School of Religion

2020 - 2021 Course Offerings

The following undergraduate courses are planned for the 2020-21 academic year. Please note the timetable in SOLUS Student Centre has been updated to reflect accurate timings. Attached to each course is a description of what to expect from the course now that RELS Winter and Spring 2021 courses will be offered online. Please reach out to or the individual instructor with any questions you have. 


Full Year Courses

RELS 131 World Religions/Religious Worlds **Offered through Arts and Science Online**

In this course students will study some of the world’s major religions, all the while keeping in mind the challenges that come with critically engaging the category “religion.” Studying religion allows students to engage with philosophy, history, literature, politics, fine art, and sociology, and this course gives students the opportunity to begin, at an introductory level, the process of understanding how world religions have both been shaped by and continue to shape global cultures. This course will examine six of the world’s religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, the religions of China, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will primarily consider these religious traditions in their historical context, looking carefully at their origins, sacred literature, and ritual life, though at times we will consider selected contemporary issues that highlight different religions’ response to modernity. Please note that this course does not include all world religions on account of time and space. Instead the course examines six of the major world religions and introduces a critical framework with which to further study religion in future courses.Students will engage with the course material through online course notes, readings, and multimedia resources.A major advantage of this course is that it fosters learning through both independent study and through small-group learning activities. Students will have access to the instructor and teaching team for individual questions and support.


Fall 2019 Courses

RELS 140 - Religion and Science

This course examines the categories of both science and religion and attempts to explore the possible relationships between them. Some relationships are hostile, some neutral, some complementary, and often they are very deeply tangled. Case studies will involve: medicine and health (e.g. COVID conspiracy theories), science-and-technology-based religions (e.g. The Church of Perpetual Life), and how science and religion have differently addressed some of the same questions (e.g. in practices like alchemy vs chemistry, astrology vs astronomy). This course will be conducted remotely. All lectures will be recorded and posted on OnQ along with slides. Students are not required to be on campus for any part of the course but are expected to keep up to date with readings, participate in online discussions facilitated through OnQ, and submit written assignments to the professor online. In person office hours will not be held, but the professor is available over email and, if necessary, video chat. Synchronous tutorials will be offered, but if you cannot attend, you can instead submit a short contribution via OnQ for us all to read. Grading will be based on several short quizzes; tutorial participation; and a critical response to a documentary. On average, I expect the course will take each student about 8 hours of work each week.

RELS 214 - The New Testament

Ever wonder how Christianity started? In this course we will start to answer this question by examining a variety of Christ groups in their first and early second century settings. We will look at when, why, and how stories inside and outside the Bible were written. Although students will come to know the basic content of the early Christian texts, the course will emphasize how adherents of Jesus established their own identity, grounding it in their Jewish heritage while responding to their Greco-Roman cultural context. 

Each week students will be given readings and short (10-15 min) narrated presentations, along with a small group activity to engage with that utilizes onQ  throughout the week. Although the class has scheduled timeslots, each week we will only meet “live” using Zoom during the last hour when we will play a fun game called “Discipleship Survivor” followed by an optional time for questions and answers about the course material. The course will be graded based on regular participation in the weekly non-live activities, two short online quizzes, and the submission of two short papers during the semester. On average, I expect the course will take each student about 8-9 hours of work each week.

RELS 226 - Islam

This course is a historical and topical survey of Islam. It examines the origin, the rise and the formation of the central elements of the Islamic faith through a study of Prophet Muhammad’s life, the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It will also study the development of Islamic intellectual tradition and institutions as embodied in Islamic law, theology, mysticism, and sectarian movements. Modern interpretations of Islam, Islamic movements, and contemporary issues will also be dealt with. The goal is to understand how historical developments take place within a religion, here, Islam; why there are different voices and manifestations of Islam; to develop aritical analytical frame of reference in order to be able to understand and explain religious issues in an educated manner.

This course will be conducted remotely over Microsoft Teams. Weekly submissions of reading summaries as well as short online testings will be completed throughout the course. Students will be asked to participate in discussions and Q&A sessions. The midterm and final will be in the form of take-home essays. These activities will be managed through onQ services and almost all of them can be performed asynchronously.

