Michigan State University

Note: Not all courses are offered every semester. Visit schedule.msu.edu to find the updated course offerings.

Religion and religions as historical phenomena. Non-textual and textual religions. Theories of the origins and functions of religion. Exemplary voices from various traditions examined in their historical and doctrinal settings.

A critical survey of biblical texts, including the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and writings found in the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, that combines historical and literary analysis with attention to the ancient religious context of this literature.

Film representation of religions and spiritual traditions through their representations in film.

History, themes and issues in the intersection of religion, philanthropy, and nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

The mythic quest for meaning, identity, value, and transcendence as seen through religious biography and literary narrative. Myth in relation to religious symbols and life-cycle rituals. Cross-cultural perspective on religious world views and the interpretation of myth as sacred narrative.

Global perspectives on religion and the environment, with U.S. emphasis. Focus on places, beliefs, practices, and conflicts. Field trips required.

History, themes and issues of religions in America from pre-colonial times to the present.

Surveys the history of Western esoteric traditions in Europe, England and North America including alchemy, magic, Jewish and Christian mysticisms, and secret or semisecret groups like Freemasonry. Transdisciplinary investigation of religion, science, literature, art and history.

Introduction to prominent methods and theories through which religions and religious phenomena can be understood.

Indigenous forms of spirituality among the Native American peoples. Materials from myth, ritual, ceremonial life, and art as ways of obtaining and sharing religious knowledge. Pervasive spiritual and cosmological themes.

Jewish life, thought, and institutions. Jewish calendar. Second Temple and Rabbinic periods. Talmud and Midrash. Jewish life in Europe and America. Hasidic, Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative movements. Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Holocaust. Current issues.

Origins and historical development of Christianity. Rituals, institutional forms (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant). Monastic and mendicant movements. Major doctrines and their development. Contemporary status and role.

Buddhist traditions of East Asia, including China, Tibet, Korea, and Japan, as well as Mahayana and Vajrayana.

Islam from the time of Muhammad to the present. Pre-modern developments. Life of Muhammad. Qur’an, Hadith, and Islamic law. Sunnis, Shiites, sects, and their rituals. Unity and diversity. Modern movements and trends.

Southeast Asia as a religious and cultural crossroads. The historic mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Chinese religions. Diversity of indigenous animistic religions. Past and present relations between religions and the state.

Historical, philosophical and doctrinal development. Vedic Sacrifice, Upanishads, Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and modern Hinduism.

Early origins of Buddhism. Life of the Buddha. Formulation of the Samgha. Pali canon. Three turnings of the Wheel of the Law. Monastic developments vs. lay Buddhism. Buddhist meditation practices.

Southeast Asia as a religious and cultural crossroads. The historic mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Chinese religions. Diversity of indigenous animistic religions. Past and present relations between religions and the state.

Variant forms of the religions of Africa. Indigenous African religions examined through their mythology, rituals, symbols, and social consequences. Islam and Christianity. Interaction between religion and politics.

New religious movements, groups and individuals seen historically. Major controversies.

Religion, health, and illness, and responses to them in health care professions, faith communities, and the broader society. Topics may include religion and interpretations of embodiment or suffering; challenges of religious diversity to health care professionals; and the “religiosity” of secular science, medicine, and public health, which are partially shaped by their own myths, rituals, and symbols.

Introduction to the doctrines, ritual practices, and history of Jewish mysticism.

Introduction to the history of Jewish philosophy.

The historical setting and types and meaning of the text of the New Testament explored through various techniques of historical, literary, and textual analysis.

The historical setting, types and topics of the Quranic text, and an overview of the history of its interpretation.

Representative Muslim thinkers and intellectual trends from the 19th century to the present. Focus on issues such as social order, the role of Islamic law, pluralism and gender.

Historical-critical approach to Muhammads’ life and the history of the early Muslim community. Signficance of this life-story for Muslims past and present.

Historical, philosophical, and doctrinal development of Bhakti Hinduism (devotional Hinduism) of North India from the 12th to the 18th century.

Historical, philosophical and doctrinal development of Hinduism after the 1850’s. Encounter with the west and christianity. Reform movements. Religious thinkers and their ideas.

In-depth investigation focused on specific themes on figures in the philosophy of religion such as notions of divinity, the rationality of belief, philosophy under religious authority, conceptions of human perfection.

Definitions of ritual. Aspects of ritual, such as repetitiveness and drama. Generic forms of ritual including passage rites, renewal rites, liminality, sacrifice, taboo, and divination. Experience of ritual and its power to inform and transform the participant.

Multidisciplinary approaches to topics such as patterns in comparative religion, comparative mysticism, or comparative mythology.

Religion, ethical leadership practices, and non-profit organizations in both religious and secular contexts.

Special projects arranged by an individual student and a faculty member in areas supplementing regular course offerings.

Special topics supplementing regular course offerings, proposed by faculty on a group study basis.

Supervised pre-professional experience related to religious studies. 

Individual research project supervised by a faculty member that demonstrates the student’s ability to do independent research. The completion of Religious Studies 499 satisfies the capstone course requirement for the major in Religious Studies.

Special projects, directed reading, and research arranged by an individual graduate student and a faculty member in areas supplementing regular course offerings.

Close Menu