A Profile of the Religion Department
Take a look at what past grads from Witt have done with their majors – internships, grad school programs, and first jobs after graduation. It’s not always as cut and dried as you think; a Liberal Arts degree has a lot of flexibility!
The academic study of religion introduces students to the depth and richness of religious thought, texts, ritual, spiritual practice, moral and cultural values, and social institutions found in the major religious traditions of humankind. These phenomena are examined from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives — historical, literary, philosophical, theological and social scientific. Thus, the study of religion is an important component of a liberal arts education.
Courses are intended to acquaint students with the historical development and contemporary expressions of one or more traditions, as well as the ways in which religious traditions shape and/or reflect cultures past and present, and to develop students' analytical and critical skills. Tutorial reading courses and independent study projects allow students to pursue particular interests with faculty guidance.
The major and minor are designed to serve as focus of a liberal arts education for students with diverse career goals and as a foundation for those planning to continue the study of religion in a professional or graduate program.
Each year the department sponsors a series of colloquia featuring guest lecturers and the scholarly work of its faculty.
Requirements for Standard Major
Eight 4- semester hour courses of which at least three must be at the 300 level; participation in the Junior Colloquium on Approaches to the Study of Religion, two semester hours; and submission of a satisfactory Senior Essay, one semester hour in both the fall and spring semesters, by the fifth week of the spring semester. Students must take at least three courses in different Western and non-western traditions under Traditions and Texts and at least three courses (one other than ethics) under Religion and Culture. A cognate course in another department may be counted toward the major with the permission of the Chair.
Requirements for the Major Combining Religious Studies with Another Subject
Since the study of religion is inherently interdisciplinary, the department allows students to design a coherent alternative major consisting of five 4-semester hour courses in the religion, at least three of which must be at the 300 level, and three appropriate 4-semester hour courses in one or more other departments. The distribution requirements of the standard major are waived but the Junior Colloquium on Approaches to the Study of Religion is required. A satisfactory Senior Essay, one semester hour in both the fall and spring semesters, must be submitted by the fifth week of the spring semester. Students wishing to pursue this option should consult their adviser and must secure the prior permission of the Chair. Examples of such intergrative programs of study include religion and art, religion and literature, religion and history, religion and philosophy, and religion and sociology, and religion and politics.
Requirements for Minor
A minor in religion consists of five 4-semester hour courses including at least two courses in different religious traditions under Traditions and Texts, one course under Religion and Culture, and one course at the 300 level.
100. Topics. 4 semester hours.
This course may be repeated for credit.
200. Topics. 4 semester hours.
This course may be repeated for credit.
300. Topics. 4 semester hours.
This course may be repeated for credit.
350. Approaches to the Study of Religion (Junior Colloquium). 2 semester hours.
Introduction to the academic study of religion from various perspectives such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy and history. Required of all majors in the spring semester of the junior year. (With permission of the Chair, an alternate arrangement will be made for students planning off-campus study that semester.) The student develops a prospectus for the senior essay. Writing intensive. Every year.
490. Independent Study. 1-4 semester hours.
This course may be repeated for credit.
491. Internship. 1-4 semester hours.
May be taken for credit/no credit only. This course may be repeated for credit.
498. Senior Essay. 2 semester hours.
Required of all religion majors in both the fall and spring semesters. A complete draft of the essay must be submitted by the last class day of the fall semester. The final draft of the essay must be submitted by the fifth week of the spring semester. Writing intensive. Every year.
499. Honors Thesis/Project. Variable credit.
Prerequisite: 3.50 GPA and permission of the Department Chair.
Traditions and Texts
121R. Art of Biblical Literature. 4 semester hours.
Designed to help readers understand the content and appreciate the artistry of literature from the Old Testament, New Testament and Apocrpha by paying close attention to creative aspects of the texts. Also considers the reinterpretation of biblical literature in the music, stories and movies of contemporary culture. Writing intensive. Every year.
134C/R. Chinese and Japanese Religious Traditions. 4 semester hours.
This course examines several religious traditions that have shaped East Asian civilizations. We will study the formal traditions of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Shinto, and the New Religions; we will also consider the popular religious traditions of China and Japan. Classes include both lecture and discussion; students will be evaluated through essay exams, short papers, and analysis of scripture and other texts. Every year.
137R. Jewish Tradition. 4 semester hours.
Introduction to the basic concepts and general history of Judaism from biblical times to the present. Includes readings in biblical texts, discussions of life-cycle and the Jewish calender, and a survey of Jewish history. Writing intensive and non-writing intensive sections. Every year.
221R. Understanding the Old Testament. 4 semester hours.
Comprehensive survey that attempts to place Old Testament texts in their historical context, understand the religious and cultural perspectives, which shape the texts, and develop the student’s skills in biblical interpretation and assessment of secondary literature. Writing intensive. Every year.
222R. Understanding the New Testament. 4 semester hours.
Comprehensive survey emphasizing the historical context, and religious and cultural perspectives of the New Testament books. Writing intensive. Every year.
237R. Judaism and Christianity: The Formative Years. 4 semester hours.
Examination of the formative events in the development of Judaism and Christianity, using both primary and secondary sources. Considers the religion of the historical Jesus, Paul’s relation to Jews and Christians, the status of Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire of the first century, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, the codification of the Mishnah and the writing of the Gospels. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
241R. Christian Tradition. 4 semester hours.
