Religious Studies

Religious Studies teaches students about the histories and varieties of religion, and equips students with cultural literacy.

Religious Studies explore the influence of religions on society and their interactions with culture. Students of Religious Studies become better informed global citizens with the capacity to engage in both sympathetic understanding and vigorous critique of the place of religion in today's world. 

Religious Studies Electives 

Below is a list of all Religious Studies electives that anyone can register for, because they have 0 or just 1 prerequisite. For a complete list of our Religious Studies courses, see the university calendar

The Religions of the World
(RELS 1000)

An introduction to the beliefs and practices of the world's religions.

Note: Same as the former RELS 2010

Critical Reading and Writing: Religion and Violence

Examines the relationship between religion(s) and violence from Religious Studies perspectives. Students learn the principles of scholarly analysis appropriate to the study of religious phenomena, the elements of academic assessment, and the mechanics of academic writing. Emphasis is placed on critical reading and writing, analyzing texts, evaluating sources, framing questions, organizing paragraphs, developing effective arguments, and refining presentation of written work. All sections of this course follow Critical Reading and Writing Course Guidelines available at

Introduction to Chinese (Mandarin) I
(RELS 1040)

Will introduce students to the basics of Chinese vocabulary, characters, and grammar. Mandarin Chinese, the official dialect of China, Taiwan, and Singapore, will be taught. This course is not intended for native speakers. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 4904

Introduction to Chinese (Mandarin) II
(RELS 1041)

A continuation of RELS 1040. At the end of this course students should know over a hundred Chinese characters, which should enable them to read basic texts and carry on a simple conversation. This course is not intended for native speakers. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 4911

Prerequisite: RELS 1040

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew I
(RELS 1050)

Designed to introduce students to the elements of Biblical Hebrew in order to prepare them for reading the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in the original. The emphasis will be upon learning the basic grammar and syntax of Biblical Hebrew. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 3700, the former RELS 4900

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew II
(RELS 1051)

A continuation of RELS 1050. The emphasis will be upon the reading of selected Hebrew texts. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 3701, the former RELS 4901

Prerequisite: RELS 1050

Sanskrit Language Study I
(RELS 1060)

An introduction to the Sanskrit language, to the (Devanagari) alphabet, basic grammar and foundational vocabulary with a focus on developing skills needed to read and translate Sanskrit texts. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 4905

Sanskrit Language Study II
(RELS 1061)

A continuation of Sanskrit Language Study I. On successful completion of this course, students will have the ability to consult Sanskrit texts for research purposes. All sections of this course follow the Language Study Course Guidelines available at

Note: Same as the former RELS 4906

(RELS 2013)

A study of the Christian tradition, its development and variety. The course will include an examination of the beliefs and practices of both Eastern and Western Christianity and a study of the main differences among the major Western denominations.

Note: Same as the former RELS 2130, 2140

Apocalypse: The End Times in Thought, Action, and Imagination (RELS 2021)

Will explore the many ways in which Judaism and Christianity have anticipated and imagined the end times. Attention will be given to Jewish and early Christian notions of the Messiah and his reign, the end of the world, and the impending judgment, as well as how Christianity has coped repeatedly with the delay of the end and how millennial thought and action have affected people during periods of social and natural crises. The role of millennial expectations in our modern era and why the apocalypse is once again a powerful image in religion, film, and literature will also be covered.

Note: Same as the former RELS 1021

Jesus at the Movies
(RELS 2022)

Examines how Jesus has been dramatized in film, investigating the reception of select Jesus films and cinematic Christ figures in academic, religious, and popular cultures, and reflecting on the sources and intentions informing the filmmaker's work.

Note: Same as the former RELS 1022

The Old Testament
(RELS 2050)

An introduction to the historical background, literary structure, and content of the Old Testament. Emphasis will be placed on the authorship and dating of the various texts that comprise the Old Testament, as well as on major themes, figures, and events.

The New Testament
(RELS 2051)

An introduction to the history and literary structure of the documents comprising the New Testament. Emphasis will be placed on the major themes found in these documents and on the distinctiveness of approach of the individual writers.

