Skip to main content

Global Religions

Chair: Associate Professor Kin Cheung
Professors: Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Arash Naragh, Jason Radine
Associate Professors: Kin Cheung

In the Department of Global Religions, faculty and students study the religious traditions of the world and explore the nature and function of religion in human experience. Through multidisciplinary methods engaging sacred texts, theology, ritual, belief, culture, history and more, we investigate the ways religion enriches and complicates the lives of people as a major source of people's values, ideals, and practices. Students acquire skills in thinking and reading, speaking and writing, and learn how to approach and understand cultures radically different from their own.

The Major in Global Religions

As a Major in Global Religions, you will develop a working knowledge of major religious traditions in the world. This requires taking courses in the following areas: Multireligious Studies, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Asian Traditions. The Major is comprised of NINE courses in all, including the senior seminar and an independent study/capstone.  Your courses will include:

  • 3 survey courses (generally 100 level), each from a different tradition/category;
  • 4 advanced courses (generally 200 level), with at least three from different traditions.
  • Religion 370: The Senior Seminar (offered every year in the fall).
  • Religion 385: Directed Reading (this is the Independent Study/Capstone, offered every spring).  Students will present the results of their independent research with a presentation or poster at the spring Student Scholarship Day.

Advanced courses do not have prerequisites; you may take any of them without prior background in Religion. Beyond these nine courses, students are free to select any additional religion courses according to their own interests. You will work with an advisor to assist you to develop your own individualized program of study, including:


In addition to studies in diverse religious traditions, students may choose various self-designed pathways in the major. The list below offers various tags you may click for a list of different offerings in these specific areas.

The tags above may be used to help you craft your own focus; for example, if you wished to focus on Sacred Texts, you could possible study sacred texts in almost every religious tradition we teach. We cannot guarantee, however, that the courses you're looking for will be offered every semester; you'll need to plan ahead and work with your advisor on these issues. The tags also can help you navigate our offerings, choose courses that interest, and plan for options that involve cross-listing courses, since many of the courses ALSO satisfy requirements for the Ethics minor, the Peace and Justice Studies minor, the Gender Studies minor, etc.

The Minor in Religion

The minor in religion consists of Religion 370 plus four course units selected with the approval of an advisor. No more than two 100 level courses may count towards the minor. A student who minors in religion has the option of taking Religion 385: Directed Study in Religion, as one of their four courses.

The Interdepartmental Major

The six courses of Set I of the interdepartmental major include Religion 370 plus five other courses. These five religion courses and the six courses of Set II are selected by the student with the approval of the advisor. Two distribution areas in addition to advanced studies in religion must be studied in Set I.

Opportunities: Additional Study and Careers

Students may enroll for religion courses at other LVAIC institutions or take additional classes at Moravian Theological Seminary. 

Religion majors and minors go on to become teachers, pursue law, diplomatic, social and counseling services, journalism and business, while others pursue careers as religious leaders or become active in the non-profit sector. Some pursue graduate studies in religion or other fields. 

Courses in Global Religions

REL 110. What Is Religion? Students will attempt to arrive at their own "thick descriptions" regarding the nature, meaning, and phenomenon of religion(s) and religious experience. Introduction to psychological, theological, sociological, and anthropological methods in exploring the ways religion functions in the lives of individuals as well as in the construction, maintenance, and daily life of societies. Engagement in cross-cultural comparison and contrast. (M4) Introduction

REL 112. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Examination of how the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was written and what its original meanings were, using the tools of historical criticism, archaeology, and religious history. The diverse religious perspectives within the text will be explored. Knowledge of the Hebrew language is not expected. (M3) Sacred Texts

REL 114. Jesus and the Gospels. Exploration of what we can know historically about the life and activities of Jesus. Comparison of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, so that their separate messages and emphases can be discerned. Gospels that present different views of Jesus and his teachings but were not included in the Christian Bible will also be studied. (M3) Sacred Texts

