INTG 301. Spirit and Story
Human beings have long told one another stories about the gods and of our relationship with them, and about such things as sacrifice and suffering, communion and celebration, stories of our origins and of our ends, and of what is expected of us. This course examines various spiritual and religious themes within works of literature and the cinema. The spiritual informs art just as our understanding of the spiritual may be influenced by our stories and how we tell them to ourselves.
INTG 302. The Pursuit of Well-Being
What is well-being and how do we develop it? It is the goal of this course to critically evaluate the experience of well-being and understand it in the context of the individual, family, society, culture and history. We will examine the role of money, exercise, religion, struggle, sacrifice, volunteerism, gender, age and happiness. Students may also participate in various practices including Tai Chi, meditation, and developing a personal mission statement, while reflecting on their own experience.
INTG 304. Beyond Belief
This course will track the history of science (from the Enlightenment) and its naturalistic approach to knowledge as it conflicts with religious belief. Using examples such as the heliocentric universe, evolution and creation, neurology and the soul, and evolutionary psychology we will illustrate increasing challenges to religious authority and the concept of god(s). Arguably, science has weakened theism by continually narrowing the scope of God’s provenance and challenging the authority of religious proclamations. We will consider the relationships among science, agnosticism and atheism, concluding with how atheists defend their views and answer the fundamental questions of meaning and existence. Students in this course will seriously consider how individuals throughout history have approached the dichotomies of faith and reason; the transcendental and the physical; and the material and immaterial.
INTG 305. Ancient Religious Reflections: Sacred Places
This course focuses on a number of important religious sites in the ancient Mediterranean world. We will compare and contrast these holy places and consider what makes them sacred. Students will be challenged to compare these sacred places to their own sense of the spatial sacredness. The basic premise of this course is that a sense of sacred space is an important aspect of what it means to be human. Participants in this course will be challenged to compare one or more of these sacred places with places they consider to be sacred in their own lives.
INTG 308. The Just War
This course will introduce students to some of the standard theories of “just wars” (jus ad bellum) and just war practices (jus in bello). We will consider questions about the moral and legal acceptability of force. We will study international rules of warfare, and how they have changed over the centuries. We will contemplate whether the killing of civilians is “collateral damage” or an immoral act, or something else. We will ask questions about accountability and justice. We will proceed roughly chronologically and explore how the ideas of the earliest thinkers have held up or been changed by wars, terrorism, and weapons development.
INTG 309. Personal Identity
This course provides an examination of the biological, behavioral, and social foundations of the sense of personal identity. It considers the way in which personal identity may be a gift, a biological imperative, a challenge, a social creation, or even an illusion. The multiple anchors of our identity in memory, body, society, and experiences are explored.
INTG 312. Voices: Music and Literature
This course will examine important themes inherent to the human condition: Who are we? What defines our humanity? Can artists give voice to some of our deepest thoughts and feelings? To help answer these questions the class will investigate themes of love, death, war, faith, and identity. We will read powerful works by international authors. We will listen to great composers in the hope that music’s rich emotional and intuitive language will inspire us in our search for meaning. These artists challenge the status quo and ask us to think from different perspectives. Class is discussion based with reflective writing.
INTG 313. Suffering, Evil, and Hope
Why is there suffering and evil? What is our responsibility in the face of suffering? Are there grounds for hoping that suffering may one day cease? This class focuses on the long tradition of religious and philosophical reflection on these and related questions. The course material includes classic texts, novels, and film as points of departure for class discussion.
INTG 314. Faith & Solidarity: American Perspectives on Religion, Ethics & Politics
This seminar provides students with the opportunity to think about the relationship between religion, ethics and politics in the American context through the close reading of texts by classic American thinkers, including philosophers, theologians, literary figures and social commentators. The course examines the development of the culture of individualism and engages criticisms and concerns about the effect of individualism on the forming and sustaining of communities. We also look at such themes as America as an ideal, nature and nature religion, loyalty and patriotism, democracy and religious pluralism, race, self-expression and communal identity.
INTG 315. Cosmology and Creation
The primary objective of this course is to explore possible answers to the questions, “Where do we come from?” “What is our place in this universe?” and “What is our destiny?” In the process of so doing, students will be encouraged to consider several theories of the universe — classical models, biblical doctrines and arguments, scientific theories based on compiled data, and a variety of Western and Eastern concepts. The course will also attempt to acquaint students with scientific methods used to address these weighty issues and balance them with theological considerations and philosophical systems, in order to see that these modes of inquiry can work with and not necessarily against each other.
INTG 316. Poetics of the Self
An investigation of some questions that arise from an awareness of one’s own self. The intent is to place the question “Who am I?” into a critically manageable context. The course emphasizes discovery of the self and various strategies for making sense of one’s self. Particular emphasis is on the need for models (plots, paradigms, myths) in defining our existence.
