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Department of Religious Studies (REL)
College of Arts & Sciences
109 Foust Building
(336) 334-5762

Religious Studies Courses | Religious Studies as a Second Major | Religious Studies Major | Religious Studies Minor

Required: 122 semester hours, to include at least 36 hours at or above the 300 course level
AOS Code: U219


Charles D. Orzech, Associate Professor and Head of Department

Professor Levinson; Associate Professors Krueger, Ramsey; Assistant Professor Grossman; Lecturers Headington, Sopper

The Department of Religious Studies investigates a variety of religious traditions, movements, and expressions that play important roles either historically or in contemporary cultures.

Courses are organized in four concentrations:

  1. Traditions
  2. Historical Studies
  3. Critical and Evaluative Studies
  4. Cultural Studies.

The Department teaches courses on such traditions as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism. Historical studies include courses about religions in African, Asian, Middle East, European, and American (especially United States) history. Critical and evaluative studies include courses on religious philosophies, religious ethics, and theologies, as well as political, social, and psychological accounts of religious life. Cultural studies include courses that investigate the role religion plays in politics, economics, social movements, arts, sciences, as well as diverse forms of personal conduct.

Religious Studies Courses which meet All-University Liberal Education Requirements (AULER)
and College of Arts and Sciences Liberal Education Requirements (CLER)

Analytic and Evaluative Studies (AE, CAE)
REL 104, 107, 109, 110, 207, 232, 251, 309, 326, 328

Historical Perspectives on Western Culture (HP, CPM)
REL 202, 204, 210

Historical Perspectives on Western Culture (HP, CMO)
REL 131, 212, 215

Nonwestern Studies (NW, CNW)
REL 111, 211, 218, 220, 221, 225, 250, 351


Religious Studies Major
Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Required: 122 semester hours, to include at least 36 hours at or above the 300 course level
AOS Code: U219

The Religious Studies Major participates in a diversified program in the humanities, studying religious history, imaginative literature, systems of thought, and criticisms of culture, politics, and society. Because religious studies majors engage in multidisciplinary studies in the liberal arts, they are well-qualified to enter any field that profits from disciplines of exposition, analysis, appreciation, criticism, and historical reflection. Upon graduation, Religious Studies majors have gone into teaching, medicine, nursing, law, business, ministry, journalism and communications.

Members of the Religious Studies Department are available to advise students about career opportunities and to refer them to further information that may be of help.


College of Arts and Sciences Liberal Education Requirements (CLER) (54-55 hours)

All students must meet the All-University Liberal Education Requirements (AULER). The College of Arts and Sciences, however, has established liberal education requirements for its programs which, while including those of AULER, contain additional requirements in several categories. Therefore, students following this program should adhere to the College requirements. Please note that students who satisfy the College Liberal Education Requirements (CLER) will also satisfy the All-University Liberal Education Requirements (AULER). See a complete description of the College area requirements and courses meeting those requirements.

Major Requirements

Minimum 25 semester hours in Religious Studies above the 100-level, including one course from each category.

  1. Traditions: REL 210, 211, 212, 215, 218, 220, 221, 225, 250, 351
  2. Historical Studies: REL 201, 202, 204, 301, 305, 311, 313, 366, 367
  3. Critical and Evaluative Studies: REL 207, 232, 240, 251, 259, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 330, 333, 340, 365
  4. Cultural Studies: REL 309, 310, 312, 314, 315, 318, 323, 503
  5. Senior Seminar: REL 410


Electives sufficient to complete the 122 semester hours required for degree.


Religious Studies as a Second Major

Required: minimum of 25 hours above the 100 level

Requirements for a Second Major in Religious Studies are the same as for the Religious Studies Major. Included in the requirements are a minimum of 25 hours above the 100-level, including one course from four concentrations: traditions, historical studies, critical and evaluative studies, and cultural studies, and the Senior Seminar.

Religious Studies Minor

Required: minimum of 18 hours

The Religious Studies Minor complements majors in a variety of fields in the humanities and social sciences; for others it provides a way to focus various disciplines in the humanities on a profoundly significant part of cultures around the world. The minor consists of 18 semester hours including one course each in Traditions, Historical Studies, Critical and Evaluative Studies, and Cultural Studies.


Religious Studies Courses (REL)

For Undergraduates

104 Religion, Ritual, and the Arts (3:3).


A study of how myths and stories are used in ritual and the arts. The specific traditions treated will vary.

107 Myth and Ritual in the Ancient Near East (3:3).


Exploration of classical Western religious themes (marriage, battle, underworld, journey) in the earliest form of their expression in ancient Near Eastern myth and ritual.

109 Religion and Contemporary Culture (3:3).


Understandings of religion as shaped by contemporary social institutions, the arts, politics, and philosophy.