REL 115. Major Themes in the Qur'an. The historical background within which the Qur’an appeared. Characteristic features of Qur'anic worldview. Topics of study include Qur'anic views of God, God-human relation, God-world relation, and ethico-religious concepts. The course addresses different approaches and methods of interpretation in the tradition of Qur’anic exegesis and explores various challenges the Qur’an faces in the modern era, such as feminist challenges and the issue of violence and human rights. (M3) Sacred Texts

REL 116. Paul and Early Christianity. Movement of earliest Palestinian Christianity into the Hellenistic world, studied through a focus on the Book of Acts and on the life and letters of the Apostle Paul. Historical methods for study of the Bible as a whole. (M3) Sacred Texts

REL 121. Introduction to Roman Catholic Thought. An introduction to the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity. Use of historical, sociological, theological and ethical methods to explore the development of the Roman Catholic Church, its social structures such as the Magisterium, its ecclesiology, doctrines, rituals, and body of social teaching. The focus will especially address the concerns, experience, and practices of contemporary U.S. Catholics. (M3) Introduction

REL 123. Religions of India: Hinduism and Buddhism. An introduction to the basic beliefs and practices of Hinduism and Indian Buddhism through the study of primary sources. Secondary sources will be used to examine popular Hinduism and contemporary South Asian Buddhism. (M5) 

REL 124. Religious Thought of China and Japan. A study of the Confucian, Daoist/Taoist, and Buddhist traditions and their contribution to the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual life of East Asian cultures. Local traditions will also be discussed. (M3) Introduction

REL 125. Introduction to Islam. A survey of the ideals and practices of Islam across its history. It includes ritual, theological, philosophical, mystical, ethical, and political dimensions of Islam. Special attention is given to Islam's primary message and its implementation in the life of Muslims. (M3) Introduction

REL 126. Judaism. An introduction to Jewish religion, culture, and history. The course will explore major Jewish textual resources (the Jewish Bible, rabbinic commentaries, philosophy, and mysticism) as well as Jewish religious lifeways such as worship and holidays. The diversity of Jewish cultures and languages, Jewish political nationalism (Zionism), as well as the complex and ever-changing question of Jewish identity will also be studied. (M3) Introduction

REL 127. Health, Healing, and Medicine in Asian ContextsHow does healing go beyond the physical to include the emotion and spiritual? What are the boundaries between medicine and religion? This course investigates these questions by turning to Indian and Chinese religious-philosophical traditions. We will example Chinese medical arts such as acupuncture and qigong, Indian Ayurveda medicine and its relationship to Yoga, and the contemporary discourse on Buddhist-based meditation practices—including Mindfulness—for health. (M5)

REL 128. Asian Traditions through Film. What can we learn about Asian religious-philosophical traditions through film? What can we learn about the form and content of this medium by watching others and creating our own film? This course exposes students to Hinduism, Yoga, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Chinese divination and geomancy, and contemporary expressions of Asian religions. Students learn not just from the content and narrative of film, but also its meta-narrative, or narration in form and structure, including editing (shot composition), lighting, musical arrangement, and implicit ideologies (romanticization, Orientalism). Students will watch clips and short films in class, and feature-length films before class (through Ensemble Video). The final group project involves creation of a short film that will be screened to the rest of the class. Students will gain basic concepts of Asian religious-philosophical traditions and learn how to critically evaluate films that we will view. (M6) Culture

REL 131. Intro to Christianity: Jesus Saves? Introduction to the pluralism of Christian images, metaphors, and theories of salvation. Students will read ancient and modern theological texts, and learn from visual art, film, and literature. In addition to conducting theological investigation, students will explore the social and historical underpinnings of various salvation metaphors as they occur in various cultures and epochs. (M3) Philosophy and Theology

REL 133. Native American Religions. Traditional myths, rituals, and life-cycle ceremonies of native American peoples, representing several geo-cultural regions of North America. Attention will also be paid to issues of medicine and healing, gender relations, ecological values, and indigenous responses to threats of physical and cultural genocide. Fall, alternate years. (M5) Culture

