Professors: Maria Antonaccio, Rivka Ulmer (Chair), Carol Wayne White
Associate Professors: Karline M. McLain
Assistant Professors: Andrew Black (visiting), Brantley Gasaway, Stuart Young
At Bucknell University, the academic study of religion focuses on the human quest for meaning, purpose, and value. Religion courses explore the myriad ways humans have raised perennial questions about their own existence and their place in the wider compass of life, such as: Who am I? What is the good life? What is of greatest value to us collectively? What is my destiny? What is ultimately real? What constitutes truth and how do we know of it? To whom are we accountable? This academic approach also exposes students to the diverse ways humanity has sought to understand some of its most profound experiences and ideas (good and evil, suffering and redemption, beginnings and endings, personal and collective transformation). The exploration of these and other issues reveals different ways of experiencing the world; diverse religious expressions (mythic, symbolic, ritualistic, ethical, doctrinal) in various geographical, historical, and cultural contexts; transformative effects on the lives of individuals and on the patterns of common life; and distinct cosmologies and systems of value.
The academic study of religion contributes to the formation of global citizens by giving them fundamental capacities of intercultural literacy. The skills and capabilities that students develop in the academic study of religion are therefore broadly applicable and are intimately related to the goals of other areas of study at Bucknell, not only in the humanities but also in management, the sciences, and engineering. The academic study of religion offers close alignment with the general Bucknell goal of preparing students for a world that is both “globally interconnected and interdependent, yet divided” (“Background and Context” for the Strategic Plan, p. 5).
The curriculum of the religion department helps students acquire the skills needed for fuller reflection on and comprehension of human nature, human history, and human existence in relation to diverse notions of the sacred. Students also learn about and assess institutional formations associated with traditions and world religions as well as the interrelation of religion with social, cultural and political developments. This curriculum reflects the strengths of the faculty of the department in both broad periodization and diverse subjects of concentration.
A major in religion provides the context for historical and conceptual engagement with some of the most profound ideas, thinkers, and questions that challenge humanity. Students develop a critical understanding of the diverse religious intentions, motivations, and inspirations of local communities as they respond to globalizing forces. Coursework in the discipline serves to provide students with an understanding of key approaches, concepts, and practices in the study of religion. Such study helps students acquire the skills needed for reflection upon the human quest for transformation and meaning.
The religion major consists of eight courses: at least one, but not more than two, introductory courses; at least one course from each of the three curricular areas, i.e., "Western" Religious Traditions, "Non-Western" Religious Traditions, and Religion, Culture, and Theory; RELI 330, "Theories of Religion"; and a Senior Culminating Experience, RELI 400. RELI 330 and the CE senior seminar will address the writing, speaking, and information literacy requirements of the CCC. Requests for exemptions from one or more of these requirements will be considered by the department chair upon petition by the student major.
Religion majors are encouraged to pursue off campus study either abroad or in approved domestic programs in order to broaden their understanding of religious pluralism both globally and in the United States. No more than two religion courses earned off campus may be used to meet the major requirements. Transfer students may appeal this restriction by writing to the chair of the department.
The religion department encourages majors to consider honors candidacy by completing an honors thesis in their final academic year. Students wishing to undertake an honors thesis should consult with their adviser in the fall semester of their junior year and declare their intentions and their thesis topic in the spring semester of their junior year.
The minor in religion consists of any four courses, at least one (but not more than two) of which must be an introductory course i.e., RELI 100, RELI 105, RELI 110, RELI 115, RELI 125, or RELI 180.
In addition to the above described minor in religion, students may elect a minor in Jewish Studies.
The minor in Jewish Studies consists of four courses from the lists below: at least one "core" course, the primary focus of which is Judaism, not more than one "secondary" course, the focus of which includes Judaism, and not more than two "topics" courses, when the focus of the course includes Judaism and the course has the approval of the department chair.
Core Courses: (The primary focus of which is Judaism.)
