Courses & Requirements

Requirements for the Religion and Social Justice Major

The Religion and Social Justice major uses a human rights framework and experiential learning models. Students engage theory and practice in interdisciplinary study, both at the local and global levels.

A minimum of nine courses total.

Required Courses

REL-125: Introduction to Human Rights (4.00)

An exploration of the theoretical and historical foundations of human rights from a multidisciplinary perspective. Presents human rights as a framework of analysis and as a moral discourse. Examines group rights-for example, women, indigenous peoples, or inmates-and analyzes particularly challenging human rights problems such as genocide, torture, and immigrants' rights. Cross-listed with POL/WS-125.

REL-465: Senior Research Seminar in Religion (4.00)

The focus of the seminar is on research, writing and peer editing in the field of religion. Students will focus on a specific research project and work with the instructor of the seminar, with consultation with a second faculty member when warranted by the research topic. Prerequisite: Restricted to senior religious studies majors and minors.

Course requisites: Restricted to senior Religious Studies majors and minors.

Elective Courses

Religious Traditions

One of the following courses:

REL-111: Christianity (4.00)

The course will introduce students to the basic logic of Christian faith and practice, through a critical examination of the history of Christianity, and will provide an opportunity to explore and evaluate various forms of Christian theology in the current period of globalization.

REL-121: Judaism (4.00)

This class explores Jewish History and Memory through the intersections of history, memory, beliefs and practices, peoplehood, culture, and ethnicity. We will explore dynamic practices of survival and change throughout Jewish history. We will discuss the centrality of debate, assimilation, acculturation, negotiation, hybridity, integration, redemption, diaspora, exclusion, belonging, marginalization, synthesis, pride, shame, diversity, homogeneity and identity. We will investigate the structural systems of Christian hegemony, anti-Semitism, Orientalism, Colonization, and how they impact Jewish communities, thinking, participation, and responses. We will highlight experiences of structural and personal violence that produce trauma, isolation, a reproduction of violence and how these experiences set the stage for work toward tikkun olam (repairing the world). We will compare and contrast theories and frameworks: Post Colonial thought, Queer theory, Cultural Studies, critical race theory, and critical analysis (deconstruction) that help shape an understanding of Judaism, its history, memory, beliefs and practices.

REL-130: Religions of India (4.00)

This course examines the beliefs and practices of the religious traditions of India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam.

REL-131: Islam (4.00)

The course will focus upon Islam. It will survey Islamic history, its distinctive forms of faith and practice, its roles in society and its worldwide involvement in a host of issues related to social, economic and political developments. The course will explore sympathetic, critical and creative perspectives on Islam, particularly as related to the struggles of today's Muslim women. The course will include opportunities for experiential learning, primarily in the form of field trips to one or more Islamic communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

REL-132: Buddhism (4.00)

This course examines the life and teachings of the Buddha, the religious institutions that he founded to carry on his doctrine, and the ways that Buddhism later developed in India and spread through Asia and to the West.

REL-133: Religions of China & Japan (4.00)

This course examines the beliefs and practices of the religious traditions of China and Japan, including Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Zen Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism.

REL-140: Religions of Africa (4.00)

Basic elements of African religious beliefs and practices. It aims to treat in a coherent, though summary way, the principal themes and topics of African religious teaching and to examine how the various themes and topics cohere with one another and influence African life. The course will survey African Traditional Religions, along with the impact of Islam and Christianity in Africa. Cross-listed with AS-140.

REL-143: Hinduism (4.00)

What are the main practices and beliefs of Hinduism? How did they originate historically and how have they evolved over time? How can we understand key Hindu concepts, such as caste or karma and how are they related to Hindu understandings of the cycle of transmigration? What do Hindus believe and do to achieve happiness in this life and to prepare for the next one? In order to answer these questions, we will explore the historical richness of Hindu doctrine and praxis.