REL 136. Seeing and Believing: Women, Religion, and Film. (Also Women's Studies 136) Students explore how films appropriate religion in the service of the cultural production of images of women and women's lives; and investigate the ways the creation and viewing of film might share similarities with the construction and practice of religion. (M3) Gender Studies/Culture

REL 165. Life Walk of Justice:  Introduction to Peace and Justice Studies.  (also Interdisciplinary 165)  In this course students will be encouraged to identify and analyze (in)justice in our own lives, communities and world.  In addition to course readings, we will use the contemplative practices of memoir and walking as resources for critical thinking.  A majority of the course will involve students developing responses to (in)justice through various projects that reflect students’ own passion and design, including academic, artistic, political, social, service-oriented, and personal responses. (M3) War and Peace & Ethics and Justice

REL 210. Christian Ethics. A careful reading and discussion of representative texts in Christian ethics, with particular emphasis upon the distinctiveness of Christian ethics, Christian faith and social responsibility, the relation between Christian ethics and Christian theology, and the diversity of Christian ethics among the various Protestant and Catholic traditions. (U2) Ethics and Justice

REL 211. Christian Ethics and War. How should humans respond to the perennial human problem of war? This course provides an introduction to ethics from Christian perspective through focus on this social issue. Students will be exposed to a wide spectrum of responses, including pacifism, nonviolent direct action, just war theory, Christian realism, warrior ethics, and more; and will develop their own ethic as their final project for the semester. (U2) War and Peace

REL 215. Christian Theology. Major issues within mainstream Christian faith, with attention to God, the nature of Christ, death and the ultimate Christian hope. (M3) Philosophy and Theology

REL 217. Paul through Jewish and Christian Eyes. An introduction to the complex, perilous and fascinating world of New Testament biblical interpretation through focus on the writings of Paul of Tarsus. We will explore the robustly debated topic of how to understand Paul, his letters, and his theology through study of the history of Christian antijudaism and antisemitism, exposure to contemporary biblical criticism, archeology, and other scientific findings, and via service learning. (M3) Sacred Texts

REL 221. Buddhism and Mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Does it improve health? Why are mindfulness-based programs being increasingly introduced into big corporations, startups, churches, public schools, hospitals, prisons, law enforcement, and the military? This course will explore: 1) the relationship between Buddhist traditions and mindfulness; 2) scientific research on the effects of mindfulness; and 3) the ethical debate on the commodification of mindfulness. (U1) Health and Science 

REL 225. Pilgrimage: Searching for God in a (Post)modern World. Pilgrimage: Searching for God in a (Post)modern World. This course will provide students with the opportunity to study and reflect on the relationship between Christian thought and (post)modern life. We will look at the way supposedly “secular culture” makes reference to “signals of transcendence,” and expresses longing for spiritual meaning, focusing on the changing nature of “pilgrimage” and its relationship to religious authority, theology, spiritual conviction, tourism and movement, and the role of culture. Students will embark upon their own pilgrimage as a part of their class work, in addition to studying diverse sites and pathways of pilgrimage (secular and religious) in the U.S. and world (M3) Culture

REL 226. From Prophecy to Apocalyptic. An exploration of the phenomenon of prophecy as a social institution as known in the ancient Near East as well as prophetic literature in biblical texts. The development of apocalyptic thought in Judaism and Christianity will be studied, up to the book of Revelation. (M3) History

REL 227. Ancient Near Eastern Religion. A study of the religions of the ancient Near East, this course will explore the myths and rituals of the peoples of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt before the Roman era. Foundational to western civilization in general, these religions also form the cultural context and background for the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (M3) History

REL 230. Advance topics in the Ethics of Abortion. This course analyzes the ethical issue of abortion through examination of philosophical pro-life and pro-choice arguments from a variety of perspectives. Our philosophical/ethical investigation includes address of abortion and public reproductive health, abortion in a changing legal justice landscape in the U.S., and  the intersection of abortion and religious ideas and values. Students may not take PHIL 230 and PHIL 330. There is no prerequisite for the 200-level.  (U2)

