Religious studies courses and programs | Mount Allison

Programs

The Religious Studies Department offers undergraduate students the option of taking a minor, major, or honours. Up-to-date information about program requirements and course prerequisites can be found in the Academic Calendar.

Minor

MINOR in Religious Studies is 24 credits earned as follows:

6

from the Humanities 1600 Series

6

from Religious Studies at the 2000 level

12

from Religious Studies at the 3/4000 level, chosen in consultation with the Program Advisor

Major

MAJOR in Religious Studies is 60 credits earned as follows:

6

from the Humanities 1600 Series

9

RELG 2401, 2411, 2521, 2801, 2811, 2821, 2831, 2841

3

RELG 3901

3

from RELG 3001 or 3101

3

from RELG 3301 or 3311

6

from RELG 3501, 3601,3701

12

from 3/4000 level Religious Studies courses, with at least 6 from 4000 level Religious Studies courses

18

credits from complementary courses in Arts and Letters, Humanities and Social Sciences (which may include upto 6 additional credits from 2000 level Religious Studies courses if the Humanities 1600 series courses above are from other Humanities disciplines), chosen in consultation with the Program Advisor

Honours

An honours program is available in religious studies. The program is an opportunity to do a sustained and in-depth research project in an area of student interest while being supervised by a faculty member. This involves writing a thesis in the final year of study and is the equivalent of taking two 3-credit courses.

Eligible students in their third year of a religious studies major must meet the following criteria:

  • maintain an average GPA of 3.0
  • consult with the program advisor
  • consult with the supervising faculty member

In their third year, interested students should reflect on their studies to date and come up with their own idea for a project. They may choose from a broad range of possible subjects. Students should then approach their preferred faculty supervisor for guidance. A written proposal is due at the end of the winter term of the third year. Research might begin as early as the summer before fourth year.


Program advisor

A program advisor meets with current and potential students to explain different course options. The program advisor for Religious Studies is Dr. Barbra Clayton.


Courses

Courses in religious studies are divided into three streams:

  1. Eastern Traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, East Asian Religions)
  2. Western Traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
  3. Religion and Culture

Introductory courses (at 1000 and 2000 level) lay the foundation for focused study of particular traditions and for courses that explore how religion relates to themes in the wider culture — such as in the arts, gender issues, and ethics (at 3000 and 4000 level).

See the Academic Calendar for specific course requirements or Connect for class times. The focus of this year’s individual courses can be found below. All courses are worth 3 credits.

Spring/Summer 2022

Introduction to Western Religions: RELG 2801

Islam. Judaism. Zoroastrianism. Bahai. Paganism. Christianity. What ARE “western” religions? Take Introduction to Western Religions to find out!

This course examines the history, beliefs, practices, and contemporary socio-cultural significance of what are conventionally called the Western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The course also briefly examines Ancient Near Eastern religions (Egyptian and Mesopotamian), Greco-Roman paganism, as well as Zoroastrianism and Baha'i.

 

Gender, Colonialism, and Religion: RELG 2991

How do histories of colonialism impact gender in the twenty-first century? How has religion historically been used as a tool of oppression? How has anticolonial social justice engaged religion as a tool of liberation? Find out in Gender, Colonialism, and Religion!

Gender, Colonialism and Religion explores the interconnectedness of colonialism and religion(s), and their mutual influence on how categories such as sex, gender, and sexuality are expressed and understood both locally and globally. This course covers the entanglements between “Church” and “State” in precolonial and colonial Europe, and how these relationships influenced gender regulation at the advent of settler colonialism. This course further explores temporary and historical expressions of gender, sex, and sexuality that exist outside of and defy settler colonial logics. Topics include intersectional analyses of (anti)colonial gender configurations in North America and globally; critical analyses of contemporary gender discourse and its relationships to neocolonialism; and histories of religion(s) as tools of restriction as well as liberation.

