RLG Religion Courses
Undergraduate seminar that focuses on specific ideas, questions, phenomena or controversies, taught by a regular Faculty member deeply engaged in the discipline. Open only to newly admitted first year students. It may serve as a distribution requirement course; see page 40.
East and West
Theories about the variety and nature of religious experience, personal and collective. How religious life is expressed in such forms as myth, narrative and ritual, systems of belief and value, morality and social institutions.
A survey of spirits, indigenous rites, stories, visions, shamanic and healing practices. Canadian First Nations’ and Metis’ experiences placed in cross-cultural perspective First Nations’ and Metis’ spiritualities studied academically in the history of religions, anthropology, and stories.
An introduction to the religious tradition of the Jews, from its ancient roots to its modern crises. Focus on great ideas, thinkers, books, movements, sects, and events in the historical development of Judaism through its four main periods - biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern.
An introduction to the Christian religious tradition as it has developed from the 1st century C.E. to the present and has been expressed in teachings, institutions, social attitudes, and the arts.
The faith and practice of Islam: historical emergence, doctrinal development, and interaction with various world cultures.
A historical and thematic introduction to the Hindu religious tradition as embedded in the socio-cultural structures of India.
The teachings of the Buddha and the development, spread, and diversification of the Buddhist tradition from southern to northeastern Asia.
Sikh religious teachings, practices and institutions; the founder, Guru Nanak, and the scripture, the Adi Granth; subsequent Gurus, other Sikh texts and the religious aspects of the history of the Sikh community in India and abroad.
Basic teachings and historical developments of the Jain religious tradition, with attention to Jain contributions to religious philosophy, ethics, religious biography, literature and the arts.
Religion from the sociological viewpoint; religion as the source of meaning, community and power; conversion and commitment; religious organization, movements, and authority; the relation of religion to the individual, sexuality and gender; conflict and change; religion and secularization. Emphasis on classical thinkers (Durkheim, Marx, Weber) and contemporary applications.
A survey of the various psychological approaches to aspects of religion such as religious experience, doctrine, myth, ritual, community, ethics and human transformation. The historical place of introspective, psychoanalytic, humanistic and transpersonal methods in the psychology of religion.
Anthropological study of the supernatural in small-scale non-literate societies. A cross-cultural examination of systems of belief and ritual focusing on the relationship between spiritual beings and the cosmos as well as the rights and obligations which arise therefrom. Among the topics covered are: myth and ritual; shamanism and healing; magic, witchcraft and sorcery; divination; ancestor worship.
This course deals with how the momentous experience of the Holocaust, the systematic state-sponsored murder of six million Jews as well as many others, has forced thinkers, both religious and secular, to rethink the human condition.
A brief survey of the Jewish biblical and rabbinic traditions; the extension of these teachings and methods of interpretation into the modern period; common and divergent Jewish positions on pressing moral issues today.
Reason, experience (the natural law tradition) and revelation as the bases for moral judgment; faith and morality; freedom of conscience and the Church’s claim to be a moral teacher; relevance to contemporary Catholic moral theology.
The development of Protestant ethics since the Reformation. Gospel and law, love and justice, realism and perfectionism, moral norms and moral context, the personal, political, and economic orders.
The ethics and religious symbolism of environmental change: animal domestication and experimentation, deforestation, population expansion, energy use, synthetics, waste and pollution.
The ways in which selected texts from a variety of cultures and times are linked both to specific religious traditions as well as to broader notions of what it means to be “religious.” Concepts to be treated may include identity, suffering, duty, class, individuality, community, tradition, innovation, loss, consolation, memory, time, beauty, creation, nature, feminism, and colonialism.
The impact of the physical and social sciences on religion and religious thought. A comparative philosophical study of scientific and theological ways of analysis and of the status of scientific and religious assertions. Areas of cooperation and of conflict between the “two cultures.”
The role of film as a mediator of thought and experience concerning religious worldviews. The ways in which movies relate to humanity’s quest to understand itself and its place in the universe are considered in this regard, along with the challenge which modernity presents to this task. Of central concern is the capacity of film to address religious issues through visual symbolic forms.
Continued investigation into the relations between religion and film. Distinguished from RLG232H1 by the instructor.
A study of women in the religious traditions of South and East Asia, including historical developments, topical issues, and contemporary women’s movements.
The social and legal status of women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The historical and contemporary situation of women in these traditions.
Some topic of central interest to students of religion, treated on a once-only basis by a professor visiting from another university. For details of this year’s offering, consult the Department’s current undergraduate handbook.
An introduction to New Testament literature, examined within the historical context of the first two centuries. No familiarity with Christianity or the New Testament is expected.
The religions and philosophies of China, including ancient religion and mythology, the three traditions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (including their philosophical dimensions), and Chinese popular religion.
