Religious Studies (RELS)

Course Descriptions

1210 Introduction to Religion
3 credit hours

Religion as a subject of study is relatively new, starting only in the nineteenth century. This course will deal with how religion became an object of study and the approaches and theories that have been used to come to grips with how religion fits into people’s lives. It will also look at characteristic ways that the ultimate reality is approached and how religious life fits into contemporary culture.


1211 Introduction to Religious Experience
3 credit hours

The course will introduce students to the many dimensions of the human experience of the sacred inspired by religious texts, ritual, chant and music; by mysticism, sacred places either in nature or in temples and in art of all kinds.


1220 Introduction to Comparative Religions I
3 credit hours

Religious Diversity in Canada has come to include the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of South Asia and the Chinese and Japanese traditions.  This course examines these religious traditions both in the context of their historical origins and their adaptations to Canadian Society.


1221 Introduction to Comparative Religions II
3 credit hours

Religious Diversity in Canada includes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  This course examines these religious traditions both in the context of their historical origins and their adaptations to Canadian Society.


1251 Religion in Contemporary Culture
3 credit hours

This course explores the role of religion in contemporary culture, particularly North American culture.  Portrayals of religious people as well as the employment of symbols and themes from various world religions will be identified within selected pieces of contemporary art, film, literature, music, Internet, and other media.  We will also consider emerging religious trends and whether certain cultural practices are functioning in a religious role.


Courses at the 2000 level may be used by students to complete their humanities requirement or as an elective in their degree program.


2305 Women in Christianity [WMST 3305]
3 credit hours

This course calls attention to the unconventional attitude of Jesus toward women; it studies the prominence of women in the New Testament, in contrast to early restrictions of their leadership roles. Did Christianity conform, from the beginning, to patriarchal society, betraying its own insight that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). Has Christian tradition legitimated male dominance? What can the cause of women’s equality hope for from Christianity?


2323 The Islamic Religious Tradition
3 credit hours

Islam is one of the most rapidly expanding religious traditions in the world. This course will examine the origins of Islam, its fundamental teachings in the Qu’ran and in the works of some of its major teachers. In addition, the course will survey the history of Islam and contemporary developments in selected areas.


2326 The Hindu Religious Tradition
3 credit hours

Students will be introduced to the prominent features of Hinduism and discuss their development. The main aim of this course is to provide an understanding of Hinduism as it might be encountered today in Hardwar or Halifax.


2327 The Buddhist Religious Tradition
3 credit hours

The Buddhist religious tradition was founded in South Asia, spread throughout East and Southeast Asia, and now is growing in the West. Students are introduced to key Buddhist teachings, the transformations they have undergone in different countries, and the development of different sects. Particular attention will be paid to its contemporary cultural dimensions in Asia and in Canada.


2330 Spirituality and Work
3 credit hours

Is the emerging (or re-emerging) interest in spirituality in the workplace enabling more individual fulfillment and better decision-making or is it creating new conflicts and more exclusionary workplace practices? What influences do religious traditions and worldviews have on how we work together? The increasing globalization of business and communication, the need for more qualified immigrants to Canada, and the growing diversity of people in many workplaces is forcing re-examination of inherited attitudes and expectations about work. These changes require deep understanding of what spirituality, as the deepest source of values, can mean as workplaces change and people make choices about work, vocation, or calling. This course explores the potential, the benefits and the dangers of bringing spirituality into the workplace.


2333 Women and Religion Today [WMST 2333]
3 credit hours

Women’s groups are having an important impact on traditional forms of religious belief and practice in the world.  This course will examine some of the contemporary spiritual movements influenced primarily by women.  It will include women’s roles in mainline religions, such as women priests, monks, and ministers, and religiously inspired liberation movements.  Radically new religious expressions, such as goddess worship and other pagan forms will also be discussed.


2342 Violence
3 credit hours

How do different religions deal with violence?  When is violence justified and towards whom?  Students explore religious responses to these questions using a comparative approach. Topics include: religiously justified warfare, terrorism,  gendered violence, and the rejection of violence in religious philosophies.


2343 Jewish Religious Tradition
3 credit hours

The course examines the origin and development of the Jewish faith as it is remembered in the Hebrew Scriptures and tradition. Selected contemporary debates in Jewish faith and tradition will be studied.