Fall 2022

 

CENL/RELG 1001: Compassionate Communities
Dr. Leslie Shumka 

What does a compassionate community look like and could it become a model for addressing social injustices such as the poverty, housing insecurity, and loneliness in our midst? We’ll discuss how understanding compassion more fully and using it as a driver of social action we are able to transform our communities for the benefit of all members.  
 

RELG 1661: Religion and Popular Culture
Dr. Andrew Wilson

This course examines various points at which religion and culture collide. Various media will be utilized (film, music, fashion, literature) in order to interpret some of the complex relationships that form and maintain contemporary Western identity. Topics covered will include cultural uses of religious symbolism and story, the power of popular piety, and the Western tendency towards consumption and commodification of religious traditions.  
 

RELG 1681: The Quest for Enlightenment: The Search For Perfection in Asian Religions
Dr. Barb Clayton

What is the best life one can live? And what roles do yoga, meditation, Qigong, and other contemplative bodily practices play in this context? Learning with experts from within and beyond our community, members of this experiential learning course will pursue these questions as we work together to understand diverse Asian religions' imaginings of the good life.  
 

RELG 2991A: Sacred Stuff
Dr. Susie Andrews 

What does stuff do for us? This question lies at the heart of our RELG 2991 course. Combining the hands-on study and analysis of diverse objects (clothing, statuary, musical instruments, and talismans, for example) with the examination of key scholarship, class members will explore relations between material culture and religion. In 2022, generous Community Partnership Incentive Fund support will enable us to apply our in-class learning about the ways objects matter to individuals and communities in a delight-filled and growing partnership with local hubs of early childhood education.
 

RELG 2991B: Gender, Religion and Colonialism
Dr. Dani Dempsey for more information


RELG 3921: Contemporary Issues in Eastern Traditions: The Buddhist Philosophy of Happiness
Dr. Barb Clayton

What are the conditions for happiness? This is the question at the heart of our RELG 3921 course. Taking the core values of Gross National Happiness (GNH), a Buddhist philosophy of governance and economics, both as the object of our student and the spirit animating our course collaboration, this year we will investigate Gross National Happiness and other Asian religious perspectives on wellbeing, while also working together to complete projects that bring them to life in our community. 
 

RELG/CENL 3991A: Religion, Community, Identity
Dr. Andrew Wilson
​​​​ 

This course explores the many complex connections between contemporary identity, relationship and community. Drawing on the wealth of religious thought and tradition, it considers central questions such as what makes a healthy community? How does individual identity relate to community identity? What freedoms, expectations and obligations does living in community bring? And ultimately, to what extent can religion continue to provide guidance in a contemporary secular society? Topics investigate notions of identity alongside such issues as postcolonialism, ecology, nostalgia, ableism, and social mobilization. 
 

RELG 3991B: Ways of Pilgrimage
Dr. Andrew Wilson


This course compares traditions of religious pilgrimage to contemporary instances of journeying, travel and human movement. How does traditional pilgrimage compare with contemporary issues from both within and beyond the traditional religious context? Topics include such diverse examples as the traditional Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, contemporary eco-tourism, political protest and, secular “civic” religiosity.
 

RELG 4521: Key Religious Texts of East Asia
Dr. Susie Andrews

Rage. Fear. Empathy. Disgust. Joy. Our RELG 4521 course examines how a single religious text--Signs from the Unseen Realm--understands emotions. Working in collaboration with experts across the globe, we will conduct a careful reading of the ways emotion figure in this collection of miracle tales and analyze closely related primary source materials and important secondary scholarship from within and well beyond the field of Religious Studies. In 2022, generous Khyentse Foundation and BDK Canada support will allow class members to apply our in-class learning to partner with local hubs of early childhood education.

Winter 2023

RELG 1621: Death in Asian Religions
Dr. Susie Andrews

 ​​​​This course examines the practices and beliefs concerning death and the afterlife in six religious traditions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, 'folk' or 'popular' religion, Shinto, and Hinduism. It compares beliefs and practices related to death and the afterlife in these traditions and examines the diversity that exists both between and within these religions. 

