George Mason University 1997-98 Catalog Catalog Index
Course Descriptions

Search the 1997-1998 Catalog:


Religious Studies Courses (RELI)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

100 The Human Religious Experience (3:3:0). Examination of the primary forms of expression that belong to religion and of the nature and functions of religion. Topics considered may include the idea of ultimate reality; religious interpretations of nature; the person and the need for salvation; symbol, parable, and myth; magic and ritual; functions of religion in society; and mystical experience. This course addresses the general question of the nature of religion and considers modern as well as classical interpretations of religious ideas. This course may not be taken by students who have taken RELI 132.

211 Religions of the Near East (3:3:0). Survey of the religions of Near Eastern origins: Ancient Near Eastern religions, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

212 Religions of the Orient (3:3:0). Religions of India and the Far East: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and the Chinese and Japanese religions.

231 Religion in America (3:3:0). Religious heritage in American culture; growth of denominations and sects; and interrelationship of religion and sociopolitical life.

251 Biblical Studies: The Old Testament (3:3:0). Development of the Old Testament with attention to literary, historical, and theological aspects.

252 Biblical Studies: The New Testament (3:3:0). Greco-Roman world, Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament origins and teachings, and the early Christian community and its faith.

271 Contemporary Religious Ethics (3:3:0). Prerequisite: 24 hours or permission of instructor. Philosophical examination of major theoretical and practical issues in contemporary Judeo-Christian morality.

300 Approaches to the Study of Religion (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three credits in philosophy, three credits in religious studies, or permission of instructor. Methods used in study of religious phenomena. Diverse assumptions of different perspectives and how they affect the understanding of religious phenomena. Illustrative readings from a variety of perspectives are critically evaluated, including the anthropological, historical, linguistic, literary, philosophical, psychological, and sociological approaches.

313 Hindu Religion and Philosophy (3:3:0). Hindu religious and philosophical developments from origins through formative periods.

314 Chinese Philosophies and Religious Traditions (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 212 or permission of instructor. A survey of the major religious traditions and philosophical themes of China including Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism. The course examines the foundation of the Chinese world view and spirituality by investigating the diverse religious traditions that have created tensions and harmony among them.

315 The Buddhist Tradition (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 212 or permission of instructor. A survey of the Buddhist religious traditions. The main thrust of the course includes, but is not limited to, the historical development of Buddhism in India, China, and Japan, examining both Theravada and Mahayana traditions; philosophical and religious significance of Buddhism; and social and political implications of the Buddhist traditions in the South Asian and East Asian countries.

331 Civil Religion in America: The Americanization of God (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 231 or permission of instructor. Development of American political religion, or religious nationalism/Americanism; the concept of America as a New Israel; and the myths, rituals, symbols, and liturgical calendar of the nation.

332 American Religion in Social Thought and Action (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 231 or permission of instructor. Churches' involvement in social thought and action during the 19th and 20th centuries.

337 Mysticism: East and West (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours in religious studies or permission of instructor. A comparative treatment of major expressions of mysticism in East and West through exploration of various ways of understanding mystical experience. Readings and discussion emphasize one or more of the Eastern (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen) and Western traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).

340 Religious Dimensions of Contemporary Dramatic Literature (3:3:0). Contemporary religious thinking through study of selected modern plays of the Western stage. Focuses on such themes as the self, human finitude, loneliness and alienation, love and redemption, personal guilt and social responsibility, and suffering and death.

351 Nationalism and Universalism in the Quest for Jewish Identity (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours in RELI 211 or 251 or ANTH 207 or HIST 281, 282, or permission of instructor. Examination of the tension inherent in Israel's concept of itself as chosen and covenanted, with a universal mission. Study focuses on the recurrence and attempted resolution of this tension and on Zion and the issue of exclusivity versus universalism in Judaism in Biblical and modern times.

352 Judaism Between the Old and New Testaments (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours of RELI 251 or 252, or permission of instructor. A survey of Jewish religion, culture, and history in the period between the Old and New Testaments. Developments in Intertestamental Judaism crucial to the formation of later Judaism and Christianity are examined.

354 The Prophets of Israel (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 211, 251, or 252, or permission of instructor. The rise and development of prophecy in ancient Israel, with reference to examples of divination and the ancient prophecy of the near east. Special attention is given to prophecy as religious, social, and literary phenomenon through a close study of the prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, their composition, structure, and message.

355 The Wisdon of Israel (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 211, 251, or 252, or permission of instructor. An examination of the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) to discover how they understand God, humans, and their world, the problems of suffering, divine justice, and skepticism, and how they contrast with the rest of the Hebrew Bible.

370 Judaism: Life and Thought (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 211 or RELI 251, or permission of instructor. A study of Judaism from biblical times to contemporary American developments, with a focus on medieval and modern Judaic life and thought.

371 History of Western Christian Thought I: Classical and Medieval (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three credits in religious studies or philosophy or permission of instructor. Development of Christian doctrine from the close of the New Testament period to the Reformation. Relationship between Greek, Roman, and Medieval philosophy and the theological expressions of belief.

372 History of Western Christian Thought II: Modern (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three credits in religious studies or philosophy or permission of instructor. Development of Christian doctrine from Reformation to present. Effects of scientific empiricism, existentialism, and linguistic analysis on Protestant and Catholic theology.

373 Contemporary Issues in Religious Thought (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Junior standing or permission of instructor. Selected issues in contemporary religious thought, especially with reference to ways in which those issues are defined and treated in the light of unique demands made upon religion by modernity. Issues may include current redefinitions of the idea of God; symbol, myth, and interpretation; the impact of Eastern thought on Western religious experience; contemporary problems in religious ethics; secularization; the role of religious institutions in modern society; and religion, society, and technology.

374 Islamic Thought (3:3:0). Prerequisite: RELI 211, 60 hours, or permission of instructor. Major components of Islamic thought and its role in regulating the various aspects of social life in the Muslim world. Emphasis on religious foundation of Islamic society and culture.

376, 377 Special Topics in Religious Thought (3:3:0), (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Three hours in philosophy or religious studies or permission of instructor. Selected topics from a philosophical perspective.

420, 421, 422, 423 Seminar (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Limited to majors in the religion track of the philosophy major, but others may be admitted if the topic is sufficiently close to their fields of study. Topics vary.

425, 426 Independent Study (3:3:0), (3:3:0). Prerequisites: religious studies track majors with 60 hours and 15 hours of Religious Studies and permission of department.

490 Comparative Study of Religions (3:3:0). Prerequisite: Nine credits in religious studies including RELI 211 and 212, or permission of instructor. Cross-cultural examination of the comparative aspects of religious phenomena. Examines the significance of religious phenomena from diverse religious and cultural perspectives, and investigates patterns of religious phenomena that have appeared in world cultures and civilizations.

591 Current Issues in Religious Studies (3:3:0). Special topics in religious studies that are of central interest in that field and of interdisciplinary interest as well. Topics are selected according to their current importance in the field of religious studies and their pertinence to discussions of the role of religion in contemporary social, cultural, and political life.


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