Philosophy of Religion
(RELS 2070)

Explores the philosophical aspects of religious belief, religious language, and theology.

Note: Same as Philosophy 2070, the former Philosophy 3500, the former Religious Studies 3500

Jerusalem and the Politics of Sacred Space
(RELS 2180)

Takes a social-constructivist approach in examining how narrative, ritual, and architecture are deployed in making a place sacred. The focus is on the city of Jerusalem, its place in the history and symbolism of three religious traditions (Judaism. Christianity and Islam), and the potential tensions and conflicts involved in processes of creating sacred geographies.

History of Medieval Philosophy
(RELS 2205)

Examines and traces the historical developments of a number of philosophical themes, questions, and ideas throughout medieval philosophy by reading, analyzing, and discussing selected primary texts from philosophers and theologians from the 4th to 14th centuries. Authors may include Augustine, Proclus, Boethius, Al-Farabi Ibn Sina, Anselm, Ibn Rushd, Maimonides, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus, and Ockham, among others.

Note: Same as Philosophy 2205, Medieval Studies 2205

(RELS 2330)

An introduction to central beliefs and practices of the Jewish faith, from its beginnings to the modern era.

(RELS 2340)

Examines the tradition in its historical and contemporary manifestations; Muhammad, the Qur'an, Islamic sects, relations with Judaism and Christianity; trends and developments in contemporary Islamic thought and practice.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3340

Religious Institutions
(RELS 2350)

A contextual study of religious institutions and beliefs, calendrical feasts and solemnities, religious roles and hierarchies, ritual innovation and revitalization.

Note: Same as Anthropology 2350, the former Sociology/Anthropology 2350, the former Sociology 2350

(RELS 2400)

Examines the history of Buddhist traditions in Asia, with consideration of the major developments in Buddhist philosophy, institutions, and practices.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3400

(RELS 2410)

Examines the history of Hindu religious traditions, their major religious texts, institutions, and practices, and their role in social, political, and cultural movements in India and in Hindu diaspora communities.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3410

Chinese Philosophy and Religion
(RELS 2420)

Examines philosophical and religious responses to social and political crises in ancient China. Finding ways to answer the crises of prolonged warfare, high unemployment, and a vast divide between rich and poor gave rise to the schools of Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, and others. This introductory course examines the various schools' answers to these crises and how they connect to today. 

Contemporary Issues in Chinese Religion and Culture (RELS 2425)

An examination of religion in modern China and the Chinese diaspora in Taiwan, Singapore, and North America. Special attention will be paid to religious beliefs, practices, and institutions and the way in which modern attitudes have been framed by the past.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3425

Japanese Religions
(RELS 2430)

An introduction to the history and development of Shinto and Buddhism in Japan. In the 20th and 21st centuries we will see the phenomenal growth of the “new religions” and their impact on everything including anime.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3430

Introduction to Religious Ethics
(RELS 2610)

An introduction to religious ethics through the study of issues in biomedicine, human sexuality, and social justice. Possible topics for discussion include euthanasia, abortion, poverty, and human rights.

Note: Same as the former RELS 2600 and the former RELS 2601

Gender and Sexualities in Western Religions
(RELS 2800)

Examines attitudes toward, and treatment and construction of gender and sexualities in Western religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and New Religious Movements. Contemporary evaluations of these traditions from gender studies perspectives will be considered.

Gender and Sexualities in Asian Religions
(RELS 2801)

Examines gender and sexuality in the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and folk traditions in Asia. Contemporary evaluations of these traditions from gender studies perspectives will be considered.

Religion and Science
(RELS 2810)

An historical examination of the dynamic interaction of religion and science in modern Western culture. In addition to classic case studies such as the Galileo affair, Darwin’s evolutionary theory, and the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’, the course asks whether science and religion are inherently at ‘war’ with each other or whether they have points of contact and perhaps even integration.

