Religion in America
This course will give students an overview of the variety of religious expressions found in the United States. We will begin with a unit designed to provide historical context, and then move to a unit that explores the development of social and political conflict around religion and religious issues, and conclude with a unit that provides a sampling of current movements and trends in religion. In each unit, we will pay attention to the practice of religion (as opposed to merely emphasizing belief systems) as well as to the relationship between religion and culture. Through readings, lectures, class discussions and a group project, the course explores the growth and diversity in American religion and the conflict produced by that diversity. REL 3930 Religion and Colonialism
Religion as Culture
This course will introduce students to one of the primary approaches to Religious Studies: the Social Scientific Study of religion as culture (other, complementary, approaches being History of Religions/Comparative Religions and Philosophy of Religion). We will begin with a unit examing classical theorists (Durkhiem and Weber), current theoretical developments and exploring some key methodological issues. In Units Two and Three we will draw on case studies illustrating religious diversity to refine/apply our understanding of theory and method.
Religion and the Courts
Religion in America is profoundly shaped by a "religious free market" rooted in the separation of church and state and the first amendment religion clauses. Yet, when the first amendment religious clauses were written, they limited only the federal government (Congress). This course will explore the evolution of the first amendment religion clauses from the Bill of Rights, through the fourteenth amendment applying the religion clauses to the states, culminating in a discussion of important religion cases currently before the courts. Special attention will be paid to the role of specific religious traditions in the development of religious freedom, the significance of this legal status of religion for the religious character of American culture broadly and for the distinctive cultures of American religious traditions.
Religion and Violence
This course will explore the relationship between religion and violence by looking at studies of several different groups (Muslims, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist) that claim religious justifications for violence. We will then explore some theoretical perspectives aimed at explaining what many see as this paradoxical relationship. Finally, we will look at American cultural religion (sometimes called American Civil Religion) to explore the ways in which Americans have sacralized and memorialized recent acts of ritual violence. There are no prerequisites for this three credit hour course. Instructional methods include readings, lecture, discussions and a group project.
Religion and Politics