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The Carthage Religion Department offers students academic study in world religions, church history, theology, the Bible, and religion in society. Scroll down to read descriptions of the religion courses offered at Carthage, or click on the following links for additional resources.

  • REL 1000

    Understandings of Religion (REL)

    A study of the religious dimension in the lives of individuals, communities, and cultures. Students will explore understandings of religion and roles of religion, along with commonalities and differences in expression of religion. This will be accomplished by examining topics such as God, scripture, ritual, values, ethical issues, and cosmology, as expressed within several specific religious traditions, including Judaism and Christianity.

  • REL 2000

    History of Christian Thought (REL)

    Students will concentrate on major Christian issues, such as dogma, canon, creed, Christology, justification, salvation, word and sacraments, and church unity, from a historical and ecumenical point of view. Special attention will be given to the ways history and cultures have influenced and shaped Christian thought.

  • REL 2010

    Jewish Bible-Old Testament (REL)

    Concentrating on a representative sampling of texts from the Torah (Law), Prophets, and Writings, students will be introduced to the current methods of biblical studies. Attention will be directed to the historical periods in which this literature developed and to the basic theological concepts in the literature. Students will also become acquainted with the history of Israel, prominent Hebrew leaders, covenants, laws, and worship practices of Hebrew life.

  • REL 2020

    The Gospels (REL)

    Concentrating on the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), students will be introduced to the basic methods of biblical studies. Specifically, students will examine the particular historical, theological, and literary emphasis of each biblical author in light of modern biblical research.

  • REL 2030

    The Letters of the New Testament (REL)

    Concentrating on the letters of the New Testament (e.g., Romans, Galatians, Ephesians), students will be introduced to the basic methods of biblical studies to examine the theological, historical, and literary questions raised by each letter. Careful attention will be given to matters of structure and authorship, as well as to the information contained in these letters about the early Christian communities.

  • REL 2040

    Christian Spirituality (REL)

    An in-depth exploration of Christian spirituality, or how ardent Christians throughout history have variously understood and sought a relationship with their God. Inquiry into the writings and activities of the earliest desert-dwelling monastic is followed by readings from such great mystics of the Middle Ages as Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, and John of the Cross. These are supplemented by the works of contemporary advocates of the inner life, including Thomas Greene, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Literature study is balanced by practical exploration of Christian and other forms of prayer and meditation, and with dialogue in religious communities with monks and nuns who have elected a contemplative lifestyle.

  • REL 2050

    Shamanism (REL)

    This course will examine the variety of religious experiences, rituals, and belief systems commonly referred to as shamanism. The course will look at these phenomena across history and geographic boundaries. Close attention will be paid to the particular historical and political contexts within which these various experiences have developed.
    Prerequisite: None

  • REL 2070

    Understandings of Love (REL)

    The course is a study of understandings of love, expressions of love, and failures to love in the light of biblical, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, and in the light of contemporary experience. Special attention is given to exploring the dynamics of liking, romantically loving, romance, sexuality, intimacy, and mature, disciplined love. The course aims at opening participants to the many rewards awaiting persons, couples, families, and communities that cultivate an understanding and observance of the distinction between love as romance and love as disciplined intervention to foster the welfare of another. This is achieved through reading, analysis, and debate of several case studies using a collection of diverse interpretive models.

  • REL 2200

    Faith, Love, and Ethics (REL)

    Students will concentrate on the nature and bases of ethics and morality as informed by the Bible, Christian theology, and tradition. Special attention will be given to specific issues such as human sexuality, divorce, war and peace, personal and corporate responsibility, poverty, and world hunger.

  • REL 2210

    Christianities in the Global South (REL)

    An overview of the expansion of Christianity especially in the global South where the majority of the world's Christians now live. The course examines the processes through which the Christian faith is communicated, received, and lived. Special attention is paid to theologies developed in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and the factors that inform the theological process.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 2220

    Jesus Beyond Christianity (REL)

    This course explores the figure of Jesus on the frontier between Christianity and other world religions. It pursues this topic comparatively examining the images of Jesus (Christologies) of both Christians and non-Christians, particularly the views of Jesus in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 2300

    Issues in Living and Dying (REL)

    Students will concentrate on concepts and issues related to illness, dying, death, and grief. Special attention will be given to issues such as definitions of death, attitudes toward death, rights and wishes of the dying, forms of euthanasia, views of suffering and death, funeral packages, and the grief process. A particular effort will be made to enable students to see the issues in the light of Christian understanding and to help students arrive at their own positions.

  • REL 2700

    Research Methods Experience

    An intensified research experience to be carried out in conjunction with one of the major's core area classes, under the supervision of that course's primary instructor. This will focus on learning to distinguish and evaluate primary and secondary sources, and on learning and using appropriate theoretical methods for that particular topic.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3010

    Post-Exilic Judaism (REL)

    Concentrating on the period from the end of the Babylonian exile to the first century of the Common Era (c. 500 BCE-100 CE), students will explore the various ways Judaism evolved into its present "rabbinic" form, and simultaneously unfolded in other diverse ways. Students will explore such topics as Messianic expectations, apocalyptic Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, the expansion of the law, and the emergence of Christianity. This range of issues will focus students on that period of Israel's life not specifically covered by study of the biblical texts.

