Senate Document Number     5909S


 Date of Senate Approval      03/19/09


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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



APC Document 45:                   Establish a new major in Religious Studies;

                                                Change the minor requirements for Religious Studies

Add new courses: RELS 200, 215, 280, 302, 303, 312, 313, 330, 354, 381, 386, 387, 388, 420 and 490



Effective Date: Fall 2009



1.  Delete:         On page 248, the entire catalog entry under Religious Studies (RELS)


    Add:             On page 248, in place of deleted entry:


Associate Professor Payne (Chair); Assistant Professor Zubko


Participating Faculty: Holland (Classics), Traboulsi (History), Chess (Literature and Language), Maitra (Philosophy), Lee (Sociology)



The Department of Religious Studies seeks to engage students in the study of religion as an academic discipline within the broader tradition of the liberal arts. As a field of humanistic inquiry, the study of religion at UNC Asheville investigates both the development and contemporary significance of the human religious experience from interdisciplinary perspectives that incorporate a variety of methodological approaches.


Major in Religious Studies


                                                   I.      Required courses in the major – 33 hours, including: RELS 200, 280, 312, 313, 490; 3 hours from courses listed under Religions of the West; 3 hours from courses listed under Religions of Asia; 3 hours from courses listed under Interdisciplinary Approaches to Religion; and 9 hours of electives chosen from other RELS courses or courses in the above categories. No more than 6 hours of approved electives may come from a single department, and at least 18 of the required 33 hours must be at the 300-400 level. Approved electives may be applied toward category distribution requirements as indicated below. The program chair may approve additional courses when the subject matter is appropriate to Religious Studies.

                                                 II.      Required courses outside the major– None.

                                                III.      Other departmental requirements – Completion of RELS 490 with a C or better demonstrates major, oral, and computer competencies.


Religions of the West

CLAS    101       Latin I (3)

CLAS    103       Greek I (3)

CLAS    105       Hebrew I (3)

CLAS    250       Mythology (3)

CLAS    365       Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (3)

HIST     343       History of Christianity (3)

LIT        360       Modern Jewish Writers (3)

LIT        365       Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (3)

PHIL     255       Medieval Philosophy (3)

POLS   329       Religion and Politics in the United States (4)

RELS    215       Judaism and Christianity in the Ancient World (3)

RELS    354       Greek and Roman Religion (3)

                                    RELS    387       Judaism (3)

RELS    388       Introduction to Islam (3)

RELS    420       Religion and Southern Culture (3)


Religions of Asia

PHIL     313       Oriental Philosophy (3)

                                    RELS    381       Religions of South Asia (3)

                                    RELS    386       Buddhism (3)


Interdisciplinary Approaches to Religion

ANTH    100       Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (3)

PHIL     200       Introduction to Ethical Theory (3)

RELS    302       Sociology of Religion (3)

RELS    303       Philosophy of Religion (3)

RELS    330       Women and Religion (3)



Declaration of Major in Religious Studies

Declaring a major in Religious Studies requires the student to complete a Declaration of Major form that must be signed by the department chair. Before declaring a major, students must satisfy the LANG 120 requirement.



Minor in Religious Studies

18 hours distributed as follows: RELS 200; 302 or 303; 381, at least 3 hours from courses listed under Religions of the West; and 6 hours of electives chosen from among other RELS courses or the list of approved courses. No more than 6 hours of approved electives may come from a single department, and at least 9 hours must be at the 300-400 level. The department chair may approve additional courses when the subject matter is appropriate to Religious Studies.


                  Courses in Religious Studies (RELS)


                  200       Introduction to the Study of Religion (3)

A thematic introduction to the academic study of religion: concepts of the sacred, myths and rituals, ways of being religious, and ideas of the afterlife. Fall. 


215       Judaism and Christianity in the Ancient World (3)

A comparative examination of the development of Judaism and Christianity in the ancient world, with primary emphasis on the period between the establishment of Second Temple Judaism and the rise of Islam. See department chair.


280       Asian Religious Traditions (3)

A comparative examination of the development of the religious traditions that originated in south and east Asia, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. See department chair.


302       Sociology of Religion (SOC 302) (3)

Draws on the intellectual tradition within the discipline of understanding religion as a social and cultural phenomenon. Looks into the complex nature of religion and explores the social conditions and processes which account for diverse religious phenomena including religiosity, religious organizations, conflict and change, religious pluralism, and the relationships between religion and other social institutions. Spring.


303       Philosophy of Religion (PHIL 303) (3)

Topics include questions about the existence of God, the problem of evil, revelation and faith, religious experience, and immortality. Spring.


312       Religion in America to 1865 (3)

A survey of the role of religion in American history and culture. Topics include Native religions and the European missions; Puritanism; religion in the founding era; evangelicalism and revivalism; Catholic immigration; slave religions and religious abolitionism; religion and the Civil War. Fall.


                  313       Religion in America Since 1865 (3)

Topics include postbellum revivalism; science and fundamentalism; Jewish immigration; new African American religions; Catholicism; and contemporary diversities. Spring.


                  330       Women and Religion (3)

This comparative course focuses on how women create and negotiate religious identities and space for themselves within the world’s religious traditions. Topics include creation myths, bodies and sexuality, narrative and performance traditions, rituals, leadership and agency, and feminist critiques and methodologies. See department chair.


