The Study of Religion at UWG

What is the academic study of religion?
Religion, defined loosely as the beliefs and practices by which people relate to what they perceive as transcendent, is a major part of human life around the globe. It has historically been one of the most important components of the identities we build as individuals and as communities. Moreover, religion has a profound influence not only on issues like politics and nationality and economics, but on seemingly more mundane aspects of life like the clothes one wears and the food one eats. The extreme diversity we find both between and within religious communities means that this influence is far from uniform, but instead takes many forms.

Here at UWG, we study religion from a comparative and philosophical perspective. Rather than advocating for any particular religion, or for or against religion more generally, we instead seek to better describe and explain diverse examples of religious beliefs, texts, practices, and traditions, and to understand the role they play in shaping the areas of human life mentioned above.

Why study religion?

Working knowledge of some of the world's religious traditions is a valuable asset for someone in any career, especially in today's globalized world. Throughout your career, you are sure to work with persons of varied religious backgrounds as both your colleagues and customers. Additionally, like all humanities courses, courses in religion help you to develop the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills essential to success in any field. Finally, whatever your own religious convictions or views about the status and value of religion, studying religion from a philosophical perspective enables you to think more critically about those views and develop them in a more sophisticated way.

Does UWG offer a religion major or minor?
If you are interested in pursuing the study of religion in a more sustained way, we offer two possibilities at UWG. Philosophy majors can specialize in the Religion concentration; see the curriculum here. You can also choose to minor in Religion. The minor requires only six courses (18 credit hours) for completion; see the requirements here.


Faculty in Religion

Dr. Mark Tietjen's research focuses on the nineteenth-century Christian thinker Soren Kierkegaard. Dr. Tietjen also specializes in the philosophy of religion. He regularly teaches the courses Christian Thought and Philosophy of Religion. mtietjen@westga.edu, TLC 2250

Dr. Rosemary Kellison studies comparative religious ethics, focusing especially on the Christian and Islamic traditions. Her research is focused on ethics of war. Dr. Kellison regularly teaches Introduction to World Religions and Religious Texts. rkelliso@westga.edu, TLC 2245


Religion Courses Offered at UWG

Introduction to World Religions (PHIL 2130) This course revolves around two central questions: how has the world shaped religion(s), and how have religions shaped the world? As we move through an introductory survey of some of the world's major religious traditions, we pay special attention to the ways in which these traditions have been shaped by historical, political, and geographical changes in the world-and also consider how these traditions and their communities have influenced these changes. We seek both to understand the significance and relevance of religion in world history and to begin to grapple with some of the important philosophical questions addressed within religious communities as well as by those who study them.

Religious Texts (PHIL 3205) Through an exploration of both scriptural and non-scriptural religious literature, as well as critical scholarship regarding the canonization and interpretation of religious texts, this course considers the various roles played by texts in religious traditions and related political movements and events. Students read religious texts of a variety of genres and from a variety of traditions, becoming familiar with shared and diverse themes in such texts. Special attention is paid to the ways in which religious communities receive, use, and react to religious texts, both within their own communities and in relationship with others.

Christian Thought (PHIL 3220) An estimated one-third of the world's population considers itself Christian, including the majority of those who live in the southeastern United States. This course examines the central themes of Christian Thought, attending both to classical and contemporary voices, ranging from St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas to Simone Weil and Nancey Murphy. This course does not presuppose prior knowledge of Christianity, nor personal commitment to any religious faith.

Hermeneutics (PHIL 4220) The aim of this course is to examine critically the historical development of the discipline of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the art and theory of interpretation. We investigate various approaches to interpretation as presented by philosophers ranging from Schleiermacher through Heidegger to Ricoeur.

Philosophy of Religion (PHIL 4230) This course considers some of the most pressing questions in the contemporary discipline of philosophy of religion, though nearly every one of these questions has in some form or another been of concern to philosophers since antiquity. We investigate a number of problems, including the relation between faith and reason, the relation of God and morality, and the problem of evil.

Recent Special Topics (PHIL 4385) courses have included:

Islamic Thought In this course, we examine some of the most important historical developments in Islamic thought, focusing especially on the areas of Islamic theology, jurisprudence and ethics, and political theory. In each case, we consider premodern and modern thinkers. A major focus of the course is to draw connections between these theoretical developments and themes and contemporary events in the Islamic world, including the emergence of modern Islamic republics, the rise of Islamism in its political and militant forms, the Arab Spring, and contemporary theological and legal debates between Muslims.

Ethics, Religion, and War When asked about the relationship between ethics and war, humans have typically given one of three responses. The first, characteristic of political realism, is that war is a situation to which ordinary human morality does not apply. The second, typically called pacifism, is that morality forbids the possibility of war in any circumstances. The third, most popular, response is that morality may sometimes require resort to war in order to defend justice, but that the resort to and use of armed force should be regulated by moral rules. In this course, we critically examine religious thinking about war falling into each of these three categories. Our focus is on the Western tradition, but we also consider non-Western perspectives, particularly the Islamic tradition on the ethics of war.

Myth, Magic, and Religion (ANTH 4170)

American Religion to 1800 (HIST 4478)

American Religion since 1800 (HIST 4479)

Eastern and Transpersonal Psychologies (PSYC 4130)

Sociology of Religion (SOCI 3543)





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This page last updated 2/23/2015.