Contemporary Religious Movements
(RELS 2811)

Explores the development and forms of modern, western spiritualties, such as modern witchcraft, Neo-pagan religions, Mother Earth spirituality, UFO religion and the New Age Movement.

Religion and Popular Culture
(RELS 2812)

Analyzes the portrayal and treatment of religion in popular culture and the ways in which religious and mythic themes are communicated through a variety of media forms including television shows, films, music, mass-market fiction, and material culture.

Religion and Popular Music
(RELS 2830)

Explores the religious themes and images found in popular music and song, considering the role of music as a vehicle for religious expression.

Religion and the Law in Contemporary Canada
(RELS 2850)

Examines contemporary legal debates on the place and contours of ‘religion’ in Canada. Through consideration of a number of post-Charter Supreme Court of Canada decisions, as well as sociological research on different religious communities, we delve into the changing meanings of religious diversity in Canada.

Medieval Books
(RELS 3000)

An examination of the development and role of the manuscript book during the Middle Ages. Topics covered will include book production and dissemination; authors, scribes and audiences; and various kinds of books (e.g. glossed Bibles, anthologies, books of hours, etc.) and their uses.

Note: Same as English 3002, History 3000, and Medieval Studies 3000

Greek Religion
(RELS 3010)

A study of the role of religion in the private and public life of the Greek world. Topics include the Greek gods, religious rituals, sacred sites and temples, regional and temporal variations in religious practices, and the role of religion in society. The course may also compare ancient Greek religious practices and modern conceptions of religion.

Note: Same as Classics 3010, the former RELS 3121, the former Classics 3121

Prerequisites: There is no prerequisite for this course but students are strongly advised to have successfully completed at least one 1000- level or 2000-level Greek and Roman Studies course before registering in any 3000-level or higher Greek and Roman Studies course

Roman Religion
(RELS 3020)

A study of the role of religion in the private and public life of the Roman world. Topics include the Roman divinities, sacred sites and temples, the role of religion in politics and society, the interaction with and assimilation of foreign religious practices, and the rise of Christianity. Students may also compare Roman religious practices with modern conceptions of religion.

Note: Same as Classics 3020, the former RELS 3121, the former Classics 3121

The Book of Genesis
(RELS 3031)

Introduces students to one of the founding texts of Western culture, the book of Genesis. Special attention will be paid to the role of myth, human origins, values, and political institutions.

Note: Same as the former RELS 303 

Anthropology of Religion
(RELS 3053)

A critical evaluation of anthropological research on religion, centering on seminal thinkers and major theoretical traditions. Special attention is given to the study of belief systems, and to relationships between belief and ritual.

Note: Same as Anthropology 3053 

Topics in Religion and Politics
(RELS 3058)

A seminar-based course which offers socio-political and philosophical analyses of the impacts of religion in specific political contexts taking a variety of theoretical approaches. The geographical and historical foci of the course will vary by instructor.

The Prophets of Israel
(RELS 3060)

A study of the prophets through the relevant books of the Old Testament. Problems of text and interpretation will be discussed in relation to selected passages, but the general approach will be to bring out the creative genius and radical implications of the prophetic movement as a whole.

Jesus of Nazareth
(RELS 3200)

A study of the historical Jesus. Beginning with an assessment of the relevant source material, this course explores what can be known about the life of Jesus of Nazareth in its historical and cultural contexts. 

Paul and His Writings
(RELS 3210)

A study of the writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, and his contribution to Christianity in the cultural and historical milieu in which he lived and was active.

Christianity and the Roman Empire
(RELS 3270)

A study of the relationship between Christianity and the Roman Empire from the first to the fourth century.

Note: Same as Classics 3270, History 3270, Medieval Studies 3270

Ancient Israel
(RELS 3305)

An exploration of the religious thought and practices of Israel and Judah in their cultural and historical contexts in the Old Testament period, from their beginnings to the Babylonian Exile of the sixth century B.C.E.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3050

Judaism at the Time of Jesus
(RELS 3310)

Will explore the developments in Jewish thought, institutions, beliefs, and practices from the Babylonian Exile of the sixth century B.C.E. to the time of Jesus, King Herod and the Roman Empire of the first century C.E.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3220

Zen, Buddhist Meditation, and Buddhist Psychology
(RELS 3401)

Examines Buddhist psychology in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism and compares that to modern Western understandings.

