School of Religion


2019 - 2020 Course Offerings

The following undergraduate courses are planned for the 2019-20 academic year. Some information may change.

All course timetable and selection information for 2019-20 will be available in the SOLUS Student Centre in late June.

Full Year Courses

RELS 131 World Religions/Religious Worlds
Introduces religion in India, China and Japan; also the movements of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Humanism
Also offered through Arts and Science Online.

 

Fall 2019 Courses

RELS 162 - Religion, News and Media

This is a new age of communication. Technology has brought both old and new sources of media into our homes, our workplaces, and our pockets. As never before, we turn to mass and social media to understand the religions of others, to debate the place of religion in our society, and to engage in spiritual practices. Navigating this new world requires new intellectual tools. Using a series of case studies from Canadian and U.S. media, this class will examine how the ways we communicate influence both our ideas about and our practices of religion. Along the way, it will help you develop key skills in religious studies and media analysis.


RELS 202 - Muslim Expressions in Canada**

This course examines the historical and contemporary expressions of Islam in Canada. Starting from early Muslim migrants to Canada to current issues of media representations, Islamophobia, and gender and sexuality, as they are unfolding in Canadian contexts for Muslims.

RELS 221 - New Religious Movements

The old joke goes that a cult is just a church down the street from yours, or a religion you don’t like. Here in the university, we don’t even use the term anymore - we say New Religious Movements (NRMs) instead - because the “cult” concept is loaded with so much baggage. But the question remains: what makes these groups different from just “religions”? Why are people attracted to the “alternative” perspectives they offer? In this course, we will delve into these questions with a couple of cases of communal NRMs that got in trouble with the law and the mores of polite society through the documentaries “Wild Wild Country” (Netflix series about the Rajneeshis), “Hail Satan” (film about the Satanic Temple), and “Uncover: Escaping NXIVM” (CBC podcast series about Keith Raniere’s “wellness brand” NXIVM).

RELS 222 - The Hindu World

This course covers three major facets of Hinduism: major scriptures, beliefs and practices, and the relevance of Hinduism in the modern world. We look primarily at the ‘religious’ aspects of the tradition past and present. But, we also discuss the politicization of Hindu religion in shaping contemporary issues in India.

RELS 237 - Religion and Film

This year we will focus on the question:  ‘what does Bollywood cinema teach us about religion and culture in India? Some of the issues we look at include colonialism, Hindu nationalism, subversion through horror cinema, family values (e.g., marriage or shadi), and love, to name just a few. We will see that ‘religion' is not always about belief in gods or goddesses, or faith in religious dogmas, but rather that it involves a living and dynamic worldview based on action (karma) in the world.

RELS 255 - Research Methods in Religious Studies

Many religious studies students often graduate and feel that they have not benefited from in-depth training in how to do their own research in religious studies. This course aims to fix this problem. The students in this class will be required to do hands-on research throughout the semester. They will, ideally, finish the course more confident with filling out an ethics application, thinking about research design, doing interviews, conducting a focus group, carrying out a survey, and be introduced to several other methodological tools and challenges. 


RELS 354 - Theory in Religious Studies

An introduction to major theoretical approaches to the study of religion.

RELS 321 - Greek and Roman Religions

This course focuses on the nature of the ‘mystery cults’ in the Greek and Roman periods. Using in-class activities in an interactive classrooms students will examine paintings depicting the raucous Dionysiac rites, compare the Persian Great Mother goddess with the Egyptian goddess Isis, recreate rituals from the cult of Mithras, and explore how Jewish and Christian groups were situated within the complex matrix of religious groupings. The data for doing all this and more will come from inscriptions, papyri documents, literary texts, and ancient art work.

RELS 322 - Yoga in India and the West

In Rels322 we examine the multifaceted phenomenon of yoga in India and the West. We look at the history and philosophy of yoga, and at various beliefs and practices, through a study of representative texts deriving from the Hindu tradition (and, to a lesser extent, Buddhism).  We also look at the modern phenomenon of what scholars call transnational Anglophone yoga, particularly as it is practiced in the West. The objective is to facilitate a systematic and critical investigation of yoga from the moment we encounter it in the Indian tradition up to the present day. There is also an 8 week yoga class where students at all levels can learn about postures (asana). 

RELS 340 - Religion and Democracy

There are intense debates going on about public presence of religion in Canada. This course explores the relationship between religion and democracy through examining the role and place of religion in public sphere. Where is the divide line between the public and private spheres? Do they have fixed or shifting boundaries? Is public sphere a uniformed space with uniformed expectation with regard to religious presence? Is separation of church and state an intrinsic part of the definition of democracy? Does an actual separation of the two exist in any of longstanding democracies that we know? Are religions univocally democratic or nondemocratic?

These are some of the questions that the course will address through reading materials and class activities. Class activities are a part of the course aiming to improve students’ critical thinking abilities and analyzing skills related to theoretical discussions and case studies.

RELS 341 - Spirituality, Secularity, and Nonreligion

You could say that every religious person is an atheist about someone else’s religion. So what does it really mean to define yourself in opposition to religion? For instance, the logo for the punk band Bad Religion is a “Crossbuster.” Why does crossing out the Christian cross get to stand in for opposition religion in general? If, as some claim, all religions are spiritual, but not all spiritualities are religious, then what precisely is being factored out by the designation of “Spiritual But Not Religious”? This course will explore problems like these by examining the televised antics of “the New Atheists,” sketch comedy parodies of “New Age” millennials, and journalistic examples of how many opposite things the word “secular” can mean. By the end, we’ll clarify the difference between atheist, agnostic, secular, nonreligious, and anti-religious, and track demographic trends among these groups in our own country.