Theories and Methods

One of the following courses:

REL-215: What Is Religion? (4.00)

What is religion and why do people practice it? This course explores the universality of religious beliefs, institutions, and practices across human societies. By investigating religion from philosophical, anthropological, biological, and psychological perspectives, students are introduced to some of the diverse ways that theoretical perspectives can illuminate the study of religion.

REL-225: Encountering Religion (4.00)

In this course we will explore the concept of religion/s in scholarship and culture, engage theories and methods in religious studies, and use interdisciplinary tools to explore the religious worlds in Atlanta and beyond. Cultural studies and critical theories of a range of voices (feminist, postcolonial, queer) will converse with us about the concept of "religion." We will rethink ways to engage theories and methods in religious studies, grounding these practices in concrete, contemporary explorations, using a cultural studies lens and methodology. And we will make room to incorporate any significant current "happenings" in the world as part of our encounters.

Activism and Organizing

One of the following:

REL-263: Religion, Ethics, and Social Justice (4.00)

In this course we will investigate how a variety of religious ethics and social justice theories and practices address past and current social, cultural and political issues. We will learn about the ethical dimensions of individual and systemic practices in the context of religion, along with ethical reflection, decision making, and activism. Special focus will be on feminist and womanist approaches to ethics and women religious leaders. No prerequisite. Cross-listed with WS-263.

REL-385: Religion, Education, and Activism (4.00)

In this course we will explore, through historical and current justice issues, the educational theories and practices of religious organizations, and grassroots movements for social change. Students will also engage and gain competence in the practice of human rights education through a variety of models of liberatory educational practices, including popular education, theatre for social change, community-based living, participatory action research, and movement building. Counts toward the Human Rights Minor. Cross-listed with EDU-385.

Course requisites: Take 1 course in subject EDU or REL;

Engaged Traditions

One of the following:

REL-221: Engaged Judaism (4.00)

Engaged Judaism explores the histories, cultures, identities, religious and secular practices of critical thought, and notions of diaspora for Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews. Students examine anti-Jewish oppression and Jewish involvement in social justice, human and civil rights movements.

REL-232: Socially Engaged Buddhism (4.00)

Socially Engaged Buddhism will explore the religious and social phenomenon of Buddhist activism in Asia and the West. We focus especially on activists Chan Khong, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ariyaratne, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Ariyaratne, Joanna Macy, Fleet Maull, among others.

REL-244: Women and Buddhism (4.00)

The question of women's place and standing within Buddhism remains problematic and sometimes contentious. In this course we will focus on women in Buddhist literature over time, in order to draw conclusions about women's place and status according to doctrinal sources. We will also focus on women in Buddhism, looking at the lives of contemporary Buddhist women, with the aim of understanding the values and concerns that sustain, drive, and empower them. Cross-listed with WS-244.

Community Engagement

One of the following (4 credits required):

REL-370: Community-Based Internship (2.00)

An academic internship that links theory and systemic analysis to practical community-based service, ethics, and learning in a local organization. The Community-Based Internship Course is an interdisciplinary academic course for students engaging in community-based leadership and service. Through readings in leadership theory in the class and with practical application under supervision in an organization, students will explore the work and issues of their organization in its local and broader contexts. Reflective analysis is a key part of this course and students will relate leadership theory and experience to their major disciplines. This course is an academic internship that links theory and systemic analysis to practical community-based service, ethics, and learning in a local organization. Approval and internship course paperwork approved by the Office of Internship and Career Development is required for registration. This course may be taken for 2-4 hours credit (for 2 credit hours: 4-5 hours each week on-site; for 4 credits: 8-10 hours each week on-site with an organization), and other academic requirements include research, keeping a reflective portfolio and the presentation of a case study.

WS-390: The World As Classroom (4.00)

Students in this class will draw on 10 hours per week in an internship setting of their choosing to enrich their participation in a weekly seminar that utilizes feminist frameworks to connect learning outside the classroom with thoughtful reflection and grounded theory inside the classroom. Permission of instructor is required.