RELI 205: Hebrew
RELI 209: Israel: Land, People, and Tradition
RELI 210: Judaism
RELI 211: Women in Judaism. Crosslisted as WMST 211.
RELI 307: Post-biblical Literature
RELI 411: The Male Body in Judaism. Crosslisted as UNIV 327.
Secondary Courses: (The focus of which includes Judaism.)
RELI 105: Introduction to the Bible
RELI 110: Introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Topics Courses: (When the focus of the course includes Judaism and the course has the approval of the department chair.)
RELI 228: Religions in the Modern World
RELI 234: Issues of Religion and Culture
RELI 310: Topics in Religion and Law
RELI 315: Topics in American Religion
RELI 319: Individual Studies in Religion
RELI 320: Individual Studies in Religion
RELI 325: Major Religious Thinkers
RELI 326: Major Religious Movements
Introduction to Religion (I or II; 3, 0)
This course will introduce students to the academic study of religion and will examine such basic religious categories as history, myth, ritual, and text. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Introduction to the Bible (I or II; 3, 0)
Critical, literary, and historical analyses of Hebrew (Tanak) and Christian scriptures. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (I or II; 3, 0)
A comparative survey of the three major monotheistic traditions, including their histories, scriptures, beliefs, and practices. Attention also will be paid to issues that each tradition has faced in the modern world. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Introduction to Asian Religions (I or II; 3, 1)
A comparative study of the basic teachings and practices of Asian religions through lectures, discussions, readings, and films; inquiry into similarities and differences. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as EAST 115.
Introduction to Ethics (I or II; 3, 0)
This introductory course in ethical reflection draws from a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives to address a range of contemporary moral issues. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Introduction to Religion in America (I or II; 3, 0)
This course will examine the ways in which a wide variety of Americans have articulated and practiced their religious commitments. Prerequisite: first-year or sophomore standing. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
"Western" Religious Traditions
Israel: Land, People, and Tradition (AII; 3, 0)
Study of the complex relationship between Judaism and the sacred traditions of the Jews as related to the Land of Israel including the cultural situation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Judaism (AI or AII; 3, 0)
A survey of Jewish religious traditions, addressing major historical developments (e.g., biblical, rabbinic, and modern periods) and basic rituals and theological issues (e.g., "chosenness", covenant, salvation).
Women in Judaism (AII; 3, 0)
Survey of Jewish texts and films that focus specifically on women or use feminine imagery; considers feminist and historical-critical interpretations of the evolving role of Jewish women. Crosslisted as WMST 211.
Christianity (AI or AII; 3, 0)
A broad introduction to Christianity, including a survey of Christian scripture, various Christian doctrines and beliefs, and major traditions of thought and practice within Christianity.
God, Suffering, and Evil (I or II; 3, 0)
An investigation into the problem suffering and evil pose for Western religious and Christian reflection on the existence and nature of God.
Essentials of Christian Thought (I or II; R; 3, 0)
A survey of major topics in Christian thought, including God, creation, human nature, sin, salvation, the Christian life, the church, the status of other religions, and the future of human history and the world.
Catholicism (I or II; 3, 0)
A broad survey of Roman Catholicism, including its main beliefs and practices, within the larger context of the history of Christianity and the history of Christian thought.
Christian Ethics (I or II; 3, 0)
Major trends in Christian ethics, with particular attention to the diversity of sources and methods used by Christian thinkers to reflect on moral issues.
History of Western Religious Thought (I; 3, 0)
A survey of the major religious ideas and problems which have shaped the Western intellectual tradition. Topics to be explored include conceptions of God, theories of human nature, and the relation between religious belief and cultural values.
Religion and the Loss of Traditional Faith (I or II; 3, 0)
Examination of new approaches (linguistic, philosophical, and hermeneutical) that challenge traditional Western religious ideas and the role of faith in the contemporary world. Emphasis is on intersection of religion and critical theory.
Religious Naturalism (I; 3, 0)
This course will examine some of the diverse perspectives and ideas associated with religious naturalism. Students will explore the ways religious naturalists reconceptualize traditional concepts (God or supernatural theism), and examine their various approaches to understanding evil, morality, human nature, and humans' connectivity to nature.
Religion and Constitutional Law (I or II; 3, 0)
This course explores the developing relationship between religion and American constitutional law, focusing on historic documents and Supreme Court decisions relating to the First Amendment.
Religion and American Politics (I or II; 3, 0)
This course explores the historical relationship of religion and American politics, focusing on the impact of religion on both domestic and foreign policy.
Spirituality and Mysticism (II; 3, 0)
This course studies the nature, role and meaning of mysticism and spirituality for Western audiences by focusing on different models, practices, and accounts. We will examine the social/cultural variables that influence mystical quests; concepts of truth, reality, and transcendence implied in diverse mystical experiences and spiritual practices; and the role of the body in spiritual practices. Prerequisite: not open to first-year students.
Topics in American Religion (I or II; R; 3, 0)
This course will examine specific topics in American religion including in-depth analyses of religious movements and traditions in America. Prerequisite: junior or senior status only. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
The Male Body in Judaism (II; 3, 0)
Investigates the male body from Jewish and comparative perspectives: the body of athletes; Jewish/Black relations; theories of masculinity; the body of soldiers; stereotyping; human and divine bodies. Prerequisites: junior or senior status and permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as UNIV 327.
"Non-Western" Religious Traditions
Buddhism (II; 3, 1)
An interdisciplinary introduction to Buddhism, including basic teachings of liberation from suffering, impermanence, no-self, ethics, and meditation. Also explores the historical development of various streams of Buddhism in Asia and the West, with attention to the mutual influence between Buddhism and society, politics, and material culture. Crosslisted as EAST 251.
Hinduism (AI or AII; 3, 0)
A historical survey of the family of Hindu religious traditions. This course traces the development of Hindu scriptures, rituals, philosophies, and ethics from the ancient to the contemporary world. Concepts such as karma, yoga, and reincarnation will be put in the broader contexts of Hindu dharma (religious law), theism, and ritual.
Hinduism and Film (II; 3, 0)
A survey of Indian cinema and Hinduism, exploring early Hindu mythological films, the underlying religious messages of popular "secular" films, and the influences of Hindu worship practices on Indian cinema.
Religions of South Asia (I or II; R; 3, 0)
Focused study of one or more South Asian religious traditions. This course centers on South Asian religions and on topics that may include, but will not be limited to: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam in Pakistan and India, and Buddhism in Tibet, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
Religions of East Asia (I; 3, 0)
Focused study on one or more East Asian religious traditions. This course centers on religions and on topics that may include, but will not be limited to: Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Shinto, and new East Asian religious movements. Crosslisted as EAST 244.
Religions of China (I; 3, 0)
An introduction to the religious traditions of China through study of their origins, basic beliefs, practices and values, historical development, as well as their interaction and involvement with politics, culture, society and each other. Focus on the three major traditions - Confucianism, Daoism, and Chinese Buddhism. Crosslisted as EAST 252.
Religions of Japan (II; 3, 1)
An introduction to the religious traditions of Japan through study of their origins, basic beliefs, practices and values, historical development, as well as their interaction and involvement with politics, culture, society and each other. Focus on Shinto and the various forms of Japanese Buddhism. Crosslisted as EAST 253.
Epic India: Comics, Films, Text (I; 3, 0)
Survey of the great Indian religious epics, focusing on the place of these stories in classical India, and how they are retold in new times and places, as they are recast in new media.
Religion, Culture, and Theory
God, Nature, and Knowledge (I or II; 3, 0)
Study of various philosophical, religious, and scientific theories regarding the concepts of divine nature, human nature, and non-human nature.