REL 231. Atheism. Atheism is the belief that there is no God or gods. This course is a systematic and sympathetic examination and critical evaluation of atheism. It is primarily focused upon understanding contemporary arguments against theism, such as arguments from evil and divine hiddenness; sociological and psychological theories about the origin of religion (e.g., Freud and Durkheim); and the implications of atheism with respect to the questions of moral values, the meaning of life, and possibility of immortality. (U2) Philosophy and Theology

REL 240.  Religion and Feminist/Gender Studies. (Also Women's Studies 240). Students study methods from feminist and gender studies to explore the intersection of women's lives and experience, and traditions of  Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  We investigate the personal and political through case studies that address issues such as leadership/ritual roles in diverse institutions; religious text/law; image(s) of  the divine; gender, violence, and "religious extremism"; religion and the body; and feminist theological exposition. (U2) Ethics and Justice

REL 244.  What is Peace?. (Also PHIL/PJUS 244). Students explore the nature, meaning and discipline of peace studies from different traditions, theories and perspectives. They investigate case studies of peace movements in recent times, and develop their own visions of peace through a research project they present for peer review. This final project will take the shape of a paper, film, or other modality according to student interest. (M3)

REL 245. Religion and Politics. What is "civil religion"? This course examines the relationship between religious ideas and values, and political structures, decision-making, and culture. Topics include the historical background of civil religion in the U.S., church-state relations and the First Amendment, the role of religion in politics post 9/11, the intersection of politics, religion and race, and other current issues. (U2) Ethics and Justice

REL 246. War and Peace in the Biblical World. This course will explore ideologies of warfare and other forms of sanctioned mass violence, as well as ancient hopes and expectation for peace. Ancient Near Eastern texts and practices will be studied in addition to biblical texts. (U2) War and Peace

REL 248. Topics in Religion and Literature. How the religious dimension of human experience is expressed and interpreted in literature, with focus on a particular author, group of writers, theme, or school of critical interpretation. Identification and evaluation of the way human religious experience is articulated through the literary imagination, whether classical, modern, or contemporary. Culture

REL 250 Environmental Ethics. (also PHIL 250) This course examines contemporary environmental ethical issues that arise in understanding humanity’s complex relationship with the natural world. The course will explore environmental ethics from a wide range of philosophical and theological methods and perspectives.  (U2) Health and Science

REL 251. Modern Jewish Religious Movements. Modern Judaism exists in a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices, from ultra-traditionalism to secular humanism. This course will explore both the making of modern Judaism and the religious "map" of Jewish life today. Topics will include Hasidic Judaism, Zionism, and contemporary North American trends in Judaism. (M5) Culture

REL 253. Philosophy of Religion. (also PHIL 253) The nature of religion and beliefs concerned with existence, nature, and knowledge of God, with alternative positions to theism. (U2) Philosophy and Theology

REL 254. Jewish Philosophy. (also PHIL/MDVL 253) An introduction to philosophy within Judaism, a field that asks the question:  is a religion based on faith and tradition also rational and logical?  Specific topics addressed will be:  Can or should God’s existence be proven?  Is God’s power infinite or limited?  What should we make of the biblical descriptions of God being human-like?  Does God perform miracles?  Does God care about the small details of our lives?  How can people become close to God?  What is the role of the Jewish people in the world?  Why is the Jewish religion distinctive among religions?  No background in Judaism is need for this course; sufficient background information will be provided. Prerequisite: None. (M3)

REL 255. Latin American Liberation Theology. Introduction to the study and practice of liberation theology in the Latin American context through classroom study of the history, method, and content of liberation theology. Our purpose will be to investigate how this movement emerged and the effects it continues to have culturally, politically, religiously, and personally. All students and professor will embark on a travel seminar during Spring Break to the border region between Mexico and Arizona. (M5) Ethics and Justice