  • REL 3020

    Women and the Bible (REL) (DIV)

    This course is an opportunity to study the situation of women at the time of the biblical writings, to investigate evidence for how women were treated in the earliest Christian churches, and to take seriously the impact that the interpretation of biblical texts has had on women's social roles throughout history and in our own day.

  • REL 3030

    Creation and Apocalypse: Explorations in Religion and Science (REL)

    This course will look at themes of human origin and destruction as articulated in the Bible and related Jewish and Christian material. We will also consider how different views on creation and the end of the world have influenced theological beliefs, social issues, and scientific investigation throughout Western history, and in contemporary U.S. culture. Students will have the opportunity to analyze modern-day debates about creation, evolution, and the end of the world based on their interaction with these ancient texts and ideas.

  • REL 3040

    Church History (REL)

    A study of the Christian church from apostolic times to the present with special attention to the sociological, economic, psychological, and doctrinal factors in its development. While primary emphasis is placed on the Western European tradition, consideration is given to the worldwide development of Christianity. A background of world history or religion is beneficial.

  • REL 3060

    Luther and the Reformation (REL)

    Students will concentrate on the Reformation era and give special attention to the life and thought of Martin Luther and other reformers. Specific attention will be given to the Protestant and Roman Catholic Reformation and to the religious, political, intellectual, cultural, social, and economic influences and issues of the 16th century.

  • REL 3070

    Religion in America (REL)

    From the earliest explorers to the latest modern "cult," this course will consider the impact that religion has had on the United States, and the impact that the United States has had on religion. The focus in this historical survey will be on both large-scale movements or denominations and the personal experience of small groups and individual believers.

  • REL 3080

    Practicum in Religion

    The student is assigned to a congregational or other religiously affiliated service agency in order to practice leadership in several self-chosen areas of religious ministry. Students will meet regularly with their placement supervisor and will participate in classroom conferences with the professor and other students. Each student will submit complete reports of plans, activities, and complete supplemental readings.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3090

    African-American Religion (REL)

    The experience of African slaves in North America - from the time of capture off the Guinea Coast of Africa to becoming American citizens - is one of the most intriguing phenomena in American history. This course examines the crucial and ambiguous role of religion in that transformation process. The major thesis of the course is that a proper understanding of African-American religion stems from knowledge of the African religious heritage of the slaves. Thus a large section of the course is devoted to the study of African traditional religion. The mutual impact of Christianity and African traditional religion in the context of North American slavery also receives substantial attention.

  • REL 3100

    Judaism (REL)

    This course is an introduction to the self-definition of Judaism. It will analyze Judaism by examining such central concepts as God, Torah, and Israel. This central self-definition will then be tested by means of close readings of representative texts, and by investigating the range of Jewish history. The course will also examine significant events that shaped 20th century Judaism, including the creation of the State of Israel, the Holocaust, and modern American Jewish movements.

  • REL 3110

    Hinduism (REL)

    This course will provide an in-depth introduction to those social, philosophical, and religious phenomena that western observers have called Hinduism. The first part of the course will focus on religious texts, as we explore the roots of the tradition and the flowering of the devotional movement. The latter part of the course will focus more on modern Hindu life in an attempt to give some appreciation of its religious quality. This process will provide some opportunity to reflect on the nature and meaning of religious life, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives.

  • REL 3120

    Islam (REL)

    This course will provide an in-depth introduction to the world of Islam, the most recent of the great faiths tracing its descent from the prophet Abraham. The beginning of the course will examine the roots and development of Islam, and the gradual growth of Islamic institutions. The latter part of the course will focus on modern Muslim life, partly on its individual dimensions, in an effort to convey some appreciation for its religious quality, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives; but more pointedly on the political influence of Islam, and the ways in which growth of Islamic revivalism has shaped and continues to shape the world in which we live.

  • REL 3130

    Buddhism (REL)

    An intensive look at the world's oldest missionary religion, from its origin in the Ganges basin in 500 BCE to its contemporary manifestations. The course's primary emphasis will be on the historical development of the tradition, and the ways that its message has been transformed through the influence of different cultures, including the United States. An important part of this will be closely examining the Buddhist way of life throughout the centuries, and the ways in which this ancient message is still relevant in the modern world.

  • REL 3140

    East Asian Religions (REL)

    An intensive look at religion in East Asia, focusing both on the region's indigenous religious traditions - Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto - as well as Buddhism, its best-known and most successful transplant. The primary emphasis will be on the historical development of these traditions, their mutual influence on one another, and the way that their values have shaped and continue to shape the cultures in which they appear. This process will provide some opportunity to reflect on the nature and meaning of religious life, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives.

  • REL 3150

    The Sikhs (REL)

    This course will trace the history and development of the Sikh religious community. The early part of the course will focus on its origins in the Punjab; the social, political, and religious forces shaping its development in the milieu; and the community's evolution over time. The course will then examine 19th and 20th century Sikh efforts to stress their identity as a distinct religious community, both inside and outside of India. Finally, the course will look at contemporary Sikh piety and practice in an effort to convey some appreciation for its religious message, and to consider the ways in which Sihk faith and concerns can illuminate and inform our own.