The religions of Japan (Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism) and the religions of Korea (Confucianism, Buddhism, Shamanism).
An alternative version of the content covered by RLG100Y1, for students in second year or higher who cannot or do not wish to take a further 100-level course. Students attend the RLG100Y1 lectures and tutorials but are expected to produce more substantial and more sophisticated written work, and are required to submit an extra written assignment.
Credit course for supervised participation in faculty research project. See page 40 for details.
Systematic analysis of Freud’s main writings on religion, studied within the context of central concepts and issues in psychoanalysis such as: the Oedipus Complex, the meaning and function of symbols, the formation of the ego and the superego, and the relations between the individual and culture.
Jung’s analysis of the development of the personality through its life cycle, and of the central place which religion holds within the process of maturation. The unconscious, the collective unconscious, dreams, myths, symbols, and archetypes; implications for religious thought, therapy, education, and definitions of community.
Problems of negative life experience and their relations to issues of meaning and personality development. Includes discussion of internal conflict and suffering in the experience of melancholia and the divided self, and the existential experiences of evil and suffering. Examines myth, symbol, and forms of religious discourse as responses to such crises.
Theories of the self that involve the constitutive role of language in its various forms. Problems of socially-conditioned worldviews and sense of self as related to discourse. Myth, symbol, metaphor, and literary arts as vehicles for personality development and self-transformation along religious lines.
Sociological examination of religion in contemporary Canadian society: religions of English and French Canada; religious organization and demography; relation of religion to ethnicity, social questions and politics; secularization and privatization.
The relationships between religious and ethical norms, social and political ideals, and systems of law. The roots of Western legal concepts such as authority, duty, rights, and punishment in biblical and natural law tradition, and their counterparts in positive law theory. Church and State conflict in a philosophy of law context.
Historical and critical-philosophical examination of the development of atheism in Western intellectual circles. Consideration of 18th, 19th and 20th century critiques of religion derived from: theories of knowledge that privilege science; radical social and political thought; and analysis of the soul and its symbol-systems. Authors include Hume, Marx, Bakunin, Nietzsche, and Freud.
A study of the responses of selected world religious traditions to the emergence of global ecological concerns. Key concepts and tenets of the traditions and their relevance for an examination of the environmental crisis.
Karl Barth, Schubert Ogden, and Rahner, three influential 20th century Christian thinkers, on how religious believing is related to critical thinking. Illustrations are drawn from their diverse accounts of God.
Examination of gender as a category in the understanding of religious roles, symbols, rituals, deities, and social relations. Survey of varieties of concepts of gender in recent feminist thought, and application of these concepts to religious life and experience. Examples will be drawn from a variety of religious traditions and groups, contemporary and historical.
Analysis of rituals of transition form one social status to another (e.g., childbirth, initiation, weddings) from theoretical, historical and ethnographic perspectives. Particular attention is paid to the multi-religious North American environment, and to the importance of rites of passage in the construction of gendered identities.
An examination of the theories of religion developed by late 19th and 20th century anthropologists such as Taylor, Frazer, Durkheim, Freud, Van Gennep, Levi-Strauss, Douglas and Turner. Their ideas about systems of ritual and belief in small-scale, non-literate, kinship-based societies.
Religious violence and nonviolence as they emerge in the tension between strict adherence to tradition and individual actions of charismatic figures. The place of violence and nonviolence in selected faith traditions.
Judaism and Christianity in the period from 70 C.E. to 200.CE. The course focuses on the relationship between the two religious groups, stressing the importance of the setting within the Roman Empire.
An introduction to the first and second century Christian writings. A survey of the surviving works and their historical contexts, close analysis of selected texts and an examination of what these sources tell us about the early Christian communities.
Literary, historical, and rhetorical analyses of selected early Christian gospels. The gospels to be treated will vary, but each year will include a selection from the four canonical gospels and extra-canonical gospels (the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Truth, infancy gospels, and fragments of Jewish-Christian gospels)
An examination of the “historical Jesus” based on a critical study of the earliest accounts of Jesus, with intensive study of the Gospels to determine what can be said about Jesus’ activities and teachings.
An examination of Paul’s life and thought as seen in the early Christian literature written by him (the seven undisputed letters), about him (the Acts of the Apostles, the Acts of Paul) and in his name (the six disputed NT letters).
This course treats the major elements of the apocalyptic literary corpus and accompanying visionary experiences in ancient Judaism and Christianity. Contemporary theories on the function and origin of apocalyptic literature.
Analysis of selected documents of Second Temple Judaism in their historical contexts, as part of the generative matrix for both the early Jesus movement and the emergence of rabbinic Judaism.
