Sample courses

Religion is a phenomenon virtually universal in human society and history. Understanding religion involves grasping simultaneously both the meaning of faith in the lives of participants, and the critical analysis of outside observers. Whether you wish to have an enhanced understanding of religion as an historical, social, and human fact—or you wish to wrestle with problems arising in academic reflection concerning the relation between the personal and the objective—you’ll find material to engage you in any course in Dal's Religious Studies program.

First-year students take courses at the 1000 level as an introduction to Religious Studies. With the consent of the instructor, you may be able to take courses at the 2000 level. Generally, there are not specific first-year courses that you need to take prior to registering for 2000-level Religious Studies courses. For courses at the 3000 and 4000 levels, you may need to take specific Religious Studies courses. They are listed with each individual course below.

RELS 1001
Introduction to Eastern Religions

In this class, you’ll get an introduction to the so-called "Eastern" religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. To illustrate concepts and help you understand the contexts and practices, a variety of colourful images of temples, shrines, statuary, and other important sites and artefacts will be shown.

Instructor: Dr. Chris Austin

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites.
Exclusions: RELS 1000

RELS 1002
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: The Abrahamic Traditions

This class will give you an introduction to the so-called "Western" religious traditions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. You’ll consider these faiths not only in themselves, but also how they have intersected and resulted in conflict. Readings, class lectures, and a variety of assignments will enhance your understanding of these three similar yet very different religions.

Instructor: Dr. A. Treiger

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites.
Exclusions: RELS 1000

RELS 2011

This class provides you with an introduction to the religious and cultural traditions of India. Topics to be covered include:

  • Vedic religion;
  • classical Brahmanical religion;
  • the caste system;
  • bhakti (devotional) traditions and the rise of epic literature;
  • philosophical traditions and the Upanishads;
  • and the interaction between Hinduism and other religious traditions of the subcontinent (Jainism, Indian Buddhism, Sikhism).

As well, you’ll consider modern issues, such as the impact of colonial rule, independence, and partitioning upon Hindu identity.

Prerequisites: Students should be in second year or above.

RELS 2052
A Cultural Introduction to the Arab World

This class provides you with the basic tools for approaching the Arab world from a cultural perspective. The main topics are:

  • the guide marks of Arabic history;
  • a civilization "of the Word": the Arabic language, the Koran, the Tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, and the sciences related to the Islamic Law (shari'a);
  • the Arabic legacy in sciences, philosophy, literature, architecture, calligraphy, decoration, etc;
  • multicultural Al-Andalus and the ideal of la convivencia;
  • present nostalgia for the past;
  • tradition, modernity, and the effects of globalization in contemporary Arabic "high" culture and pop culture—in literature, music, arts, cinema, lifestyle, education system, media, etc.

Some lectures will be accompanied by audio-visual presentations, including documentary films. The class does not require a background in the Arabic language.

Instructor: Dr. D. Firanescu

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites. Cross-listings: ARBC 2100, HIST 2500.

RELS 3009
Christianity in the Lands of Islam

After the Islamic conquest of the Middle East in the seventh century, approximately half of the world’s Christians found themselves under Islamic rule. In this class, you’ll learn the story of these Christians, their religious practices, their literatures—written in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, and Coptic—and their complex relations with the Muslims, from the seventh century until today.

Instructor: Dr. Alexander Treiger

Prerequisites: Students must be in their third year of study or beyond.

RELS 3101
Readings in Eastern Religions: South Asian Religions in Story Literature

Through a close reading of narrative and other forms of Indian story literature, you’ll investigate one of the most important themes in South Asian religions: embracing and rejecting the world. Reading materials will draw from Hindu, Indian Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh narrative literature, and will reflect a range of religious attitudes towards engaged worldly life, the family, asceticism, and monasticism.

Instructor: Dr. Chris Austin

Prerequisites: A 2000-level Religious Studies class or permission of the instructor.
Exclusions: RELS 3002

Student story

Opening his eyes to Eastern religions
Gerjan Altenberg_Tom Faulkner Award April 26th 2011 (2) (69x69)

Gerjan Altenburg, from Stewiake, Nova Scotia (NS), wasn't planning on majoring in Religious Studies when he started at Dal. But after taking the Introduction to Eastern Religions course, Gerjan found his interest was "magnified." Read about the courses Gerjan has taken and what he's learned.

"When I looked back on how much I'd learned, I thought, 'Wow, I'm really glad I took this class.'"