  • REL 3250

    Field Archaeology (REL)(TRIP)

    Students gain archaeological experience in the field with an orientation that focuses on the period(s) of the site, its history, its ancient context, and so forth.
    Prerequisite: Instructor permission

  • REL 3270

    Religion and Politics in the United States (REL)

    This course examines legal, political, historical, and theoretical aspects of the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Works of political and social theory and important constitutional law cases will be used to explore the liberal, democratic understanding of religion's place in politics. The American approach will be compared with that found in several other countries. Specific topics covered include the ?secularization thesis? (and its critics), the role of the ?religious right,? the adoption of civil rights/anti-discrimination tactics by religious groups, and controversies over gay rights.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3300

    Theologies of Liberation (REL)

    Exploration of the historical roots, characteristics, methods, central themes, and current expressions of liberation theology. After an initial consideration of the origins and development of liberation theology in Latin America and the second half of the 20th century, the course will turn to the various currents of liberation theology that have emerged in different contexts across the globe, particularly how representatives of those theologies use Christian (and other) traditions to understand and respond to historical contexts and experiences of oppression.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3310

    Greek Religions (REL)

    Like most ancient peoples, the Greeks believed that a pantheon of heavenly, sublunar, and subterranean divinities controlled or supervised every detail of life on earth, and they often went to great extremes to appease certain of these gods and goddesses. In this course we will consider the history and practice of Greek religions in the public sphere and the relationship between religious practices, rites, and beliefs, as well as the rich body of Greek myth.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000 or consent of instructor

  • REL 3320

    Roman Religions (REL)

    Like most ancient peoples, the Romans believed that a pantheon of heavenly, sublunar, and subterranean divinities controlled every detail of life on earth, and they often went to great extremes to appease certain of these gods and goddesses. In this course we will consider the history and practice of Roman religion in both the public and private spheres, including Roman mystery religions. We also will discuss how Romans, particularly the elite, reacted to new and different religious cults and how they wove religious practices into every aspect of ancient Roman life.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000 or consent of instructor

  • REL 3350

    Religion and Society (REL)

    Students will examine various perspectives on the relationship between religion and society. This study will encourage students to explore such diverse themes as the relationship of religion and the state, national, and global economic structures; ethics; countercultural religious movements; and the religious principles that may undergird a social matrix. Students will write a series of analytical essays, applying some of the religious principles encountered to the analysis of political, social, or economic issues.

  • REL 3360

    Religion and Society in Modern India (REL)

    Selected topics illustrating the mutual involvement of religion and society in India since the 16th century. Major themes will include Hindu devotional movements, the rise and development of the Sikhs, Hindu reform movements, Islamic self-definition, the rise of nationalistic (or independence) movements in each of these three groups, and responses to the pressures of globalization.

  • REL 3370

    Religion in Africa (REL)

    An examination of the foundations of African religious thought via the indigenous religious heritage of select (sub-Saharan) African people. Special attention to the historical interaction with Christianity and Islam, and the role of religion in post-colonial African societies.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3400

    Biblical Images of Christ (REL)

    The Christologies of the New Testament will be examined both by investigating their background in the history of religions and by analyzing the images of Christ presented in various documents of the New Testament (e.g., Mark, John, Paul, Hebrews). Specific attention will be given to Christological titles and to the pre-Christian figures with whom Jesus is identified.

  • REL 3500

    Shared Sages in Sacred Scriptures: An Interreligious Exploration (REL)

    The traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share accounts about prominent figures and have significantly different interpretations of what they share. This course will examine the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sacred scriptures through a comparative reading of shared key personalities. Similarities and differences of interpretation will be analyzed with reference to historical and modern forms of analysis of texts, special emphasis being on developing mutual understanding and cooperation between the religious traditions. The shared key persons include but will not necessarily be limited to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Solomon, Mary, and Jesus.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3510

    Christians and Muslims: Conflict vs. Dialogue (REL)

    Christians and Muslims have been living together, and actively engaged with each other, for over 1400 years. Despite sharing common beliefs such as faith in one Creator, Jesus as the Messiah, and the Day of Judgment, relations between these two communities have often (though not always) been marked by conflict and confrontation. The course examines this often-troubled history of Christian-Muslim dialogue to illuminate the two communities' current relationship.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • REL 3700

    The Dead Sea Scrolls (REL)

    Through a careful examination of some of the texts discovered at Qumran on the Dead Sea, students will investigate the history and theology of the Jewish sect known as the Essenes. This investigation will include an examination of the archaeological evidence uncovered at the site as well as an analysis of the relationship of this community with other contemporary Jewish sects (the Pharisees and the Sadducees). In addition, students will examine possible points of contact between the Essenes and early Christian communities.

  • REL 4000

    Senior Seminar in Religion

    The Senior Seminar is taught and directed by one member of the department with the assistance and participation of other members. The seminar will lead the student toward the completion of the Senior Project, which will be determined by the student and the directing professor.

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $25,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked in the Top 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …