Contemporary Religious Thought:
Faith, Suspicion, and Modernity
MWF 10:00, Steiner Hall 306
Department of Religious Studies
Office Hours: MW 1-3 and by appointment
A study of 19th and 20th century theologians and philosophers of religion,
focusing on their criticisms and reconceptualizations of religion in light
of the intellectual currents, social changes, and historical events of
the period. In addition to learning about particular religious and philosophical
thinkers, a major goal of the course is to give you the opportunity to
develop your ability to engage in critical argumentation-to carefully
and fairly listen to or read the arguments of others and to take and defend
clear positions, in discussion and in writing, of your own.
Requirements and Grading
Participation (30% of final grade):
i) Class attendance. More than two unexcused absences during the
course of the semester will have a significant adverse effect on your
ii) Regular participation in class discussions. You are expected
to have done all the assigned reading for each class session and to come
to class (with the readings in hand) having formulated specific questions
and/or observations about the reading that you are ready to discuss in
iii) Small groups. Most weeks we will devote a day to small group
discussions. Peer evaluation of this work will contribute to your participation
iv) Blackboard Assignments: On the Friday preceding each week's
readings, I will post reading-guide questions on our Blackboard site (beginning
Sept. 5). By 10:00 p.m. on either Sunday or Tuesday night of the following
week, you should post a response to one of the reading guide questions.
Responses should be relatively brief, about a paragraph. Generally, they
should respond directly to one of the questions posed by the Reading Guide;
in some cases, though, you may want to pose and discuss briefly one of
your own questions. Your responses should show that you have considered
a particular question and have engaged the reading. Whether or not you
post a response for a given day, you should read all the responses posted
for that day.
(45%). Three papers will be due during the course of the semester, a paper
on Graham Ward's book (due on Sept. 12, 5:00 pm), a paper on either
Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche or Freud (due on Oct. 17, 5:00 pm), and a
final paper on one of the topics we cover during the second half of the
semester (due Dec. 12, 5:00 pm). Writing assignments will be handed out
in advance of the papers.
Exam (25% of final grade). The final will be on Dec. 19 at 9:00 a.m..
and Assignment Schedule
Aug: 29: Intro
2: Enlightenment Religion
Sept. 1: Graham Ward, True Religion, Introduction and Chapter 1
Sept. 3: Ward, Chapter 2
Sept. 5: Immanuel Kant, "What is Orientation in Thinking?" *
Recommended, Claude Welch, Protestant Thought in the 19th Century,
Week 3: Dawn of Modern Theology I: Schleiermacher
Sept. 8: Ward, Chapter 3, pp. 73-97
Sept. 10: Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion, First Speech.*
Sept. 12: Ward, Chapter 3, pp. 97-113
Paper #1 Due by 5:00 pm
4: Dawn of Modern Theology II: Kierkegaard
Sept. 15: Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, pp. 5-53
Sept. 17: Fear and Trembling, pp. 54-81
Sept. 19: Fear and Trembling, pp. 82-123
5: Suspicion I: Religion and Power
Sept. 22: Karl Marx, "On the Jewish Question," pp. 26-35 *
Sept. 24: Marx, "On the Jewish Question," finish *
Sept. 26: Marx, "Contribution to Critique of Hegel" *
Week 6: Suspicion II: Genealogy of Religion
Sept. 29: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Preface and First
Oct. 1: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 84-119pp.
Oct. 3: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 120-end
Week 7: Suspicion III: Religion and Psyche
Oct. 6: Sigmund Freud, "Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices"
Oct. 8: Freud, The Future of an Illusion, Chapters 1-4
Oct. 10: The Future of an Illusion, Chapters 5-10
8: Theology Against Modernity
Oct. 13: Karl Barth, "The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion"*
Oct. 15: Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp.
Oct. 17: Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp. 15-43*
Paper #2 Due by 5:00 pm
9: Suspicion and Faith
Oct: 27: Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion" *
Oct. 29: Rowan Williams, "The Suspicion of Suspicion"*
Oct. 31: Ricoeur, "The Language of Faith"*
10: Judaism, Modernity and Shoah
Nov. 3: Martin Buber, "The Love of God and the Idea of Deity"*
Nov. 5: Irving Greenberg, "Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire"*
Nov. 7: Steven Kepnes, "Reading Job as Textual Theodicy"*
Week 11: Religion and Politics
Nov. 10: Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology,
Nov. 12: Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, "Scripture in the Liberation
Nov. 14: Cleo McNelly Kearns, "Kristeva and Feminist Theology"*
Week 12: Religion and Science
Nov. 17: John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science,
Nov. 19: Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Chapters
Nov. 21: Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Chapter
13: No Class
14: Religion and Postmodernism
Dec. 1: Kepnes, Ochs and Gibbs, Reasoning After Revelation, pp.
Dec. 3: John Caputo, On Religion, Chapter 5
Dec. 5: Ward, True Religion, Chapter 4
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Freidrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
John Polkinghorne, Belief of God in an Age of Science
Graham Ward, True Religion
Karl Barth, "The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion"
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology, Chapter
Martin Buber, "The Love of God and the Idea of Deity"
Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp. 1-15
John Caputo, On Religion, Chapter 5
Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, "Function of Scripture in the
Irving Greenberg, "Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire"
Cleo Kearns, "Kristeva and Feminist Theology"
Steven Kepnes, "Reading Job as Textual Theodicy"
Steven Kepnes, Peter Ochs and Robert Gibbs, Reasoning After Revelation,
Immanuel Kant, "What is Orientation in Thinking?"
Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion" and "The Language
Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion, Speech One
Claude Welch, "The Eighteenth Century Background"
Rowan Williams, "The Suspicion of Suspicion: Wittgenstein and Bonhoeffer"
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