Philosophy of Religion (I; 3, 0)
Problems for rational inquiry arising from the claims and practices of religious faith; the nature of religious experience and language, arguments for God's existence, evil. Prerequisite: PHIL 100 or permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as PHIL 223.
Environmental Ethics (II; 3, 0)
A survey of the major theories of environmental ethics, with particular attention to the challenge of developing an ethic commensurate with increasing human power. Crosslisted as ENST 236.
Religions in the Modern World (II; R; 3, 0)
An examination of how religious communities respond to contemporary issues such as nationalism, secularism, atheism, culture and history of a group. The formation of religious identities and institutions in contexts of cultural diversity and pluralism will be discussed.
The Ethics of Consumption (II; 3, 0)
Analysis of ethical issues related to human consumption, such as world hunger, poverty, environmental destruction, and the effects of consumerism on human values and interactions.
End of Nature, Posthuman Future (I; 3, 0)
Analysis of ethical issues related to human technological interventions (both environmental and medical), and their implications for our changing conceptions of nature and human nature.
Issues of Religion and Culture (AI or AII; R; 3, 1)
Focus on interdependence of religion and cultural phenomena: ideology; alienation; formation of world view; understandings of time and space; relation between church and state; faith and science.
Religion and Popular Culture (I or II; 3, 0)
This course examines the relationship of religion to contemporary popular culture, both in how religion is portrayed (in music, movies, sports, and consumer culture) and how it is replicated (in ritual, myth, and morality).
Topics in Religion and Law (I or II; R; 3, 0)
This course will examine aspects of the relationship between religion and law in global, regional, tradition-based, and/or historical contexts. Prerequisite: junior or senior status only. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Topics in Religion and Culture (I or II; R; 3, 0)
This course will examine the interrelation between religion and cultural phenomena in diverse contexts of human experience. Prerequisite: junior or senior status only. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Cultivating the Self (I or II; 3, 0)
This course is an upper-level seminar on the idea of self-cultivation as a central theme in religious and philosophical reflection. Students will explore different meanings of the idea of self-cultivation as a practice of training the self’s energies to attain an ideal of human excellence in a variety of traditions (including, e.g., Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and western philosophical perspectives). Prerequisite: junior or senior status only. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Theories of Religion (I or II; 3, 0)
An exploration of theoretical models and methods employed in the study of religion. Readings will be from major texts, which may include sociological, psychological, anthropological, and phenomenological approaches, along with recent challenges to such theories from thinkers of feminist, postmodern, and postcolonial perspectives. Prerequisite: junior or senior status only. Open to others by permission of the instructor.
Individual and Specialized Study of Religion
Individual Studies in Religion (I and II; R; 3, 0) Half to one course.
Guided investigations. Open to qualified students with some previous study of religion who wish to pursue individual programs of study in the field. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
Major Religious Thinkers (AI or AII; R; 3, 0)
The thought, historical setting, and influence of one or more classical religious thinkers, e.g., Paul the Apostle, Augustine, Kierkegaard, Confucius, Rosenzweig, Gandhi.
Honors Thesis (I and II; R; 3, 0)
Senior Seminar - Culminating Experience (I or II; 3, 0)
The Senior Seminar (a one-semester topical course) is required for all majors in religion, and is designed to give majors an opportunity to integrate the knowledge and skills they have acquired, and to hone their research, writing, and oral skills, through the production of a significant research project. Prerequisites: open to seniors in religion only.
Courses offered occasionally
201 Islam, 205 Hebrew, 211 Women in Judaism, 219 Contemporary Religion: Race, Gender, and Sexuality, 220 Comparative Ethics, 221 God and Morality, 225 Religion and Literature, 227 Bioethics: Issues in Ethics, Medicine, and the Life Sciences, 233 Global Feminism and Religion, 239 Queering (Christian) Theology, 240 Perspectives in Religion and Science, 248 Religions of the African Diaspora, 307 Post-biblical Literature, 326 Major Religious Movements