RELS 234 - Judaism

This class will introduce you to different forms of Judaism, Jewish culture, and Jewish politics. To do this, we will together carefully explore texts from several genres: biographies, mystical and philosophical writings, films, art, and music, all will be used to develop a picture of the way different Jewish Worlds have developed and interacted. As we understand these worlds, we will focus on approaches to sex and gender, ritual and belief, and radical politics.

This class will have three components each week: a 1 hour pre-recorded lecture, to be watched at your convenience; 1 hour of group work, where you will go over the week’s text with fellow students on OnQ; and a 1 hour tutorial, where we can meet over Zoom discuss the lecture and the readings. The tutorial will be recorded for those who cannot make it, and you can instead submit a short contribution via OnQ for us all to read.  We will be very flexible about timing, to make sure everyone is accommodated.

RELS 239 - Religion and Sport

This course will provide an overview of the relatively new and expanding body of research that examines the relationship between sport, spirituality, and religion. Topics including play, games, flow, ritual, prayer, sports stars as role models, doping, fandom, and miracles in sport will be explored.

The course will be organized in 12 modules. Each module will include required readings. There are two assigned books and a series of articles and chapters. The articles and chapters are available through e-reserves. You will need to purchase one book which you can order through the Campus Book Store.  Each module will also include a voice-over PowerPoint lecture. There are two required films included in the course that can be viewed through a link to the Queen’s library. There will be a mid-term test (essay answers) and two multiple choice quizzes. Each student will be assigned one module in which they must post a presentation based on the required material. Students will also be required to post formal and informal responses in each module, which will be evaluated. The instructor will monitor the discussions and post some replies. There will be NO synchronous sessions.

RELS 255 - Research Methods in Religious Studies

A "method" means "a way of doing something." In this course you will learn ways to take a project from idea to finished product (e.g. how to design a study, get the data, do the analysis, and package it in different forms such as essay, poster, presentation, or podcast, to share with your readers and listeners). Our main reading material will be Ann Taves’ Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (2009; available online). Using this and some other readings of classic primary texts, you will complete reading log assignments throughout the course of the semester. Your final project can take the form of a paper, podcast, video, or another format you pitch to me. In it, you will apply the skills of literature searching, reading, and writing honed throughout this course to analyzing a “special experience” of your own choosing. The purpose of these activities is to equip you with reading, searching, writing, and editing skills that will make you more efficient, effective, and creative in the assignments in your other courses. Each week I will give you readings and a short (10-15 min) narrated presentation. From time to time you will get to do a small group activity through onQ (asynchronously, at your own pace). Although the class is scheduled for #timeslots??#, each week we will only meet “live” using Zoom during #time# for an optional tutorial-style session for questions and answers about the course material. The course will be graded based on: several reading logs, the final project, and participation in the occasional non-live OnQ activities. On average, I expect the course will take each student about 8 hours of work each week.

RELS 302 - Indigenous Worlds and Natures in Latin America

This seminar is about how indigenous peoples of Latin America conceptualize and relate to their environment —or what we usually call “Nature”. To undertake this cultural question, we will explore particular knowledges and practices that will tell us about two specific things: the first one relates to the hybrid forms of the Human and the environment in indigenous settings; the second has to do with the ways indigenous collectives dwell in —and actually craft— their material and symbolic, natural-cultural worlds.

We will read chapters and papers and make short reflections on them; we will follow lectures (life and recorded), hold collective discussions, invite guest speakers when possible, and write individual and collective analyses on films and videos. Synchronic activities will then be combined with individual moments of reflection and work in small groups to develop short written analyses. In addition, you will be individually meeting the professor to present your progress and to ask questions that help you prepare the final work.


Attendance and participation (30%)

Weekly reading notes or small assignments (30%)

Final paper (40%).

NB.- Participation wouldn’t weight that much under normal conditions but, in online learning, your active engagement is a must if we want our Teams or Zoom meetings to work.

RELS 354 - Theory in Religious Studies

This course is an introduction to the major theoretical approaches to the study of religion. The course will consider how the category and study of religion was historically defined, approached and explained by scholars, while considering how colonial, racial, and gendered locations have implicated the study of religion and the idea of religion itself.