The Ramayana: A Hindu Epic and Performance Tradition (RELS 3411)

A study of one of the most influential Epics of Hinduism, the story of Rama, the perfect king of a golden age. The course examines various versions of the narrative, the social and religious values expressed through the story, and the Epic’s place in Indian politics, in dramatic performances, and in visual arts.

Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
(RELS 3414)

Examines myth, iconography and ritual of Hindu gods and goddesses from the ancient to the contemporary period. The course explores fundamental assumptions of Hindu theistic traditions in popular practice and in the religious institutions of bhakti and tantra.

Note: Same as the former Religious Studies 2415

Readings in Daoism: The Laozi and the Zhuangzi
(RELS 3431)

A course in the critical reading of the two most important texts in Daoism, the Laozi and the Zhuangzi.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3420, the former RELS 3422

Confucius and Confucianism
(RELS 3432)

Begins with Confucius and China, and explores the growth and impact of Confucianism on East Asian society through an examination of its major writings.

Note: Same as the former Religious Studies 3420, the former Religious Studies 3421 

Philosophy of Religion
(RELS 3500)

Explores the philosophical aspects of religious belief, religious language, and theology.

Note: Same as the former Philosophy 3500

Religion From Left Field 
(RELS 3520)

Examines modern, left-leaning (Marxist, anarchist, socialist) understandings, adaptations, and critiques of Jewish and Christian thought. We consider religion not simply as an object of political analysis and critique, but as a contributing factor to the emergence in Europe of an influential body of post- Enlightenment emancipatory thought and political theology, as found in currents of Western Marxism.

Christianity, Violence and Corruption
(RELS 3540)

Introduces students to the thought of René Girard and Ivan Illich. Girard engages with anthropology, literature, the biblical tradition, and Christian thought in developing a conflict theory of social origins, and the relationship between religion and violence. Illich, one of modernity’s fiercest critics, argues that modern social institutions are indebted to Christianity, but also that these institutions, including the church, are a corruption and perversion of the New Testament.

Christian Thought in the Middle Ages
(RELS 3560)

A study of the development of Christianity in the West from the eleventh century to the eve of the Reformation, through an examination of its principal thinkers and the most significant societal forces and events: the crusades, the universities, monasticism, religious dissent, and mysticism.

Note: Same as Medieval Studies 3003

Ancient Myth and Cult
(RELS 3600)

Develops the students’ knowledge of myth and material culture by examining specific religious sites in the Greek and Roman world as foci of ritual practice. Students learn to integrate knowledge of physical remains with literary and ritual evidence in order to obtain a more integrated understanding of religious life in ancient Greece and Rome.

Note: Same as Classics 3600

Religion and Bioethics
(RELS 3640)

An examination of the religious ethics of health care in the light of foundational concepts of bioethics. Topics to be discussed will include the relation of religion and medicine, as well as specific issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and genetic engineering.

Religion and Social Justice
(RELS 3650)

Examines religious perspectives on social justice issues, which may include environmental ethics, ecofeminism, gender and racial equity, pacifism, civil disobedience, economic justice, and post-colonial reconciliation.

Religion and the Problem of Evil
(RELS 3680)

A study of religious approaches to the problem of evil. Attention will be paid to both traditional and contemporary efforts among the world's religions to address the problem.

Note: Same as the former RELS 4800

Re/Presentations of Muslim Women: Gender, Colonialism and Islam (RELS 3800)

Presented in three parts. Firstly, there will be a grounding theoretically in Islam, Orientalism, feminism and contemporary political implications related to the study of Muslim women. Secondly, there will be a consideration of topics which have served as explanations for the "difference" of Muslim women in various contexts, both in contemporary Muslim majority and minority political situations. Lastly, the course concludes by considering a variety of contemporary ethnographic representations of Muslim women in Egypt, Palestine, France, Turkey, Cyprus and Malaysia.

