Comparative approach to asceticism and, examination of acts of self-discipline in Eastern, (Jain, Hindu, Buddhist), Western (Stoic, Christian mystic), and modern secular (eco-activism, fasting diets, and extreme exercise regimes) cultural contexts. Consideration of the question: What good is self-discipline? Depriving oneself of sensual, pleasures can be seen as an antidote to materialism and a means of liberating the soul from its fleshly shackles, but is denying our inborn desires a form of self-violence?
History of the field. Psychological, literary,, anthropological, sociological, and historical, approaches to the study of religion. Readings by, major theorists. Should normally be taken no later, than the junior year.
Course Description
Popular opinion assigns the origins of Judaism to the days of Abraham and Sarah. Their story is told in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible, and the culture they are associated with is dated as early as the fourteenth century BCE. While there is some truth to this notion that Judaism originated with this famous literary pair, it is at the same time wildly inaccurate as a matter of history. The first time anyone spoke of Judaism as a religion was the third century CE, and only in the seventh century BCE do we first learn of “Judeans,” the ethnic group from which Judaism emerged.

Relying on a critical assessment of literary and material evidence available to us (e.g., the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, other ancient near eastern literary and documentary texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish noncanonical writings and the complete range of archaeological evidence [ruins, coins, pottery, tools and cultural artifacts, the trash bins of ancient civilizations, etc.]), this course traces the process of Judaism’s emergence from the Jewish ethnicity. As such this course is a study in the origin of religion as a distinct human phenomenon. The course purpose, then, is not merely to introduce students to Jewish origins, but also to provide a case study in the genesis of a living religion.
Introduction to Buddhist thought and practice., Indian origins, contemporary Theravada Buddhism,, emergence of the Mahayana, Buddhism and society in, Tibet, Zen and Pure Land traditions of East Asia,, and the Western reception of Buddhism. Problems in, the study of Buddhism.
Introduction to major themes and movements in, American religious history from colonial origins, to the Civil War. Consideration of Native American, religious traditions, colonial settlement, slavery, and slave religion, revivalism, religion and the, revolution, growth of Christian denominationalism,, origins of Mormonism, using a comparative approach, in the effort to understand diverse movements., Central themes: revival and religious renewal,, appropriation of Old Testament language by various, groups (Puritans, African Americans, Mormons),, democratization of religion.
The figure of Jesus has fascinated human beings from the time of his own life to the present. A world religion, Christianity, is based on his teachings, acts, and the story of his life; another religion, Judaism, was arguably brought into existence as a result of the rise of Christianity; and other world religions have all been drawn into contending with his significance in one way or another. And quite apart from Jesus’s significance for religion, his role in wider human society and culture is pervasive.

This course traces the story of Jesus through human history from his day to our own, focusing on two particular narrative threads: how tracing the appropriations of Jesus through history also amounts to tracing the trends in intellectual history from antiquity to the present; and how the interpretation of a central figure through history shapes the thing we call “religion,” and what we can learn from that about that ubiquitous human phenomenon.
Gender as a component in religious experiences in, America from the colonial era to the present. The, relationship between gender and religious beliefs, and practices. Religion as a means of oppression, and liberation of women and men. Interactions, between laywomen and male clergy. The intersection, of religion, wellness, the body, and sports., Diverse movements and cultures including colonial, society, African American culture, immigrant, communities, and radical religious groups.
Ethnographic approaches to the Buddhist tradition. Students will learn about Buddhism through the lenses of lived religion, by reading and discussing several book-length ethnographic studies of Buddhist practitioners in Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, and the US. Students will conduct ethnographic fieldwork for their semester-long research project on a Buddhist community in Portland.