INTG 317. Food For Thought
One of the central metaphors for food in our culture is “fuel”, however, it may also be “communion” in the broadest sense. This course will explore some essential issues of food including its spiritual dimensions, health implications, family farming and agribusiness, fast food, slow food, and local food, animal and human rights, and genetically modified organisms. To quote Wendell Berry: “How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is used.” As we live in a largely agricultural area, we will start locally and gradually extend to more global perspectives.
INTG 320. Comparative Issues in World Religions
This course will introduce students to the world’s major religious traditions — the religions originating in India (Hinduism and Buddhism), the religions originating in China (Confucianism and Taoism), and the “religions of Abraham” (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) — by approaching the religions comparatively through the lens of a particular issue, aspect or theme. Students will learn a basic overview of the religions and then delve into the specific details, depending on the topic. Possible topics include: mysticism, religious founders, religious ethics, peace and non-violence, heaven and hell, scriptures and ancient texts.
INTG 321. A History of Humanist Ideas
In this course, students will be exposed to the thoughts and ideas of those who have struggled with all aspects of the human condition without a belief in God. Beginning with the materialism of early Greek thought, the course will survey the roots and content of secularism as expressed in Renaissance-inspired humanism, Enlightenment rationalism, nineteenth-century freethinking movements, and twentieth-century philosophical debates. Atheists’ and agnostics’ writings and ideas will be read and examined to see the myriad contributions made to humanity by non-religious thinkers. Special emphasis will be placed on linking the meaningful, ethical, and productive work of these humanist thinkers to their focus on secular, and not religious, values. The humanist tradition has sought to affirm the finite nature of human existence, to maintain an inherent relationship to the world.
INTG 322. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Soul
When it was published in England, the first of the Harry Potter novels was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Although the author was referring to the stone of alchemy supposedly able to turn base metals into gold and to produce the elixir of life, her novels also perform a sort of literary alchemy. This class will read the Harry Potter series for its “alchemical” potential to transform its readers and, through them, the society in which we live. Some of those themes might include the transformative power of Renaissance science (alchemy, astronomy, and astrology) in the Potter novels; construction of self and/in society; oppression and social justice; issues of gender, race, and ethnicity; power, mortality, evil, and courage; and the magic of love.
INTG 323. Great Powers & Great Responsibilities: Superheroes, Philosophy & Identity
“With great power, comes great responsibility.” This driving philosophy constantly present in the mind of Spiderman provides a lesson for how we all might live our lives, conscious of how our actions affect those around us. This course makes similar rhetorical connections between the American superhero in its various incarnations (comic book, television, film) and a number of important ideas that explore issues of meaning and value in contemporary society. These explorations will be firmly grounded in critical theory (gender, race, identity, psychoanalytic) and will involve deep readings of critical texts, writings on those texts, and exercises that are reflective of individual identities and which connect to specific heroes. Our popular culture heroes such as superheroes can tell us a great deal about what we as a society value, and through the fantastical trope of the superhero, we can seek to better understand ourselves. In this course, we will do so both by reading and studying about specific superheroes and how they reflect distinct values.
INTG 325. Christian Vocation: Identify, Faith and Work
Who am I? What do I believe? What shall I do with my life? These questions are intertwined with deeper questions that lie at the heart of what the Christian community calls “vocation” or “calling.” Drawing primarily on writings from within the Christian tradition and individual exercises that encourage self-reflection, students will examine how human beings have made decisions about what to do with their lives and how this can inform decisions for their own lives.
INTG 326. Self-Made Men?: Gender and Modern Masculinities
In this course, we will reflect on the concepts of gender and masculinity, what it means to be “manly” in today’s society, and how masculine norms are both reinforced and questioned in literature, film, and popular culture. To do so, we will also trace the historical, economic, and religious underpinnings of modern, Western standards of masculinity from the Enlightenment to the present, with a particular focus on England and the United States.
INTG 333. Machiavelli and Gandhi: Meaningful Ethics in an Amoral World
This course looks for common ground between two highly compelling philosophies, moral realism, which assumes that effective behavior requires ethical compromise, and moral idealism (best exemplified by pacifism), which assumes that ethically tainted means can never lead to a morally desirable end. Machiavelli and Gandhi are presented as the respective archetypes of these two philosophies. We will also examine the work of contemporary writers from a variety of disciplines who struggle with the issues of situational vs. pure ethics and short- vs. long-term effectiveness.
INTG 347. Chaos: Randomness and Order, Free Will and Destiny
Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? With this statement, Edward Lorenz was describing how apparently minor initial differences can have major consequences in the future. In this course, we will discuss how the “Butterfly Effect” plays a role in weather predictions, business forecasting, and even our own lives. We will see how randomness can produce order and how something that is completely deterministic can result in chaos. With this background, we will examine arguments of whether our lives are governed by destiny or by free will.