covers key teachings of Buddhist religious traditions, and provides an introduction to the field of film studies, with particular focus on the skills needed to write critically about film. (4 units)

88. Chinese Religions

Focuses on the historical development of Chinese religionsConfucianism, Daoism, and Buddhismand their philosophies, as well as the interface between folk religion, society, and political institutions in traditional and modern China. (4 units)

99. Sociology of Religion

Using early and American Christianity as examples, this class examines how various social forces shape the religious beliefs and practices of people of faith. In particular it draws on a number of sociological perspectives, looking both at their historical and philosophical underpinnings and at what they can tell us about religious growth, faith in the modern world, and religiously inspired social action. (4 units)

Upper-Division Courses: Religion and Society (RSOC)

106. Zen in Theory and Practice

Explores the Chan/Zen traditions of East Asian Buddhism from the historical, theoretical, and practical perspectives. Students will explore the history and teachings of the Zen traditions, and then will learn how to undertake Zen meditative practice. The focus will be on bringing the teachings and tradition to life by experiencing them and learning about the way that practice itself drives changes in theory. (5 units)

109. Women and Buddhism from a U.S. Standpoint

This course offers the opportunity to learn about Buddhism while cultivating analytical skills to understand women and gender in religion. Through readings, films, and site visits to local Buddhist communities, students will engage in intersectional, feminist methods for studying historical and contemporary Buddhist lives. Also listed as WGST 142. (5 units)

111. Inventing Religion in America

Explores the spiritual creativity that stands at the center of the American experience and asks what characteristics facilitated such religious diversity. Looks at beliefs and practices, and also historical contexts. Includes Mormons, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, and Heaven’s Gate, etc. (5 units)

113. Buddhism in America

Following a survey of Buddhist teachings and the history of the transmission of Buddhism to America, this course explores the diverse array of Buddhist groups in Silicon Valley. (5 units)

114. Religion and Medicine in Health Care

The history of the institutions of medicine and religion have long been intertwined in health care. In the early 20th century, the institution of biomedicine became dominant, thus rendering religious approaches as quackery. Yet, religion-based approaches to healing resurged in the late 20th century due to the decline of medical authority and a convergence of the women’s health movement, alternative spirituality, and patient’s rights activism. From the 1970s to the 2000s, religion-based forms of healing moved from being considered “alternative” to “integrative” medicine by the medical establishment. In this course, we will utilize critical perspectives to understand and assess the changing landscape of healthcare in relation to the institutions of religion and medicine with special attention to patient experiences and institutional authority. (5 units)

115. Tibetan Buddhism: A Cultural History

Provides an overview of Tibetan religious history and the fundamental beliefs and practices of Tibetan religious traditions. Focuses on devotional traditions centering around saints, sophisticated systems of meditation and ritual, and the experience of women in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Also explores visual media, such as iconography and cinema. (5 units)

NEW 118. Tik Tok and Tradition

This course explores the profound impact of digital media on the Islamic tradition in the contemporary period. It considers, in particular, the ways that the use of online platforms and social media have fragmented Islamic authority and allowed for a proliferation of voices leading us to ask "Who speaks for Islam?" [5 units]

119. Media and Religion

Examines the religious, theological, and ethical issues and perspectives raised by various media: print, visual, audio, multimedia, and virtual. Special attention will be given to the nature of their relationship and the religious and spiritual issues currently present in their interface. (5 units)

126. Sufi Islam/Christian Mysticism

A comparative study of mystical experience in the Islamic and Christian faiths. Examines the dialectic between shari’ah (Islamic law) and “outlaw” Sufism (as evidenced by Muslims such as Husain ibn Mansur al-Hallaj), with attention to how Sufi movements have influenced Islamic societies from the early caliphal era to the 21st century. Within the Christian tradition, particular focus on the experience of Christ’s kenotic (self-emptying) love in the lives of mystics in the Catholic faith, with consideration of the role played by Christian spiritual practitioners (such as Père Charles de Foucauld) in interfaith encounters with Islam. (5 units)

128. Religion and Popular Culture

Examines the relationships between religious practice and culture expressions understood as appealing to the non-elite masses through various media (print, television, movies, music, etc.), personages (religious celebrities, entertainment celebrities, sports stars), embodied expressions and enhancements (clothing, jewelry, tattoos, piercings, etc.), and other material forms (mugs, water bottles, statues, posters, etc.). Consider how depictions of religion in popular cultural forms affects how we understand religious experiences, practitioners, and communities, and how religion itself functions as an element of cultural production that contributes to popular interest. (5 units)