REL-450: Credit Internship (1.00)

For juniors and seniors who want a more-focused academic component to accompany their internship, the independently designed 450 may be an option. Students must identify a faculty sponsor and complete detailed paperwork for approval from the Office of Internship and Career Development.

Additional Elective Courses

Two additional elective courses from religious studies.

REL-112: The Bible and Liberation (4.00)

This introductory course will explore the various readings of biblical texts from and with the marginalized and disenfranchised, with particular attention to ethical, political, and cultural concerns and debates in biblical scholarship.

REL-128: Suffering in Non-Western Film (4.00)

Wisdom in most traditions across the globe converges on the idea that suffering brings clarity and illumination. For Buddha, suffering is the first rule of life. Zen scholars posit that suffering is a privilege because it moves us towards thinking about essential things and shakes us out of our complacency. In this course, we will explore the concept of suffering through non-Western films that focus at answering the question: "Is there at the heart of suffering a powerful, redemptive, and transformative idea?"

REL-141: Islamic Mysticism (4.00)

Broadly speaking Islam is said to have an "outer" and an "inner" dimension. This course will focus on the "inner" dimension of Islam. It is a survey course on Islamic spirituality and the varieties of Islamic mystical traditions and does not have any prerequisites. It is designed as a thematic and conceptual introduction to "inner" Islam. We will start with a short introduction to Islam and then proceed to the key terms and concepts such as 'inner,' 'spiritual,' 'esoteric,' and 'mystical.' Next we will cover historical origins of these traditions, then move to study its diverse practices, and end with looking at the challenges faced by Islamic mystical traditions in the present.

REL-144: African Christianity (4.00)

This course explores the historical, social and political contexts of the origins and development of Christianity on the African continent from the first century C.E. to postcolonial time. Cross-listed with AS-144.

REL-195: Topics in Religious Studies (4.00)

TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES--Topics vary from year to year, and the course may be repeated for credit when the content changes.

Description for "RELIGION AND EASTERN LITERATURE"--Barry Lopez wrote, 'All that is holding us together [is] stories and compassion.' This course is designed to help develop sensitivity to transnational nuances. Such sensitivity emerges from broad and deep exposure to cultural and social histories of far away places and different people. In this course, we will read Eastern classics to explore historical, contemporary, and global themes that reflect the human condition. Our readings will take us from Mesopotamia in Arabian Nights to South Asia and the impact of colonial and post-colonial power relations.

REL-210: Religion and Ecology (4.00)

Religion and Ecology is an interdisciplinary course that explores the relationship of world religions with nature, meaning, place, and ethics. Focus will be on notions of "the sacred earth," spiritual engagement with nature, approaches to environmental crises and climate change, interfaith collaborations, feminist ecotheologies, and areas of sustainability (food, soil, air, water, energy, lifestyle, technology, the future, etc.). This course is experiential and connected with the local environmental community through site visits and speakers. Cross-listed with WS-210.

REL-213: Sociology of Religion (4.00)

Religion shapes and is shaped by the society in which it lives. This course will introduce students to basic concepts and methods used by sociologists to explore this relationship. Over the course of the semester, classic texts will acquaint students with the fundamental questions sociology has asked of religion, and contemporary accounts will model strategies by which one might analyze the current religious landscape of the United States. Students will link theory and practice by conducting their own sociological investigation of a local religious community. Cross-listed with SOC-213.

REL-214: Anthropology of Religion (4.00)

This course examines the nature of religious institutions, rituals, beliefs, and experiences. By drawing upon anthropological theories of religion and selected ethnographies, we seek to understand the complex interplay between the beliefs, practices, and experiences of religion(s) and the socio-cultural contexts in which they are embedded. How do religions relate to the social order? Are they reflections of it or contested sites upon which political, economic, and cultural struggles are fought? Is religion primarily a social or psychological phenomenon? What is the nature of religious rituals and what role do they play in the construction of identity? How do sex and gender inform the nature of religious experience? What are myths and symbols? In order to explore these questions, students will be asked to engage with the anthropological corpus of theoretical and ethnographic writings on religion. In addition, there will be an opportunity to apply these concepts to the students' own lived realities through field exercises that combine theoretical analysis with participant observation. Cross-listed with ANT-214.

REL-219: Transatlantic Voodoo (4.00)

Traces Voodoo/Vodun religious traditions from West Africa to the Caribbean and North America, including the history of European contact and the slave trade, European views of African religions, and the cultural and symbolic meanings of Voodoo spirits and dancing. Cross-listed with ANT/AS-219.

REL-222: Representation of Jews (4.00)

This course considers the diverse representations of Jews in history, culture, art, religion, and politics. It explores an aspect of Jewish cultural studies that analyses how Jews and Jewishness are represented in the American public sphere and also globally through words, stories, images, exhibits, performances, and events.

REL-224: Leadership, Feminism & Religion (4.00)

In most religious cultures, women as a group were denied an active and authoritative role in its formation and interpretation. This course will look at women's struggle with their respective religious traditions and examples where women did play a role in shaping the tradition. We will explore the lives of women in multiple religious tradition: indigenous, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Islam. Together, we will explore some of the following themes: traditional religious knowledge production, patriarchy, feminism both as an analytical tool and as a social vision, women as moral agents, and development of feminist theories in various world religions, feminist critiques, and reforms presented. We will end the course by looking at concrete social issues, for example, sexual violence, abortion, pornography, and reproductive technologies to see how feminist in different religious traditions have influenced change. Cross-listed with WS-224.

REL-233: Constructing Tibet Through Film and Literature (4.00)

This course examines the construction of Tibet as a mythic object of fantasy in the Western imagination. Close attention will be given to the way Tibet has been portrayed in a variety of literary and film genres.

REL-234: Chinese Religions (4.00)

This course will provide an introductory survey of Chinese religious traditions, in both their ancient origins and modern development in China today. It will explore both indigenous Chinese traditions (Confucianism, Daoism) as well as the impact of "foreign" religions that have become Chinese (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam).

REL-235: Jesus in History and Culture (4.00)

An examination of the quest for the historical Jesus, with an analysis of literary and cultural sources (especially from film, music, art, literature, and popular culture), and also the ethical implications of Jesus' life and message, from the first century to contemporary times.

REL-251: Gender, Sexuality & Islam (4.00)

Gender and sexuality are crucial to understanding the political, social, and economic life in the world today. Gender and sexuality studies challenge a number of traditional, academic, and cultural perspectives. In this course, we will be using critical texts from a wide variety of disciplines to examine gender and sexuality in the Muslim context. Using gender and sexuality as our main lens of analysis, we will be able to tease out the complex relationships between religion and culture and think about how particular constructions of culture have been pivotal to the reproduction of each of these social structures. In the final section of the course, we will look at transnational discourses that shape the way in which Islam and "the woman question" is imagined in relationship to gender and sexuality. We will also learn about Orientalism, colonialism, and the role of global inequalities. Cross-listed with WS-251.

REL-252: Islam and/In the West (4.00)

This course examines the interaction between Islamic and Western civilizations during the past fourteen hundred years. The first part of the course is devoted to the analysis of key terms and concepts that will serve as the foundation for the remaining parts of the course. Different concepts such as Islam, Shari'a, the nation state, free speech, rationality, democracy, and secularism will be discussed in their historical contexts. The second part of the course is structured chronologically and covers from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century. In the final part of the course, we will survey the history of Islam in the West, with a focus on the U.S. and France, and examine case studies to discuss contemporary questions on political Islam, civilizational clash, and the future of coexistence.

REL-261: Race & Racism Through a Buddhist Lens: A Multimedia Exploration (4.00)

RACE & RACISM THROUGH A BUDDHIST LENS: A MULTIMEDIA EXPLORATION--This multimedia course will offer an intensive exploration of how a social construct ("race"), when used as a tool of discrimination that advantages one social group over another ("racism"), inflicts tremendous harm and suffering. What insights can ancient Buddhist teachings provide to help us to recognize, and to transform, the challenges of racism, inequality and other social justice issues we face today? Participants will read important pieces, watch films and documentaries, listen to diverse contemporary music as well as do exercises and meditations aimed at helping them to gain insight into the origins and manifestations of the challenging and thorny issues of race and racism in our lives and in our world. Cross-listed with AS-261.

REL-265: Queering Religion (4.00)

In this course, we will examine the history, theology, sacred texts, ritual, religious communities, and movements of queer religion in various religions of the world. We will engage contemporary issues and debates within the study of queer religion, considering queer theory, popular culture (film, literature, media, politics), and LGBTQ+ religious movements. We will survey queer liberation theologies in U.S., Latin American, Asian and African contexts. (Cross-listed with WS-265.)

REL-276: Religion and Contemporary Moral Issues Ethics (4.00)

This course will explore contemporary moral issues and the controversies surrounding them, with a particular focus on the ways in which these are debated in and among various religious communities, Christian as well as non Christian. It will also allow opportunity to make comparisons between religious approaches to these moral issues and nonreligious approaches, for example, the ways these issues are addressed in the field of "applied ethics" in philosophy.

REL-295: Topics in Religious Studies (4.00)

TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES--Topics vary from year to year, and the course may be repeated for credit when the content changes.

Description for "ISLAM, RITUAL AND PERFORMANCE"--This course serves as an introduction to both Islam and performance studies. Students will learn about key Islamic rituals and practices and use performance theory to investigate the impact of these activities on practitioners. Such an approach highlights the experience of ordinary Muslims and their creative engagement with the larger religious tradition.

Description for "DEATH, DYING AND RELIGION"--This course explores end-of-life issues by highlighting various religious notions of a "good death." Students will investigate topics such as palliative care, extraordinary life-saving measures, assisted suicide, care of dead bodies, funeral rites and bereavement.

Description for "RELIGION AND POLITICS"--The appropriate relationship between religion and politics has been and will likely continue to be heavily contested in the U.S. For some, political power ought to be used to advance religious convictions at every opportunity. For others, a wall of separation must be maintained between religious conviction and political decision-making. In this course, we will investigate the complexity in the relationship between religion and politics, particularly as it relates to issues of social justice. This course will begin by exploring some of the theoretical frameworks that shape our understanding of the appropriate role of religion in secular (non-religious) political space. Readings will include the works of prominent contemporary political philosophers and political theologians. The course will conclude with a closer look at three concrete approaches Christians have taken to promote greater social justice in U.S. society at large.

REL-303: Qur'an: a Theological & Literary Study (4.00)

QUR'AN: A THEOLOGICAL AND LITERARY STUDY--This course covers two aspects of the Qur'an as text: theological and literary. This first part of this course will introduce students to the moral and spiritual significance of the Qur'an in the lives of Muslims, who consider the Qur'an to be uncorrupted Divine speech. Some of the themes we will study from the Qur'an are: idea of God, Prophets, female Prophets, religious pluralism, women, marriage, and sexuality. The second section of the course will consider Qur'an as a literary masterpiece, which it is widely acknowledged as. The Qur'an makes use of a vast array of literary techniques and devices to present its message. For example, it tells stories, cites parables, uses unparalleled rhymed prose, uses masterful language on the level of words and phrases, satire, irony, draws character sketches, uses word play and ambiguity, and finally since it was produced over two decades it embodies a variety of stylistic variation. There exists in Arabic a large corpus of works that look at the literary features of the Qur'an, which we will read in translation in class. We will also read more contemporary literary theory and consider its applicability to the Qur'an. The hope of this course is that even those outside the faith can experience the beauty of the Qur'an.

REL-316: The Politics of the Apocalypse (4.00)

An interdisciplinary course that includes biblical studies, politics, ethics, literary criticism, philosophical and critical theory, social movements, history, art, music, dance, and film studies. We will consider the apocalyptic imagination and representations in religion, politics, and culture.

Course requisites: One course in religious studies

REL-325: Ethnography of Religion (4.00)

This course will guide students as they pursue a semester-long independent ethnographic study of a religious community in the Atlanta area. Students will conduct participant observation fieldwork in a religious setting of their choosing. Prerequisite: One course in religious studies or anthropology. Cross-listed with ANT-325.

Course requisites: One course in Religious Studies or Sociology/Anthropology

REL-330: Topics in World Religions (4.00)

Seminar focusing on a special problem within one of the world's historic religions, or on new developments in the field of comparative religions. May be taken more than once if the topic varies.

REL-333: Existentialism (4.00)

Advanced study of various existential challenges and alternatives to traditional philosophical views in metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Readings from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and other existential philosophers and novelists. Cross-listed with PHI-333.

Course requisites: Any Philosophy course or permission of instructor.

REL-334: Sex/Gender/Embodiment in Buddhism (4.00)

This course examines the various ways that different Buddhist societies have struggled with the tension between the religion's transcendent goal of enlightenment and the this-worldly challenges of human sexuality, embodiment, and gender. Cross-listed with WS-334.

Course requisites: Take ONE from REL-113, REL-130, REL-133, REL-195 or REL-232 or permission of instructor.

REL-340: Black Protest Thought in America From Slavery to the Present (4.00)

Political, social, and ideological currents which influenced and shaped the black struggle for freedom, citizenship and equality. Cross-listed with HIS/AS-335.

REL-345: Philosophy of Religion (4.00)

PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION--Examination from a Western philosophical perspective of such questions as the meaning of God, evil, suffering, religious experience, religious knowledge, and immortality.

REL-350: Religion & Politics in Lat. Am (4.00)

Surveys the role religion plays in politics and civil society. Focuses on Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism and also covers other religions. Special attention is given to Bible interpretation, liberation theologies, popular church movements and church-state relations. Cross-listed with POL-442.

REL-372: Fiction, Film and Orientalism (4.00)

Orientalism, as defined by Edward Said, is the ideology that promotes the "West-and-non-West" dichotomy and the idea that "Others are less human." Neo-Orientalism is savvier, and has a more complex and dualist nature, not all that is read or seen is neo-Orientalism narratives is wrong and pejorative, and most significantly, it is written not by outsiders about "the other" like in Orientalism, but by "authentic" insiders. Both narratives serve largely the same purpose, which is to dominate and subordinate both politically and intellectually the non-West. In this course, books and movies that have become bestsellers in the West will be analyzed for Orientalism and neo-Orientalism.

REL-380: Culture and Ethnography of Africa (4.00)

This course offers an examination and appreciation of African cultures in the present context and in historical perspective. Course topics include kinship, gender, politics, religion, economics, and colonialism. Students read several ethnographies for an in-depth understanding of specific cultures. Cross-listed with AS/ANT-380.

Course requisites: Sociology 101, Anthropology 101, History 250, History 251 or Religous Studies 140

REL-395: Topics in Religious Studies (4.00)

TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES (300-LEVEL)--Topics vary from year to year, and the course may be repeated for credit when the content changes.

Description for "REPRODUCTIVE ETHICS AND RELIGION"--Reproductive issues such as abortion, contraception, assisted reproductive technologies and surrogacy continue to be passionately debated in our society. Ethical questions, such as which technologies should be used, by whom, and under what conditions, are difficult to answer. This course aims to explore the insights that three religious traditions - Christianity, Judaism, Islam - might offer on these issues.

Back to top