110 Introduction to Religious Studies (3:3).


Inquiry into religion through consideration of forms, patterns, categories, symbols, and practices which characterize various religious experiences.

111 Non-Western Religion (3:3).


Comparative study of non-Western religions and their contributions to modern religious self-understanding, focusing critically and evaluatively on such patterns of expression as myth, ritual, and social forms.

121 Religious Themes in Contemporary Literature (3:3).

Religious attitudes and themes concerning suffering, bafflement, and evil in contemporary novels by such authors as Atwood, Chappel, Delilo, Dillard, Erdrich, Heller, Kundera, Levi, Morrison, Rushdie, Thomas, Tylor, and Vonnegut.

131 Religion in America (3:3).


Diverse religious traditions and thinkers that have played a significant role in the history of the United States from Native American beginnings to the present.

201 The Bible in Western Culture (3:3).

Study of significant themes and issues in the Bible and their expression in the religious literature and history of Europe and America.

202 Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (3:3).


Study of the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) in historical, sociological, and literary context.

204 New Testament and the Origins of Christianity (3:3).


Study of the New Testament texts in their historical, sociological, and literary contexts.

207 Modern Problems of Belief (3:3).


Exploration of ways in which God has been understood in the context of the eclipse of religion in Western culture from the Enlightenment to the present.

210 Christianity I (3:3).


Study of classic Christian texts, symbols, rituals, and social movements to the dawn of the Reformation.

211 Hinduism (3:3).


Introduction to the Hindu religious tradition, its myths, rituals, music, social structure, and philosophical thought.

212 Christianity II (3:3).


Examination of a range of themes in the history of Christian thought from the sixteenth century to present, through reading of a variety of texts representative of Christian traditions.

215 Judaism (3:3).


Introductory study of Judaism, its history, texts, life, and thought.

218 Nonwestern Religions: China (3:3).


A study of the religions of China in the classical and modern periods focusing on thought, ritual, social structure, and aesthetics.

220 Nonwestern Religions: Japan (3:3).


A study of the religions of Japan in the classical and modern periods focusing on thought, ritual, social structure, and aesthetics.

221 Buddhism (3:3).


Introduction to the origin, development, and impact of Buddhism in Asian cultures. Focus on religious doctrines, forms of community, religious practices, techniques, art and iconography, and the implications of the Buddhist perspective for the contemporary world in both Asia and the West.

225 Islam (3:3).


Introduction to origins of Islam and its development as a world religion focusing on doctrine, ritual practices, and community structures.

229 Experimental Course: African American Religions (3:3).

Study of the religious traditions of African-Americans through an examination of history, literature, art, beliefs, ritual practices and values. (Offered SP99)

232 American Religious Thought: A Survey (3:3).


Three Americans Jonathan Edwards (1702-1756), a puritan reformed Christian; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1802-1882), a romantic; and William James (1843-1910), a pragmatist, pursue tensions between grace and law.

240 Modern Jewish Thought (3:3).

A survey of modern Jewish thinkers from Spinoza to Rozensweig.

250 Religious Traditions and Care of the Earth (3:3).


Examination of the thought, ethics, and practice of major religious traditions and world views with regards to the care of the earth. Emphasis on non-western, indigenous, and eco-feminist traditions. (SP)

251 Topics in Religious Social Ethics (3:3).


  • May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

Inquiry into the social teachings of diverse religious traditions with respect to such current topics as economic development and social justice, human rights, democracy, freedom, human well-being and the environment. (SP)

259 Philosophy of Religion (3:3).

Arguments concerning God's existence, the problem of evil, God's foreknowledge and human freedom, the analysis of divine attributes, immortality and the soul. (Same as Philosophy 259)

301 History of Early Christianity (3:3).

Development of various kinds of Christian beliefs and practices from the second to seventh centuries. Focus on primary sources.

305 Religions of the Greco-Roman World (3:3).

Study of themes in Judaism, Christianity, and pagan religious movements of the Mediterranean world from Alexander to Constantine.

309 Gender and Spirituality in the West (3:3).


Examines assumptions about gender roles in Western religious tradition in relation to changing roles of men and women, spiritual needs and new forms of their expression.

310 Christianity and the Construction of Gender (3:3).

Study of the role of categories of male and female in the creation and maintenance of Christian notions of holiness, authority, and hierarchy in historical perspective.

311 Topics in Biblical Studies (3:3).

Pr. 201 or 202 or 204, or permission of instructor.

  • May be repeated for credit when topics vary, with permission of instructor

Examination of specific biblical tests, themes, or interpretations in the context of Jewish and Christian religious traditions or in terms of significant literary or historical issues.

