Program on Medicine and Religion

Past Courses

Courses Offerings for 2021-2022

Winter 2022

Religion, Medicine, and the Experience of Illness
RLST 26302, HIST 24923, CCTS 21012, HLTH 26302, SOCI 20542, HIPS 26312
Instructor: Dr. Mark M. Lambert, Divinity Teaching Fellow

Course Description:
This course introduces students to both the dynamic relationship between religion and medicine and the role of religion as it relates to the experience of illness. Through a survey of a broad selection of religious traditions, textual genres, and case studies, students will evaluate how religion offers a pliable explanatory system (through myths, symbols, rituals, etc.) to address questions of causation, coping, and curing vis-à-vis illness. The historical relationship between religions and medical systems has been fascinatingly complex. We will encounter examples where religion and medicine work in tandem as complementary explanatory systems, e.g., with devotion to holy figures such as Saint Jude. We will also discuss what happens when religion usurps the explanatory role of medicine, e.g., when the activity of spirits becomes the diagnostic explanation for a medical condition such as epilepsy. Drawing upon literature from art history, medical anthropology, sociology, history, and theology, this course surveys the impressive variety of responses to illness both across religious traditions and within those traditions. Prior knowledge of religious studies and/or medical history is not required for the course. 


Spring 2022

RLST 24103, RETH 30600, SIGN 26069, HLTH 24103, BIOS 29216, LAWS 97112, HIPS 24103
Instructor: Prof. Laurie Zoloth

Course Description:
This is a lecture and discussion class that will explore how a variety of philosophic and religious thinkers approach the issues and problems of modern dilemmas in medicine and science in a field called bioethics. We will consider a general argument for your consideration: that the arguments and the practices from faith traditions and from philosophy offer significant contributions that underlie policies and practices in bioethics. We will use a case-based method to study how different traditions describe and defend differences in moral choices in contemporary bioethics. This class is based on the understanding that case narratives serve as another core text for the discipline of bioethics and that complex ethical issues are best considered by a careful examination of the competing theories as work themselves out in specific cases. We will examine both classic cases that have shaped our understanding of the field of bioethics and cases that are newly emerging, including the case of research done at our University. Through these cases, we will ask how religious traditions both collide and cohere over such topics as embryo research, health care reform, terminal illness, issues in epidemics and public health, and our central research question, synthetic biology research. This class will also explore how the discipline of bioethics has emerged to reflect upon such dilemmas, with particular attention to the role that theology and philosophy have played in such reflection. We will look at both how the practice of theologians and philosophers has historically shaped the field of bioethics and at how these claims, methodology, and praxis have continued to shape and inflect bioethics. We will examine the issue of epistemic stance, of truth claims, and of how normative policies are created amid serious controversy. We will explore the nature of the relationship between religion and public policy and study how religious traditions and moral philosophy shape our view of issues as “bioethics controversies” in the first place. 

Islam and Biomedicine
RLST 26311
Instructor: Elham Mireshghi

Course Description:
Open to undergraduates.