This course will be a blend of occasional synchronized (via online platform for discussions of readings) and a-synchronized (weekly lectures will be posted and online activities and assignments via OnQ) but the entire course will be delivered remotely and online. Where possible readings will be posted via OnQ. The instructor will also try to ensure digital versions of readings are available.

RELS 393/893 - Buddhism in the Modern World

The course starts with a study of the key tenets of Buddhism and a brief survey of its global history. After that, we focus on Buddhism in the west. In order to understand current debates in Buddhism, we look at the major schools in North America and discuss issues like mindfulness, self-compassion, social engagement, ecology, health, aesthetics and cosmopolitanism. We also look at the commodification of Buddhism, and its role in popular culture. The class will also cover Buddhism inspired comic series like Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha and Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond.

Students will also attend online meditation sessions and encouraged to maintain personal meditation journals. The course doesn’t require any textbook and all the readings will be provided online. Some of the class assignments will include short papers, online discussions and a final research paper.

RELS 452 - The Contemporary Religious Situation

This course will provide students with a broad introduction to the sociology of religion by looking at issues like lived religion, secularization, modernity, public religion, and similar topics.

Due to the extraordinary situation brought on by COVID-19, this course will be conducted remotely: all lectures will be recorded and posted on OnQ along with PowerPoint slides. Students are not required to be on campus for any part of the course but are expected to keep up to date with readings, participate in online discussions facilitated through OnQ, and submit written assignments to the professor on time. In person office hours will not be held, but the professor is available over email and, if necessary, Teams/Skype.  


Winter 2021 Courses

RELS 137 - Religion & Film

This course will explore how religion is portrayed in film, noting particularly the depiction of religious belief, practices, practitioners, and institutions, and the use of religious symbols and metaphors.

RELS 163 - Religion & Popular Culture

This course will identify and describe characteristics of religion as they appear in popular culture (e.g. fashion; comics; movies; art; music; novels; sitcoms; dramas; video games) and analyze how such depictions present, shape, and create perceptions of religion in public discourse.

RELS 223 - Buddhism

Buddhism in India, the life and teaching of Gautama the Buddha, and the growth of the Theravadin and Mahayanist traditions.

RELS 227 - Things and Objects in the Indigenous Americas

Introduction to the study of Indigenous traditions in North America.

RELS 232 - Religion and Social Movements

This course will examine the field of social movement studies, with a particular focus on how religion has played a role in the rise of social movements, how religious communities have been influenced by social movements, and how mobilization and activism around social justice issues is colouored by religion and culture.

RELS 235 - Religion and Environment

Examines how religious traditions shape human values and behaviours towards the environment and how environmental problems are shaping the evolution of religious and spiritual traditions. 

RELS 266 - Religion and Social Ethics

Moral problems and religious responses: e.g., sexual morality; violence; civil disobedience.

RELS 301 - Themes in Religious Studies

Gender, Sexuality and Religion

A topic of current interest in Religious Studies not covered in other available courses

RELS 334 - Jewish Views of the Other

A study of the tensions that come into play as Jews formulated views of the Other to balance co-existence with them. Source materials include authoritative writings of Jewish commentary and law and social scientific views of them.

RELS 396 - Islam in the Morden World

Exploration of Islamic developments since the 19th century: major thinkers, trends of thought, and contemporary movements as responses to modernity.

RELS 401 - Honours Seminar

Advanced seminar providing detailed reading of one contemporary theme or thinker in religious studies.


Spring 2021 Courses

RELS 201 - Religion, Race Creation, and Colonialism

Prior to World War II, were Buddhist monks working as spies in Detroit? Did Buddhist leaders write letters supporting Hitler’s establishment of an Aryan nation? Religion, Race Creation, and Colonialism will focus specifically on the ways in which religion has been used to create distinct racial groupings and develop ideologies which justified colonialism, slavery, and genocide, while simultaneously creating spaces for resistance against these tropes.  The course will focus on religion during the primary age of colonialism, roughly 1700-1950, although we will also discuss colonialism today. We will directly question the historical roles of religion and science in the justification of racism and violence, which not only aided imperial projects, but also created space for resistance from colonized people, as well as BIPOC activists in the West.

RELS 312 - Christian Feminist Theology

An examination of some of the issues raised by the feminist critique of traditional theology and of some feminist attempts at theological reconstruction. In this course we will look at Christian feminist theologies.