REL 260. Moral Injury. (also NURS/HLTP 260) Moral Injury has been defined as “the inevitable outcome of moral engagement with the reality of war and killing,” (Antal and Winings: 2015) and as “the result of participation in the moral distortion of the world created by war” (Denton-Borhaug: 2021). In this course participants will explore and analyze moral injury through multidisciplinary methods including public “whole” health, spiritual, philosophical and theological frameworks, the arts and humanities, as well as through diverse social and physical scientific paradigms/methods. Our aim will be to illuminate increased understanding of the individual experience of moral injury; analyze the relationship between moral injury and U.S. War-culture; and engage in reflective moral deliberation regarding what the phenomenon of moral injury requires of us as individuals, citizens, people with religious (or no-religious) identities, and members of diverse moral communities. (U2) 

REL 261. Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Mysticism. (also PHIL 261) An exploration of key notions and figures in Islamic philosophy, theology, and mysticism. Some issues embedded in the enormous body of scholarship in Muslim intellectual heritage are employed to examine current global issues such as the struggle for justice and peace and the fight against violence and absolutism. Special attention is given to the structure of Being, the notion of the truth, and the way to attain the truth in the three systems. (M5) Philosophy and Theology

REL 262. Religion and Capitalism. Did the Protestant work ethic contribute to capitalism? How are Chinese Buddhist institutions currently involved in the stock market? This course examines historical and contemporary engagement of religious institutions with various forms of capitalism. We will discuss how karma acts as a medium for the exchange of spiritual and material goods. We investigate arguments that characterize capitalism as a religion. (M4) Ethics and Justice 

REL 263. Civil Rights and the Moral Life. (also IDIS 263) Many forces and ideas shaped the civil rights movement. Through both a historical and a theological/philosophical lens, students will examine those forces and ideas and will consider how the power and depth of the movement continues to challenge us with its continued relevance today. The course includes in-close examinations of key events in the movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Nashville sit-ins, in order to view the movement from the vantage of people involved in the movement. (U2) Ethics and Justice

REL 264. Science and Theology. Is it (im)possible to hold religious beliefs and convictions, and simultaneously to be a modern person of science?  This course will examine the interface between science and theology from a variety of perspectives.  We will explore key questions and supposed conflicts between science and religion, emphasizing the interaction between the two, how science impacts religion and vice versa.  A capstone paper, a Credo, will ask the student to reflect on how one’s understanding of scientific theories affects his/her beliefs about certain key religious ideas such as Creation or human nature.  Prerequisites:  Junior or senior class standing. (U1) Health and Science

REL 265. Sociology of Religion (also SOC 265). Historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, comparative, and theological methods used in scholarly study of religion. Readings drawn from classical and contemporary interpreters of religion. Culture

REL 266. History of the Early 18th Century Moravians.  This course explores the history of the Moravians as an 18th-century transatlantic community. Their communities are an interesting example of 18th-century intentional communities. How were their congregations organized? What did Moravians believe, and how does this relate to other religious groups? How did they perceive their own history, and how did Moravians record history? Eighteenth-century Moravians were highly controversial; we will take a look at some of the polemical writings. In the course we will also explore issues of gender, race and sexuality. (M1) History

REL 310. Methods in Religious Study. Historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, comparative, and theological methods used in scholarly study of religion. Readings drawn from classical and contemporary interpreters of religion. 

REL 370. WI:Seminar in Religion. Selected topics significant in current religious studies, drawing together several themes or methods within religious studies and posing issues of broader interdisciplinary significance. Required for majors, minors, interdepartmental majors, and open to others by permission of instructor. Spring, alternate years. Two 70-minute periods. Writing-intensive. 

REL 385. Directed Study in Religion. A required course for religion majors. Students will select and conduct an individual research project under the direction of a faculty member. Ideally the student will have already taken Religion 370. The first part of the course will be focused on methodology. 

REL 190-199, 290-299, 390-399. Special Topics.
REL 286, 381-383. Independent Study.
REL 384. Independent Research.
REL 288, 386-388. Internship.
REL 400-401. Honors.