Fall 2020 Expanded Course Descriptions

RST 1E: Fundamentalism
Flagg Miller

How can nearly a third of Americans believe every word in the Bible to be literally true? Why do some 42% of Americans believe that God created humans just 10,000 years ago? Why do so many people of different faiths find ancient holy books relevant to understanding current affairs? Join us in exploring these and other questions as we examine religious fundamentalism across the globe. We will devote special attention to fundamentalists’ views of science, textual interpretation, nationalism, sexuality, and violence. Readings will focus primarily on three religious traditions in three parts of the world: Christianity in North America, Judaism in Israel/Palestine, and Islam across the Middle East. Case studies will consider a range of trends in religious fundamentalisms world wide, however. Throughout the course we will investigate the ways in which studies of fundamentalism reflect broader trends in religious studies.


RST 10: Healthcare and Religious Ethics
Meaghan O'Keefe
MW 10:00-10:50a
CRN 52978

This course examines how various religious traditions deal with the ethical dilemmas involved in healthcare. We will study topics such as the end of life, caring for the sick, dealing with disasters with limited resources, growing up, birth, pregnancy, and conception. Rather than making judgments about what’s right and what’s wrong in a particular situation, we will investigate how different religious traditions categorize, understand, and encourage ethical actions in a given context. We will also examine how religious ideas can, at times, complicate the process of providing individual healthcare as well the design and delivery of public health programs.


RST 10A: Discussion Section Healthcare and Religion
Meaghan O'Keefe
M 5:10-6:00P
T 5:10-6:00P


This is the discussion section for RST 10: Health Care and Religious Ethics. You must also sign up for RST 10 in order to take this class.


RST 006: Intro Health Humanities
Meaghan O'Keefe
MWF 12:10-1:00P
CRN 52977


This course introduces students to the role of the humanities in the health sciences, focusing on the motivations, goals, ethics, and suffering involved in understanding the experience of illness, the practice of medicine, and the role of culture in biomedical research. The course is divided into three main: cultural understandings of illness, the history of healthcare in the United States, and social and cultural factors that influence biomedical research.


RST 190: Spiritual or Religious?
Flagg Miller
TR 10:30-11:50A
CRN 50006


What does it mean to say you’re a spiritual person? Is it different than being religious? Can you be one and not the other? How is the concept of the spirit been understood in and outside various world religions? This course offers an introduction to the history of spirituality and its relation to religion. We focus, in particular, on the ways in which modernization and global capitalism have influenced binary distinctions – spirit/matter, supernatural/natural, and internal/external – long held to be central to the essence and development of religion. Students who take this course will learn about key theories and methods in religious studies. Course activities include undertaking an ethnographic field project on spiritual and religious distinctions in our own community. While focusing on North American Christianity, we also explore the perspectives of modern Native American and Muslim communities both within the United States and beyond. Early weeks situate discourses of spirituality historically in the 19th-century emergence of the Transcendentalist movement, key to the work of the influential philosopher and psychologist William James. Subsequent weeks focus on the “spiritual marketplace,” an idea developed by a range of contemporary scholars to explore the relationship between religious experience and financial profit. In week six, we consider the ways Dungeons and Dragons, a top-selling fantasy role-playing game, created new horizons for spirituality, and with them fierce debates about a dark new religion was praying upon American adolescents. Final weeks of the quarter explore the uptake and reformation of spirituality by Pueblo Indians and their allies in the 1920s, contemporary Indonesian Muslims and the LGBTQIA community in California’s Central Valley and Bay Area regions. With attention to the legacies of colonialism, racism, and sex/gender discrimination, students will keep journals throughout the quarter in which they reflect on what they learn by writing on questions tailored to reading material.


RST 106: Contemporary Christianity
Allison Coudert
TR 9:00-9:50A
CRN 52992


During the past century and a half Christianity has expanded rapidly across the globe and changed so radically that it needs a new history. In 1900 80 percent of the world’s Christians were Caucasian and 70 percent lived in Europe and the US. Today Christian adherence is stronger in Africa than Europe, the number of Christians in China is close to equaling the number of Christians in the US, and by 2030 Africa will have more Catholics than Europe. These changing demographics mean that half of the Christian believers who have ever lived are alive right now in a world that is very different from the one that produced Christianity and in which its major denominations, institutions, and theological doctrines developed. Given these new realities, this course investigates what has been called “the new faces of Christianity,” as it has adapted to new cultural and social environments both in the US and abroad. Major themes we
will address over the quarter are: How have Christian missionary activities destabilized, transformed, and in some cases destroyed native cultures? How has the growth of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, many of which emphasize healing rituals and spiritual warfare, changed the face of Christianity and contributed to the rise of religious terrorism? Has the spread of prosperity churches, especially among the poor, offered values and strategies to alleviate poverty or do these churches reinforce and legitimize the gap between rich and poor? What effect has the spread of Christianity had on women and marginalized groups? And finally, what is the role of Christianity in supporting both liberal and authoritarian political and economic agendas?