2347 Ecology and Religion
3 credit hours

The course reviews the phenomenon of human ecology in order to advance to further questions: In the human relationship to nature, does nature have rights? To reduce pollution, may the rich deprive the poor of advanced technology? Is a low-consumption life-style desirable in itself? Should we leave development and progress to the experts? Such questions prepare the ground for a theology that finds religious meaning in the worldly realities of science, commerce, and government.


2351 Love
3 credit hours

Our culture has represented love, variously, as effecting self-fulfillment, the affirmation of another personality, union with deity, merit for a future life; or, as sex, a passing neurosis, an unreasoned self-annihilation, or a social contrivance. This course explores the assumptions and implications of these views, particularly as they involve ultimate human concerns, that is, religion. The course can be continued into RELS 2352 where a coordinate theme is studied in a similar manner.


2352 Death
3 credit hours

The student considers such questions as what dying is really like, whether dying provides a valuable point of view of living, whether people continue in some form of existence after dying, how one is to understand the symbols in religious talk about death, and why mythologies deal so heavily in death.


2353 New Religious Movements
3 credit hours

New Religious Movements (sometimes called cults and sects), are a complex and diverse sub-topic.  Students explore the ways in which these movements challenge conventional understandings of religious practice and belief, including how religions are defined and the intersection of religion and the modern state.


2377 Introduction to the Bible: Hebrew Scripture
3 credit hours

The course introduces the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament.  Students are introduced to the text along with the cultural and historical context of the biblical literature.  The course also examines the meaning and relevance of these scriptures for today.


2378 Introduction to the Bible: New Testament
3 credit hours

The course introduces the New Testament scriptures of the Christian tradition.  Students are introduced to the text along with the cultural and historical context of the biblical literature.  The course examines the meaning and relevance of the New Testament today.


3010 Vietnamese Religious Traditions
3 credit hours

This course explores religion in the Vietnamese context and how it relates to social issues, like the construction of a national identity, politics and gender. The course will also examine the role religion has played in the lives of overseas Vietnamese.


3303 Christian Origins
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

This course treats the formation and development of Christianity as seen through the letters of Paul.  It examines the origin of Pauline Churches, their separation from Judaism, their struggles, beliefs, and worship.


3311 Jesus of Nazareth
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

Jesus of Nazareth: Did Jesus really exist? What did he teach? Why was he killed? What does the resurrection mean? In examining these questions, the course will survey the many responses to Jesus’ question, “Who do men say that I am?”


3312 Theologies of Liberation
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

How has the life and teaching of Jesus made justice the central issue in Christianity today? What is liberation theology in the third world? Is capitalism opposed to the teaching of Jesus? What is Jesus’ teaching about the poor, the oppressed, human rights and violent revolution?


3316 Anthropology of Religion [ANTH 3316]
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: any one of ANTH 1202, RELS 1210, 1211, 1220, 1221, 1251

This course surveys major developments in the anthropological study of religions.  The course will provide a solid theoretical foundation for the filed study of contemporary religions.


3318 Ghosts: A Cultural Approach
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

Virtually all cultures hold beliefs of human souls lingering after death and having an effect on the living. Students explore beliefs in ghosts in a cross-cultural context, examining a range of cultural products related to ghosts including movies, folktales, and ghost tourism from around the world. Students also explore anthropological theories regarding beliefs and practices related to ghosts.


3328 The Catholic Church Today
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: RELS 2378 or the equivalent

The Catholic Church has radically changed. What does it teach today about faith, revelation, God, Jesus Christ, Sacraments, ethics, and human destiny? Students will be introduced to a brief historical development on each of these teachings. 


3330 Spirituality in the Workplace
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

Through case studies in the literature, and guest lecturers engaging in practices that support spirituality in the workplace, students will make the connection between the theory and practical developments in real workplaces.  Class seminars will explore need for spirituality in the workplace, corporate responses to that need, and the external influences shaping the future of work. Guest lecturers will contribute first-hand experience of the challenges and dilemmas facing business leaders, managers and employees seeking ways to “bring their whole selves to work.”  Transformative learning exercises will enable students to explore their own responses to challenges and dilemmas around spirituality in the workplace. 