130. East Asian Buddhism

Explores in depth the major traditions of East Asian Buddhism. Following a brief survey of their teachings and history, this course focuses on several traditions (Chan/Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, and Soka Gakkai) that are represented in the Silicon Valley area, and examines in depth the practices advocated by these traditions, as well as the social implications of these practices. (5 units)

131. Tantra in Theory and Practice

Examines the development and global spread of tantric traditions. Beginning with South Asia, explores the development of the body-oriented tantric movement and its institutionalization in Hindu and Buddhist religious contexts. Explores the spread of tantra throughout Asia and the West, and the transformation of tantric traditions in Western cultural contexts. (5 units)

135. Architects of Solidarity

Starting with the Jesuit claim of education for “solidarity for the real world,” students explore the rhetorics of solidarity in different intellectual and faith traditions and how these rhetorics frame issues such as poverty, intolerance, suffering, and globalization to inspire and justify action on behalf of others. Course requirements include field work with local organizations whose missions include solidarity across religious, economic, ethnic, or geographic differences. (5 units)

157. Religious Traditions and Contemporary Moral Issues

Explores selected moral issues and analyzes responses given to these issues by the selected religious traditions. Issues to be analyzed will include those pertaining to human life (e.g., euthanasia, HIV/AIDS), human sexuality (e.g., marriage), and global issues (e.g., war, environmental degradation, and poverty). The central approach will be to compare and contrast Western responses with responses from other cultural and religious systems in order to highlight points of difference, points of similarity, and common ground. (5 units)

170. Religion, Gender, and Globalization

Using feminist ethics as a framework, this course examines the ethical issues at the intersection of religion and globalization and unpacks the implications of this intersection for women. Focuses on the human rights of women and examines ways in which globalization has affected, supported, or undermined the human rights of women and the role of religion in their lives. Also listed as WGST 146. (5 units)

175. Mapping Living Religion

This course explores the intersection of geography, technology, religion, and culture in Silicon Valley. Through engagement with readings, lectures, discussions, and field visits, the course will introduce students to concepts and methods from cultural geography, sociology, and religious studies, using geographic information systems (GIS) to better understand the relationship between urban transformation and religious experience. We will examine how changes in the built and natural environment, such as are planned in the development of Google’s San Jose Transit Village Campus  and campus (“Googleville”), along with associated demographic shifts, change the religious and spiritual communities existing in the area designated for development. In turn, we will examine the extent to which religious communities have a role in shaping this transformation. The course will be of particular interest to students in anthropology, computer science, political science, religious studies, and sociology. (  5 units)

182. Shia Islam in the Contemporary World

An investigation of Shia theory, the historical origins of Shiism (especially the Twelver and Zaydi denominations), and Shia-Sunni relations in the contemporary Islamic world. Particular emphasis on issues of ritual and communal identity in Pakistan, India, Yemen, and diaspora communities in North America. (5 units)

184. Race and Religion in the United States

Begins with an examination of the living situation of people of African descent in the United States, as well as an analysis of their social contexteconomic, educational, and political aspects. Considerations are then given to the effects the Christian message has had in this situation. Also listed as ETHN 166. (5 units)

188. Religion and Violence

Examines the historical and contemporary relationships between religious ideologies and personal and institutional practices of coercion, force, and destruction. (5 units)

190. Islam: Reformation and Modernity

Comparative study of contemporary Islam. Beginning with the study of origins and basic doctrines of Islam, this course will study its development to the modern world. Main focus will be on Islam’s interaction with different cultures, emphasizing political implications of the rise of revivalism. (5 units)

191. Religions of Colonized Peoples

The aim of this course is to analyze from an insider perspective the role of religion both in the process of colonizing Africa as well as in the process of resistance to colonization. This will include an examination of the role of religion in the African struggle against political oppression, economic injustices, racism, and cultural imperialism. Students will then critically analyze the social-political implications of religion in their own contexts. (5 units)

198. Practicum

(15 units)

199. Directed Reading and Research

For religious studies majors only. (15 units)

Upper-Division Courses: Religious Studies (RELS)

(Courses for Religious Studies Majors and Minors)

NEW 100. Seminar in Interreligious Dialogue

This seminar is devoted to exploring various historical and contemporary approaches for understanding the hopes and challenges involved with inter-religious dialogue and encounters. The intensive seminar structure will enable students to explore a diverse array of methodological approaches for investigating inter-religious engagements, rituals, communities, beliefs, and experiences. In this course students will explore questions like, what defines a successful dialogue with people of different religious commitments? What is the relationship between comparative theology and civic ideals like pluralism? How might inter-religious dialogue contribute to conflict resolution, social justice, and peace? (5 units)