RELS 398 - Judaism in the Modern Age

This course will focus on four major force--Feminism, Politics, Rationalism, and Cultural Relativism--to explore how Modernity has transformed Judaism, and how Judaism has changed our understanding of what it means to be Modern. What happens when old stories and ways of life are confronted with a form of modernity? How do people respond? What can we learn from these responses?

Winter 2020 Courses

RELS 163 - Religion & Popular Culture

This course will identify and describe characteristics of religion as they appear in popular culture (e.g. comics; movies; music; sitcoms; social media; sports) and analyze how such depictions present, shape, and create perceptions of religion in public discourse. In exploring the presentation of religion in popular culture, we will engage with indigenous traditions, the Nation of Gods and Earth (5%ers), Sufism, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism.


RELS - 210 Hebrew Bible

Introduction in the light of the political, cultural, and religious history of ancient Israel and Judah.

RELS - 218 Christianity

Introduction to Christianity as a religious tradition through its texts, its history and its contemporary forms.

RELS - 236 Religion and Sex

Varying forms of religion, both historically and in the present, have sought to conceptualize and regulate sexuality according to religious principles.   RELS 236 will explore some of the interactions between religion and sexuality both historically and in the lived religion of contemporary people.   Through studying specific issues (e.g., contraception, LGBTQI+ sexuality)   we will see is that both "religion" and "sexuality" are malleable and highly contextualized in their relationship to one another.

RELS - 240 Magic, Witchcraft, and the Supernatural

In this course we explore questions like: who are witches and what do they do? Is there a difference between magic and religion? What does conspiracy thinking about aliens have in common with claims about paranormal experiences of ghosts and spirits? What can we learn from stage magic about how politicians, advertisers, and other persuasive people trick us? To think through them, we’ll draw a healthy dose of examples and case studies from family-friendly fiction like Harry Potter to gritty zombie flicks, as well as New Age and occult practices like astrology and tarot reading.

RELS - 250 Mythology of Heroes, Heroines and Saints

Heroes are everywhere. Epic heroes. Tragic heroes. Everyday heroes. Superheroes. Antiheroes. How does a person, or a being, get to be so designated? What does it take? Using a variety of source material from ancient literary works to songs to contemporary movies (think: the Marvel Universe) we will look at how hero stories are formed and transmitted and how they function to reflect and reframe the worldview of audiences. 

RELS - 268 Religion and Biomedical Ethics

We will explore and debate some of the main issues in contemporary bio-medical ethics as they intersect with religion. As cutting edge medical technologies and knowledge emerge, ethical issues grow and become increasingly complex. Should possible life saving treatments be made available sooner to people? Why do some biomedical means receive much more funding than others? Should we pursue radical life extension and technologies such as CRISPR? What about MAiD? Using YouTube clips, DVDs, readings and controversial case studies, we will probe what religions have to say about these questions and more.


RELS - 302 Judaism and Ecological Crisis**

It seems we are entering an ecological disaster that our conventional thinking and religious sources cannot help us understand. This class will look at marginal and repressed Jewish sources, especially apocalyptic and philosophical texts, to see what the tradition has to offer us as we try to cope with this crisis. 

RELS - 331 Religion and Violence

Scarcely a day goes by when we don't read about world events tinged by religious violence. This course will provide students with the theoretical and historical background needed to understand the intersection of religion and violence. Through wide-ranging case studies, we will explore how and when religion becomes violent, how religion intertwines with political and ethnic conflicts, and whether there is something unique about religious violence.

RELS - 332 Race, Ethnicity, and Religion

The course examines the intersections of race, ethnicity, and religion, both in its historical and contemporary manifestations. We will explore several case studies, such as the Indigeneity and racialized religious experiences (Nation of Islam and African-American Jews), diaspora traditions (i.e., Islam), and new religious movements (i.e., Rastafarianism and Jonestown).

RELS - 385 Religious Fundamentalisms

Religious fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon not exclusive to any religion. In the past few decades, religious fundamentalist movements have been shaping new social,cultural and political norms in a predominately secular age. The course explores theoretical aspects and examines specific case studies across various religions and cultures.


RELS - 401 Honours Seminar

In the age of artificial intelligence and other sophisticated computer technologies, humans face existential questions: can intelligent machines become conscious machines? Are our fleshy bodies and brains truly different from machine bodies and brains? Can we use machines to achieve transcendence? In what sense are virtual reality experiences “real”? These are questions about ultimate realities, and ultimate dimensions of experience that philosophy of religion has traditionally tackled. To explore them, we will do things like play through Black Mirror’s choose-your-own-adventure episode “Bandersnatch” as a heuristic for questioning free will; watch and reflect on Jeremy Shaw’s art film “Liminals,” about a group of people trying to save humanity through a combination of Machine DNA brain augmentations and the practice of long-abandoned spiritual rituals; read Beth Singler’s ethnography of the “Indigo Children," a New Age re-conception of both children and adults which uses the language of science, evolution, and spirituality; and role-play religion through an MMORPG like World of Warcraft.

 

** Special topics course for 2019-2020 only

For a full listing of courses offered by the School of Religion please see the Arts and Science Calendar.