 ​​​​
RELG 1991: Cults and New Religious Movements
Dr. Dani Dempsey for more information
 

RELG 2411: Mother Earth, Father Sky
Dr. Barb Clayton 

This course employs experiential and project-based learning to explore the deep roots of the environmental crisis in the western religious and scientific worldviews, and then looks at alternate ways of conceiving and acting on the human relation to nature, focusing on Asian and indigenous views. Pending funding, the course will include a field trip and retreat to Windhorse Farm, a Buddhist-based eco-forestry project in Nova Scotia.  
 

RELG 2521: Food Practices and Asian Religions
Dr. Susie Andrews 

This course examines the practices and beliefs associated with food in five East Asian religious traditions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, 'folk' or 'popular' religion, and Shinto. It introduces religious prescriptions and prohibitions related to food cultivation, storage, distribution, preparation, and consumption. Topics include connections between food practices and hierarchy and the roles that food plays in creating and sustaining relationships such as those between humans, living and dead, and non-humans.
 

RELG 2811: Intro to the Bible I: The Hebrew Bible
Dr. Fiona Black

This is not your old-fashioned Bible course! If you are interested in understanding the historical backdrop of the Bible's creation, its amazing literary features and the way it has been used by different groups over time in politics, culture and various faith communities--then join us. The course combines lecture with tutorials that train students in the complexities of interpretation.


RELG 2831: Faith and Doubt
Dr. Andrew Wilson 

This course introduces the disciplines of theology and philosophy of religion within the Western theistic (Jewish/Christian) tradition. It considers the sometimes ambivalent relationship between reason and religious experience. Topics include rational proofs for the existence of God, religious self-understanding, the problem of evil, and the relationship between religious belief and scientific reason.
 

RELG 3101: Buddhism
Dr. Barb Clayton 

How does Buddhist philosophy look in practice? What can we learn about Buddhism today by comparing medieval Chinese and Indian Buddhism? In this course students will explore these questions by taking on the persona of someone in the community of Nalanda University in 7th century India. Nalanda represents a peak centre for Buddhist education in medieval India 

Through collaboration with the Religions of China (RELG 3301) course, we will compare Buddhist religious life in these two great civilizations. NB Students may enroll in both RELG 3101 and 3301.  

 

RELG 3301: Religions of China
Dr. Susie Andrews 

This course will study the religious traditions of China, examining the basic ideas and concepts underlying Chinese religion and the ways in which these ideas were implemented. The course will look in detail at both Confucianism and Daoism, at Chinese folk religion, and at the adaptation of Buddhism to China. It will conclude with an evaluation of the current state of religion in China.
 

RELG 3501: Judaism
Dr. Fiona Black 

Come discover a rich and diverse tradition, its practices, stories, thinkers and doers. We trace Judaism's origins, learn about its flowering and development through time and place,  and explore its presence in diverse political and social settings. We seek to understand its negotiation with ongoing and severe persecutions and its relation to complex political situations in the Middle East. We learn from a range of experiences, looking to the margins of Jewish practice (queer, racialized minorities) and much as the mainstream.
 

RELG 3671: In the Image of God
Dr. Andrew Wilson 

This course begins with the scene in Genesis where humanity is created in the image of God. It considers the various ways in which the human experience and the quest for meaning have been described, analyzed, and explained from theological and philosophical perspectives. Topics include the possibility of knowing God, the nature of the relationship between the human and the divine, the logic of resurrection, and the possibility of hope and ultimate meaning.
 

RELG 4821: The Authority of the Text: The Bible and Colonialism 
Dr. Fiona Black

The broad theme of the class is how scriptural texts form and affect communities, but the class is always focussed through a particular theoretical lens and connected with specific issues. This year's iteration is a deep dive into postcolonial readings of the Bible and the text's reception in minoritized communities. How has the Bible been a tool for colonialism? Has it only oppressed or have the colonized also shaped it for their own use? To this end, the course continues an ongoing class research project. We explore church and government archives for biblical traces in residential school curricula, looking at how the Bible was employed in the colonial project of the schools.