312 Judaism and the Construction of Gender (3:3).

Jewish understandings of gender from ancient to modern times, with focus on law and tradition, roles in the Jewish community, family, sexuality, and Jewish theology.

313 Topics in Ancient Judaism (3:3).

  • May be repeated for credit when topics vary, with permission of instructor

Diversity of Judaism in the ancient world; study of major themes, texts, and movements in ancient Judaism; focus on primary texts, material culture, and scholarly approaches. (Alt SP)

314 Saint and Society in the Early Middle Ages (3:3).

Examination of the concept of sanctity and of the rise and function of the veneration of holy men and women in Christian tradition from the fourth to the seventh century.

315 Religious Autobiography in the West (3:3).

Exploration of changing views of selfhood in the Western autobiographical traditions from Augustine's Confessions to the present. [WL, CWL].

318 Magic, Science, and Religion (3:3).

Examination of theories of religion advanced by anthropologists, sociologists, historians and theologians. Consideration of case studies to understand religion as a system of beliefs and practices.

323 Religious Movement and Communities: Selected Topics (3:3).

  • May be repeated when topic varies.

Selected topics will bring to bear historical, analytical, theological and ethical tools to understand religious movements. Faculty and topics will vary. (FA/SP)

324 Philosophical Issues in Religion (3:3).

Modes of philosophical reflection, groups of human conceptuality and their relation to the truth of religious claims.

325 Contemporary American Jewish Thought (3:3).

Analysis and evaluation of American Jewish thinkers: Kaplan, Heschel, Soloveichik, and Fackenheim. Topics include the Holocaust, Israel, relations with Gentiles, Jewish life in a democracy, and relations with African Americans.

326 American Religious Thought I (3:3).


Exploration of American religious thought from settlement through the National Period (mid-19th century), focusing on the works of Puritans, Rationalists, and Romantics.

327 American Religious Thought II: The Romantic Tradition (3:3).

A study of thinkers like Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau that focuses on issues concerning religion in a democracy, divinity and nature, and the 'revelatory' character of poetry.

328 American Religious Thought III: The Pragmatic Tradition (3:3).


Study of classic' pragmatic religious thinkers, including Peirce, James, Royce, Santayana, and Dewey. Focuses on issues concerning the character of religious experience, divinity and nature, the problem of evil.

330 Major American Religious Thinkers (3:3).

Pr. permission of instructor.

  • May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

Topics to vary. Analysis and evaluation of major works by an American religious thinker, e.g., Jonathan Edwards, or works exemplifying a particular intellectual movement, e.g., the Puritan Christian Enlightenment.

333 Religion and Psychology (3:3).

Presents classic Western and/or Asian psychological theories of religion and shows how various religious traditions understand the human psyche.

340 Modern Jewish Thinkers (3:3).

Pr. 240.

  • May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

Analysis and evaluation of major works by a Jewish thinker, e.g., Martin Buber, or works exemplifying a particular intellectual movement, e.g. Jewish existentialism. Topics will vary.

351 Religion in Traditional Societies (3:3).


Study of religion in traditional societies in which the basic question "What is it to be human?" is raised by entering into the diverse symbolic worlds of native Americans, Africans, or others.

365 Myth and Theory (3:3).

An examination of theories of myth in light of intensive readings in Asian, African and Western Mythology, with emphasis upon the role of myth in religion and culture.

366 Religions of China: Selected Topics (3:3).

Explores selected aspects of Chinese religions. Possible topics include ritual, Taoist alchemy, ancestor worship, Ch'an Buddhism, the underworld and the dead.

367 Religions of Japan: Selected Topics (3:3).

Exploration of selected aspects of Japanese religions. Possible topics include ritual, Japanese festivals, Shinto, ancestor worship, Zen Buddhism, the underworld and the dead.

401, 402, 403, 404 Tutorial (1 to 3), (1 to 3), (1 to 3), (1 to 3).

Pr. permission of instructor.

Directed program of reading, research, and private instruction.

410 Senior Seminar (1-3).

  • Required of all Seniors.
  • May be repeated for up to 9 hours of credit when topic varies

Colloquium on a unifying theme or major recent work in Religious Studies. Topic will vary with instructor.

493 Honors Work (3-6).

Pr. see prerequisites under Honors Program, XXX 493.

  • May be repeated for credit if the topic of study changes.


For Advanced Undergraduates and Graduate Students

503 Topics in Religious Studies (3:3).

Pr. permission of instructor.

  • May be repeated once for credit.

Study of role, nature, and function of selected social forms of religious life through cross-cultural comparison or intensive study of one religious tradition.

Please refer to The Graduate School Bulletin for additional graduate level courses.


Contact: University Registrar's Office
Registrar, UNCG, PO Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170 (336) 334-5946

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