Historical survey of major theologians and the development of Christian doctrine in the West. Topics include perennial tensions between reason and revelation, the humanity and divinity of Christ, nature and grace, justification and sanctification, spirit and structure, and differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrine. Some sections writing intensive. Every year.
321. Biblical and Modern Prophets. 4 semester hours.
Investigation of the historical settings, rhetorical techniques and messages of prophets from Amos of Tekoa to John of Patmos. The student also considers the possibility of prophetic voices in contemporary society. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
324R. Apocalyptic Vision in Ancient and Modern Literature. 4 semester hours.
Study of religious views, historical context, literary style, and imagery of ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic texts, followed by an analysis of the way in which selected modern films and literature use apocalyptic themes and images. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
333C/R. Buddhist Thought and Scriptures. 4 semester hours.
Seminar studying the teachings and practices of schools of the Buddhist tradition through pivotal scriptures. Sutras and other texts from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism will be considered in their historical and cultural contexts, and within the framework of central themes of Buddhism. Requirements include class discussion and presentations, two exams, one short paper, and a term paper. Writing intensive. Every third year.
335C/R. Confucianism and Its Critics. 4 semester hours.
Seminar on the history, central teachings, and institutions of the Confucian and Neo-Confucian traditions and Confucianism as manifest in the modern world. We will read pivotal works of Confucians including the Analects, Mencius, the writings of Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming and Tu Wei-ming. These will be assessed in part in contrast to critics of Confucianism ranging from classical philosophers to twentieth century Marxists. Writing intensive. Every year.
337R. Judaism in the Modern World. 4 semester hours.
Examination of thinkers such as Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and Emil Fackenheim demonstrating the interaction of Judaism with modern Western culture. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
Religion and Culture
110R. Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Present. 4 semester hours.
Examination of anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism from its earliest manifestations in the Greco-Roman Empire until the present. One goal is to identify those forces in intellectual history that have repeatedly responded to Jewish cultural and religious differences by seeing the Jew as a source of evil in the world. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
171S. Urban Life and Social Ethics. 4 semester hours.
Examination of representative challenges facing contemporary cities using Springfield as an example. Background readings inform practical issues facing city government with emphasis upon the ethical dimension of the issues throughout. Writing intensive. Every year.
172S. Poverty and Social Ethics. 4 semester hours.
Survey of different approaches to domestic poverty with emphasis upon the ethical principles informing them. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
176H. Racism and Social Ethics. 4 semester hours.
Consideration of basic understandings of racism in the United States in terms of their basic views of American values. Writing intensive. Every year.
177R. Religious Perspectives on Contemporary Moral Issues. 4 semester hours.
Introduction to basic moral concepts in Judaism and Christianity and their application to issues such as lying; sexuality and procreation; abortion; euthanasia; genetic engineering; human rights; war, terrorism and nuclear deterrence; equality and gender; justice in access to health care; and environmental ethics. Some sections are writing intensive. Every year.
275H/L. Germans and Jews: Culture, Identity and Difference. 4 semester hours.
Study of the issues that have characterized the history of German Jewry in its relationship to German Christendom, focusing on the period from the Enlightenment to the aftermath of the Holocaust. Consideration of the problems of cultural difference, assimilation, European identity, and discrimination as reflected in the cultural imagination. German and religion sections meet together regularly. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
336C/R. Religious Daoism and Chinese Popular Religion. 4 semester hours.
Religious Daoism has been a way of self-cultivation, influential in Chinese imperial politics and history. This course will examine the tradition of Religious Daoism in historical context and through the study of practices, including ritual, meditation, and yoga. We will also look at Religious Daoism from the vantage point of Chinese Popular Religion, the practices that have been the basis of the religion of the people to the present. Class will be a combination of lecture and discussion, with student presentations and a term paper. Writing intensive.
339. Monkeys, Samurai, and Gods. 4 semester hours.
This seminar will look at religious meaning and message in some of the best loved literature of China and Japan, including Journey to the West, Tale of Heike, Dream of the Red Chamber, Account of my Hut, and others. Class will be a combination of lecture and discussion, with student presentations and a term paper. Videos and other media will be used when possible. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
342R. Comparative Religious Ethics. 4 semester hours.
Seminar analyzing and comparing ethical systems of several religious traditions including Confucianism and Buddhism in East and South Asia, and Judaism and Christianity in the West. Examines their assumptions, norms, characteristic patterns of moral reasoning, and conceptions of virtue and vice. Attention is given to the relations between religion, morality and law in each tradition; the question of whether there are any common features of religious moral reasoning that are universal; and the status of appeals to universal human rights. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
343R. Process Theology. 4 semester hours.
Readings in basic resources in process thought with an emphasis on its meaning for society and politics. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
374R. Advanced Social Ethics: Sexism. 4 semester hours.
Readings in alternative ethical analyses of sexism in American society. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
375R. Advanced Social Ethics: Racism. 4 semester hours.
Readings in alternative ethical analyses of racism in American society. Writing intensive. Alternate years.
378R. Bioethics. 4 semester hours.
Seminar on contemporary issues and debates in bioethics. Topics may include abortion, genetic engineering, reproductive technologies, euthanasia, autonomy, paternalism, use of human subjects in research, access to health care, allocation of scarce resources and environmental ethics. Writing intensive. Every year.
381R. Women and Religion. 4 semester hours.
Examination of religious institutions and laws from a feminist principle of interpretation. Aim is to understand the status of women within classical Judaism and Christianity and to assess feminism’s influence upon and critique of them. Writing intensive. Every year.