What is Islamophobia?
(RELS 3805)

Explores the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination globally. Broadly, we ask: what accounts for the “irrational” fear of Islam and the ascendance of “the Muslim” as the defining racial and religious “other” of our time?

Religion, Society, and Culture
(RELS 3810)

A study of modern attempts to analyze, interpret, and reassess the place and significance of religion in human life. Attention will be given to thinkers such as Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Durkheim.

Note: Same as the former RELS 3531

Contemporary Alternative Spirituality
(RELS 3811)

An in-depth examination of one or more forms of contemporary alternative spirituality in historic and contemporary contexts. Students will study the writings of practitioners of alternative spirituality, as well as social-scientific studies of alternative spiritual groups. Religious movements to be explored include Spiritualism, and may also include Neo-paganism, the New Age Movement, and/or UFO spirituality as relevant.

Religion and Disney Films:
Not Just Another Mickey Mouse Course
(RELS 3812)

Provides an in-depth examination of religious themes and issues arising from and within the philosophies of Walt Disney, Disney animated films, and other Disney entertainment products. Theoretical models drawn from the field of Religion and Popular Culture will provide the lens through which the religious dimensions of Disney films will be explored.

Prerequisite: successful completion of RELS 2812 is recommended but not required

Religion and the Arts
(RELS 3820)

An examination of the role of art in the expression of religious ideas, together with a study of specific religious themes and concerns in one or more of the following: literature, film, music, painting, sculpture, and dance.

Note: Same as Visual Arts 3820

Rites of Passage
(RELS 3840)

An introduction to the scholarly study of ritual, focusing on lifecycle transitions: birth and initiation rites, weddings, and funerals. In addition to studying practices from a range of religious traditions, consideration is given to contemporary images, perceptions, and stories of passage, as well as to classical rites of passage theory.

From Elvis to the Undertaker:
Religion Outside the Box
(RELS 3860)

An in-depth examination of the concept of implicit religion. The course will explore the concept of "the sacred" through an examination of the ideas of such theorists as Eliade, Turner, and Bailey and will examine the claims of some Religious Studies scholars that the sacred can be found in secular contexts.

Religion, Worldviews, and the Environment
(RELS 3880)

Examines the human connection to the natural world as expressed in traditional religions, indigenous worldviews and contemporary approaches to environmental crises.

Religious Texts and Traditions
(RELS 4001)

An advanced seminar course that examines religious texts from a variety of religious traditions. Study may involve an exploration of sacred texts, traditions, and their interpreters. Content will vary with instructor.

Religion, Culture, and Society
(RELS 4002)

An advanced seminar course that examines religious themes and issues as they affect culture. Study may involve the exploration of institutions, rituals, built environments, and spaces. Content will vary with instructor.

Folk Religion
(RELS 4460)

Examines how established global religions and new forms of spirituality manifest themselves and are religion as it is "lived" on a daily basis in a variety of local contexts worldwide. It focuses primarily on forms of belief and spirituality that are informally expressed. Drawing upon various cultural contexts, the course addresses such notions as space and time; metaphysical powers; religious material culture, music, and verbal art; and the role and power of the holy person. All sections of this course follow International Studies guidelines available at

Note: Same as Folklore 4460, the former Folklore 4240

Religion in Disney Parks
(RELS 4812)

Will introduce students to a variety of theoretical concepts, and provide students with the opportunity to apply these concepts in the field at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or other Disney theme park. Concepts to be explored include civil religion, hyper-real religion, and religious consumerism; Disney's constructed pasts, futures and the global village will also be explored. AR: attendance is required in a field trip outside of Canada for which students incur the financial costs. Normally the field trip is held during the Winter semester break.

Attendance Requirement: attendance is required in a field trip outside of Canada for which students incur the financial costs. Normally the field trip is held during the Winter semester break.

Prerequisite: RELS 2812, RELS 3812, or RELS 3860, or permission of the instructor