3336 Creation and Evolution: The Religious Issues
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

The theory of evolution is a powerful tool for answering scientific questions about life in this world. The success of the scientific enterprise has led many people to seek answers to their religious questions in “evolutionary” ideas. On the other hand, the biblical account of creation is a fruitful source of insight into religious questions about why the world is as we find it. The central importance of biblical truth for Christians and Jews had led many of them to seek answers to scientific questions in the creation story. What are the relevant religious questions?


3337 Religions and Art: The East
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

Art and architecture have given concrete expression to religious ideas and ideals in South Asia. The course will examine historically both Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture in association with the religious conceptions fundamental to these traditions.


3348 Religion and Ecological Issues in the Developing World
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

This course will examine the religious and moral issues involved in contemporary debate around the implementation of environmental programs in the so-called developing nations. Population control, competing interests in natural resources, and the role of women’s groups will be among the topics discussed. Attention will be paid to the religious voices involved.


3349 Science and Religion
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

In this course we will explore the relationship between science and religion. In the past this relationship was defined mainly by difference, difference in method, understanding of knowledge and language. Because of contemporary crises such as poverty and oppression world-wide and ecological crisis, religion and science are finding new reasons to cooperate. Religious issues involved in this cooperation such as women’s critique, new religious movements and environmental concerns will be examined in this course.


3351 Field Research Methods
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Religious Studies or Anthropology Major or Honours, or Religious Studies Concentration with the permission of the instructor.

Students are provided with the appropriate qualitative tools for conducting field-based research. Students develop a research project through various stages. Emphasis is placed on project planning, research ethics, participant observation, interviewing, note-taking, and writing.


3354 Aboriginal Peoples, Religion, and the Justice System
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

This course will focus on the elements of religious and spiritual systems that are relevant in relations between aboriginal people and the Canadian criminal justice system.  It will examine the historical and political context, key religious and ethical concepts and practices of aboriginal peoples, and the movement to employ Native spirituality in shaping responses.


3355 Religion and Social Issues in Canada
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

The question of the interaction of religion and society is a key issue for religion because all religion seeks to influence the behavior of its adherents. While some religious groups are content to do so by appeal to persons as individuals, many religious groups often take public stands on public policy, organize pressure groups, or even form political parties. This course will examine the influence of religion on social issues in Canada. Representative personalities and organizations from various religious traditions will be studied.


3356 Religions in Film
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level

Feature films and documentaries about religions and religious issues have proliferated in recent years.  This course will examine a variety of topics which may include:  how selected religious traditions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are presented in films; how films depict religious symbols and religious life, how religious and ethical issues are presented in the film narratives and documentary discussions.


3358 Religious Diversity in Canada
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level..

In recent decades, religious diversity in Canada has come to incorporate Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, multiple denominations of Christianity and many new religious movements.  This course will examine both the history of religious diversity in Canada and the impact of the Charter of Human Rights and the Multiculturalism legislation.  Selected examples of how new religious traditions are adapting in Canadian Society will also be studied.


3359 Buddhist Paths
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 credit hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 credit hours RELS at the 2000 level

The history of Buddhism has seen the development of multiple schools and sects that each practice Buddhism in a different way. Students explore this variety, looking at contemporary Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana practices in Asia and the West.


3360 Engaged Buddhism
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: RELS 2327 or 3359.

Students examine the development of Engaged Buddhism in the modern period. Engaged Buddhism came about as a critique against the view that Buddhism was something practiced by monks, in monasteries, and focused on what happened after death. Engaged Buddhists have instead proposed that Buddhism should be involved with transforming this world, leading to social, political and environmental activism.


3370 Introduction to the Qur’an
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 30 credit hours including 3 hours RELS at the 1000 level and 3 hours RELS at the 2000 level.

An examination of the Qur’an as scripture.  The course includes its sources, structure, style, transmission, sciences, interpretation and basic themes.


3374 Islam in North America since 9/11
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: 24 credit hours

This course is a multifaceted look at issues of gender, law, and identity in North American Islam since September 11th 2001.  This event and a subsequent culture of securitization marks a fundamental shift in the way that Islam is represented, and we will explore how Muslims in North America construct their identities and practice their religion.


3826 - 3849 Special Topics in Religious Studies
3 credit hours


3876 - 3899 Directed Readings in Religious Studies
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared major, concentration, or minor in Religious Studies.