354       Greek and Roman Religion (CLAS 354) (3)

Introduces students to the religions of the Greek and Roman worlds. Religious practices and beliefs will be considered in a wide range of literary, artistic and archaeological sources. Even years Fall.


381       Religions of South Asia (3)

A study of the history, beliefs and practices of the major indigenous religions of south Asia (Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism) as well as their development in relation to imported traditions such as Islam and Christianity. See department chair.


                  386       Buddhism (3)

A study of the life of the Buddha and his teachings as they influenced and transformed the cultures of South and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and the modern West.  Topics include meditation, the participation of women, “socially engaged Buddhism” and Buddhist views on ecology, war, and human rights. See department chair.


                  387       Judaism (3)

A study of the historical and cultural development of Judaism from its biblical origins to its modern expressions. Among the contemporary issues to be examined are Zionism and the rise and history of the State of Israel, varieties of contemporary American Judaism, and religious and philosophical reflections on the Holocaust. See department chair.


388       Introduction to Islam (HIST 388) (3)

Explores Islam as a faith and way of life. In addition to studying the Quran and Prophetic traditions, it will closely examine the dynamics of Islamic law and its role in everyday life in addition to Muslim ritual and devotional practices. See department chair.


420       Religion and Southern Culture (3)

This course has two primary objectives: (1) to investigate the development of the principal religious groups in the South, and (2) to explore, using a number of conceptual perspectives and methodological approaches, the meaning and function of religion in its many manifestations – denominational, folk, domestic, civil – as a cultural phenomenon in Southern life. Spring.


490       Senior Research Seminar (3)

Student research under the supervision of approved faculty resulting in the successful completion and defense of a thesis or comparable research project. This course fulfills the requirements for the major, oral and computer competencies. An IP grade may be awarded at the discretion of the instructor. Fall.


499       Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies (1-6)

Independent research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. An IP grade may be awarded at the discretion of the instructor. May be repeated for a total of 6 hours credit. See department chair.


171-3, 271-3, 371-3, 471-3    Special Topics in Religious Studies (3)

Courses not otherwise included in the catalog, but for which there will be special needs. May be repeated for credit as subject matter changes. See department chair.


179, 379, 479          Liberal Studies Colloquia (LS 179, 379, 479)

Colloquia offered to fulfill ILS requirements.  See Liberal Studies for course descriptions. May not be used to satisfy major or minor requirements.




The existing minor program in Religious Studies will migrate from the Philosophy Department, where it has been housed since 1999, to become a separate department offering both a major and a minor by the fall semester of 2009. The primary impact will be to the Philosophy Department, which will relinquish its supervision of the minor program. Those responsible for the implementation of these new programs include the faculty in Religious Studies as well as the faculty in other departments offering courses crosslisted as RELS courses and/or approved electives.


Although this proposal seeks to add fifteen “new” courses to the catalog, the list is not as daunting as it appears since many of these courses are already being offered through other departments, and not all would be offered on a annual basis.  Thus, these courses would not require the addition of new faculty.  These courses can be grouped into four categories:


(1) Crosslisted courses: RELS 302, 303, 384, and 388 are not new courses but represent courses that are regularly taught in other departments that will be crosslisted as RELS courses because of their appropriate subject matter.


(2) Transferred courses: RELS 386 (Judaism) and 387 (Buddhism) are courses currently included among the offerings of the Department of History, but would be more appropriately housed in the Department of Religious Studies.  Thus, this proposal seeks to effectively transfer these courses to Religious Studies and drop the “History of” designation that both now have.  The Judaism course (the current HIST 386) has been regularly offered by faculty outside of the Department of History and this practice would likely be continued for the immediate future.  The Buddhism course would be regularly offered by the new faculty member in Asian religions.


(3) Gateway and capstone courses: RELS 200 and 490 will provide, respectively, the required “gateway” and “capstone” courses for Religious Studies majors (RELS 200 will also be the gateway course for Religious Studies minors); both will be offered at least once a year by the members of the Religious Studies faculty.  RELS 490 will allow students to meet the various competencies necessary for graduation.


(4) New courses: RELS 280, 330, and 381 will be regularly offered by Kate Zubko; RELS 280 will be offered at least once a year since it is a required course for the major. RELS 215, 312, 313, and 420 will be regularly offered by Rodger Payne; RELS 312 and 313 will be offered every year in the fall and spring semesters, respectively, since these courses are required for the major. Courses that are not required for the major will probably be offered every other year.



This proposal implements the new major in Religious Studies that was approved by the Faculty Senate on March 2, 2006 (Senate document 2960S).  It builds upon the strengths of the existing minor and other related courses within the university in order to establish a major program as efficiently as possible; and although additional courses will be created as additional faculty are appointed, the basic structure as proposed here will remain the same.  This structure ensures that (1) students receive a basic introduction to the major religions of the world through the distribution requirements of the religions of the West and religions of Asia; and that (2) students receive extensive training in the theories and methods of the modern academic study of religion as an essential part of the liberal arts through the required courses and the distribution requirement for the interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religion.