A study of some of the most important and influential attempts by Christians to reconcile their experience and understanding of evil with their purported experience and understanding of God. Selections from biblical writers, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Karl Barth, and Gustavo Gutierrez.
The formation and development of distinctively Eastern traditions of Christianity. The history and major writers of Eastern Christianity up to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The development of the national Eastern Churches up through the modern period, and their particular contributions to the Eastern Christian tradition.
The central ideas of Protestant Christianity from the 16th century reformers to their 20th century heirs: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Rauschenbusch, Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, Moltmann. Analysis of pietism, orthodoxy, liberalism, fundamentalism, neo-orthodoxy, the contemporary situation.
Thoroughly cross-cultural study of how Christians across the world constructed the extraordinary variety of their religious life during the period when Christianity became by far the most widespread, the most diverse, and the most populous religion in world history. Emphasis on selected cultures on all continents.
Analysis of how Christians (i.e., one-third of the world’s population) have engaged large themes since the First World War: liturgy, migration, creedal change, the Holy Spirit, religious privatization and public life, denominations, war, inculturation, scripture, secularity, disintegration of empires, world capitalism, encounter with Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, indigenous religions, Judaism.
Papal and episcopal documents dealing with social issues from Leo XIII (late 19th century) to John Paul II. Origins and development of Catholic social teaching; recent changes occasioned by anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles.
A study of four great figures during critical moments in Jewish history, each of whom represents a turning point: Jeremiah (biblical era), Rabbi Akiva (rabbinic era), Moses Maimonides (medieval era), Franz Rosenzweig (modern era). Belief in God; Torah as law, teaching, tradition, revelation, eternity of Israel, meaning of Jewish suffering, problem of radical evil, history and messianism.
An inquiry into the theme of “exile and return” in Judaism, often called the leading idea of Jewish religious consciousness. Starting from Egyptian slavery and the Babylonian section, and culminating in the ideas of modern Zionism, the course will examine a cross-section of Jewish thinkers- ancient, medieval, and modern.
The development and range of modern Jewish religious thought from Spinoza, Mendelssohn and Krochmal, to Cohen, Rosenzweig and Buber. Responses to the challenges of modernity and fundamental alternatives in modern Judaism.
The religious and cultural roots of antisemitism and its manifestations in Western civilization: anti-Jewish aspects of pagan antiquity, the adversus Judaeos tradition in classical Christian theology; racist antisemitism in Europe (the Aryan myth); the rise of political antisemitism; the Nazi phenomenon, antisemitism in Canada and the United States.
The environment and human society studied as systems of organization built for self-preservation. Such topics as vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals, suicide and euthanasia, sustainability and recycling, explored from the perspective of Judaism.
The meaning of holy time and holy place, the physics and metaphysics of time and space within Judaism. Topics include the garden of Eden, the temple, the netherworld, the land of Israel, and exile; the sabbath and the week; the human experience of aging as fulfillment and failing.
This course examines Muhammad’s life as reflected in the biographies and historical writings of the Muslims. Students will be introduced to the critical methods used by scholars to investigate Muhammad’s life. Issues include: relationship between Muhammad’s life and Qur’an teachings and the veneration of Muhammad.
The revelatory process and the textual formation of the Qur’an, its pre-eminent orality and its principal themes and linguistic forms; the classical exegetical tradition and some contemporary approaches to its interpretation.
Aspects of the relationship of Islam with other religions and cultures. Topics treated may include attention to both the medieval and the modern periods as well as to contemporary challenges faced by Muslim populations in Europe and North America.
Readings in Vedic, Pauranic, Tantric and folk myths; traditional Hindu understandings of myth; recent theories of interpretation, e.g. those of Levi-Strauss, Eliade, Ricoeur, applied to Hindu myths.
Hindu ritual in its Vedic, Pauranic, Tantric, and popular forms; the meaning that ritual conveys to its participants and the relation of ritual to Hindu mythology and to social context.
A study of six classical schools of Hindu philosophy, focusing on the key issues of the Self, the Real, karma and ethics.
A comparative examination of Christian (Latin and Orthodox), Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, Hindu and Islamic mystical traditions.
The contemporary phenomenon of religious pluralism: its historical emergence, social context and intellectual justifications. Achievements, techniques and outstanding issues in inter-religious dialogue.
An examination through film of the relationship between religion, politics and culture in the British and European context. Special attention is given to such topics as church-state conflict, secularization, the decline of empires, decolonization, war, and multiculturalism.
This course explores the nature of religion in societies whose main traditions are orally encoded. Emphasis will be placed on the peoples and cultures of Oceania in terms both of ethnography and of various theories about how to understand religion in small scale, kinship-based societies without written traditions.
An instructor-supervised group project in an off-campus setting. See page 40 for details.
Copyright © 2003, University of Toronto