Directed Reading courses permit students to pursue independent research topics which are not part of the normal curriculum.  Students must apply to department faculty to enroll in a directed reading course.


4000 Honours Thesis Research
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared in the Honours degree program in Religious Studies

Under the supervision of faculty in religious studies, students will develop and honours thesis topic and complete the research for an honours thesis.  Normally students will present their topic and research findings in a departmental seminar.


4001 Honours Thesis Writing
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared in the Honours degree program in Religious Studies

Under the supervision of faculty in religious studies, students will write an honours thesis based on the topic and research completed in RELS 4000.  Evaluation of the thesis will be by all faculty in religious studies.


4050 Religious Traditions in Canada
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses or permission of the instructor. 

This course is a research seminar examining themes about historical and current issues involving religions in Canada and especially Atlantic Canada.  Special emphasis will be given to comparative studies of Canadian themes in relation to North American and International patterns.


4100 Religion and International Development
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies or International Development Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses, or permission of instructor.

This course explores the role of religions in development.  Historical, theoretical and practical dimensions are studied under such topics as: religion and colonialism, religion and social capital in developing countries, the manner of presence of religions in developing societies, religion based NGOs, engaged religion, indigenous religions today, and the increase of evangelical and fundamentalist religions in the developing world.  The course requires a high level of seminar participation and research.


4200 Postcolonialism and Religion
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses or permission of the instructor.

What is postcolonialism and how does it apply to the study of religion? When European and North American powers colonized a majority of the globe, they brought with them particular ways of defining legitimate religious behavior. Students explore ways in which these definitions continue to shape and challenge the ways we understand religion after colonialism.


4387 Religious Pluralism
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses, or permission of instructor.

In Canada and in countries around the world, interpreters religious pluralism frequently situate their analysis of religion within social theories about secularism, pluralism, globalization, multiculturalism and human rights.  This course will examine those theories and their impact on the social location of religions and religious diversity in multicultural societies.


4390 Religion and Society in Atlantic Canada
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses or permission of the instructor.

An historical examination of the relationship between religion and society in Atlantic Canada from the beginning of European settlement to the present.  Themes to be considered include religion and the formation of regional/ethnic identities, religion and politics, religion and movements of social reform, and the impact of secularization on Atlantic Canadian society.  Topics will be examined in the broader context of Canadian history and the evolution of the trans-Atlantic world.


4481 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religions
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of 42 credit hours of university courses.

The study of religious traditions includes detailed studies of specific religions, their historical development, and cultural expressions.  It includes the study of sacred texts, philosophies, theologies, rituals, sacred images and spaces, and the broad cultural significance of the religious in relation to other aspects of culture.  Such multi-cultural and cross-cultural studies began in the nineteenth century and have employed diverse methodologies and theories about how best to study religions.  This course will examine the history of the study of religions and review selectively the contemporary debates about the various strategies for the study of religions.


4500 Religions and Orientalism
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Prerequisite: Declared Major or Honours in Religious Studies and completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of university courses, or permission of instructor.

The course will explore Orientalist representations of religious traditions as an objective “other”. Special focus will be given to the ways in which scholars in the humanities, religious writers, and the interpreters of sacred texts contribute to the formation of various forms of Orientalism.


4590 - 4595 Honours Seminars in Religious Studies
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: fourth-year honours status and permission of Department.

The three general areas in which the Department offers courses are noted below, together with the courses which fall into each area.  Since this is only a partial list, please consult the undergraduate advisor for updates and further clarifications.


4826 - 4849 Special Topics in Religious Studies
3 credit hours

These courses will investigate in depth a specific topic or set of topics in Religious Studies.  The topic will vary from year to year.


4850 – 4875 Directed Readings in Religious Studies
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: permission of Department.

These courses are organized by individual faculty members in agreement with the Department as a whole; they are designed to supplement or provide an alternative to regular courses in Religious Studies according to the special needs and interests of students. Course content can be proposed by the student.


4876 – 4899 Directed Readings in Religious Studies
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: permission of Department.

These courses are organized by individual faculty members in agreement with the Department as a whole; they are designed to supplement or provide an alternative to regular courses in Religious Studies according to the special needs and interests of students. Course content can be proposed by the student.