"Whatever happens next I know this much to be true: I am better for having taken this class. I recognize more clearly my 'ways of knowing,' and I can honor them. I can recognize that there are other ways of knowing and I must learn to speak them. My hope is that I never really look at the word 'know' the same way again." (Student Feedback)
Full Term Courses
Religion and Popular Culture: Spectacular Realms and Misunderstood Monsters
Kennesaw State University, Spring 2023 (online course)
This is an upper division seminar. Students explore monsters, and the realms in which they dwell through their religious origins. Monsters have long been important markers of marginality: of the forbidden, the feared, the other; of taboos and social boundaries. Many religious realms feature monstrous and supernatural creatures, demon-goddess hybrids, and the like. Sampling from Western and Asian literature, art, scriptures, and contemporary popular culture, this interdisciplinary, comparative course applies “Monster Theory” to track religion and its monsters from the pre-modern to post-postmodern periods.
This class has broadened my understanding of religion. Before, I thought that religion only included established religions such as Catholicism or Islam, but now I realize that religious presuppositions, ontological claims, and epistemologies permeate so many aspects of our everyday lives. I now have a greater awareness of all of the ‘religious thinking’ around me, even from things and spaces that traditionally have not been thought of as religion or religious.
The research I have been doing has led me to those 'aha' moments and helped me connect how religious ideals shape our pop culture and how that defines what is monstrous or not. I believe going forward when I am consuming media, I will definitely look at monsters differently. I felt like my 'critical thinking muscles' have been worked out through our essays and discussion posts. Those assignments helped me articulate my ideas and thoughts, and the act of writing them down put everything into perspective. Learning about Western versus Eastern perspectives has allowed me to better understand how religious beliefs shape our worldview, even if we aren't religious ourselves. It informs our fears, our questions, our understanding of right and wrong. There is so much more to learn about this topic- more than I imagined at the beginning of the semester. This class has helped me grow my research and writing skills as well! I really enjoyed this course.
Introduction to Religion
Kennesaw State University,
Spring and Fall 2022
This course is an interdisciplinary overview of religion in human culture. Students explore how religion provides meaning and structure to human life by addressing basic questions about the body, nature, spirit, community, and time, and how religious concepts and practices are expressed in texts, ceremonies, rituals, and festivals. The course provides a survey of the conceptual and experiential aspects of religion that enables students to engage in informed, critical, and dispassionate conversations about religion.
“The course made me want to explore more religions and do more individualistic work to try to connect to one of them because I was intrigued by a number of them. As a future nurse, this course helps me appreciate people's dedication to their religion and not dismiss people's spiritual experiences as an illness or a problem."
" I want to take the next religious course the school offers, honestly, just because this one was so enlightening.”
"This course gave me the tools to help address the questions I had in my initial
preassessment. I questioned why others believe what they believe. The lectures and
course material did a great job answering this question and giving in-depth reasoning as
to how religions came about and why their believers believe. Yes, the course did
contribute to me wanting to seek answers to these questions. So much so that I have
decided to take another religion course."
Holy Horribles: Religion and the Sacred Monstrous
University of North Carolina Greensboro, Spring 2020
(F2F course with final four weeks taught online due to quarantine)
Monsters have long been important markers of marginality: of the forbidden, the feared, the Other; of taboos and social boundaries. Many religious mythologies feature monstrous and supernatural creatures that serve a variety of symbolic purposes. In Western popular culture, monsters often shine light on our ethical dilemmas, telling us what we can’t or won’t endure, or what we fear becoming. Sampling from Western and Asian literature, art, scriptural texts, and film and television clips, this comparative course applies “monster theory” to track religion and its monsters from pre-modern, to modern, postmodern, and now post-postmodern periods. This course is interdisciplinary: It is part religious studies, part history, and part popular culture studies.
“I will admit that I entered this class very naive on the topic of religion.…When I read [the weekly reading] it changed my perspective on what the term religion really meant and the impact that it has on a culture that follows it. The discussions that we have in class [also gave] me an insight on what others think about religion and how it has impacted them."
"I have always thought that monsters were misconceptions… legends, hoaxes, and myths. The class… really enlightened me about the religious aspect and I started to put the pieces together and see how the two concepts are related.”
Religion in America
University of North Carolina Greensboro, Fall semester, 2019 (online course)
This course introduces the tools and concepts central to the study of religion in America. It surveys historical events, from early Native American encounters with colonial settlers to the present day, while asking what makes American religion American. How is it present in public and private life? What contributions have people from different religious traditions made to the multiplicity of histories and cultures that comprise this country? Specific attention is devoted to the cross-pollinating that occurs in religious and spiritual communities, including contemporary sects sometimes referred to as "cults."
"I am way more interested in studying religion now. I want to learn more about each religion and more in-depth on how it affects society in specific areas. I am interested in changing my minor to some type of religion."
Religion in America
University of North Carolina Greensboro, Five week summer intensive, 2019 (online course)
This 5-week intensive summer course introduces the tools and concepts central to the study of religion in America. We devote attention to religious pluralism, inclusivism, hybridity, and diversity, and also examine how religious identity groupings carve out social spaces that create boundaries—sometimes violent ones—between people and communities. One special focus in the course is the considerable influence of Asian religious traditions and philosophical ideas on the rise of secular spiritualities starting in the late 19th century and continuing today.
"This course was able to teach me many interesting things about different religious groups and their beliefs. After taking this course, I know for a fact that I will be taking more religious courses in the future."
Asian Religions in America
Rice University, Spring 2015
An exploration of America’s encounter with Asian religions and its resultant array of new—and new versions of old—spiritual and cultural movements. To understand what has happened in and to the American psyche through its three centuries of encounters with Asia, we survey key beliefs of several philosophical and religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Sikhism) whose immigrant communities, missionary gurus, and mythological and mystical worlds transformed the American soul and mind.
"I really enjoyed your class! The focus was interesting and our small class environment was awesome! Despite [my final paper] being by far the hardest essay I’ve ever written, I did find it very interesting and exciting to learn about and research. Hope to take another one of your classes in the future."
Ways of Knowing
This course is intended to provide a foundation for study in the psychology and spirituality track. A combination of lecture, discussion, and experiential learning, this course journeys into the fascinating territory of how we gain a sense of knowing and how we share our knowing with one another. Course material surveys conceptual models for knowing—including scientific, developmental, intuitive, somatic, gendered and mystical modes. We consider various epistemological orientations in a personal sense also, challenging class participants to become more adept at moving from their comfort zones to explore their less frequently utilized ways of knowing.
"A significant moment for me was [being able] to easily understand the different religions, and for it to be [woven] so effortlessly through the topics. This has me impressed with both professors’ breadth of knowledge and their eclectic backgrounds."
"I very much enjoyed the experiential learning that let us understand [the] ways of knowing instead of simply talking about it…it makes a lot of sense to me to experience ways of knowing that are not focused on logic and language."
"I was clearly able to see from a different perspective and that brought it all home. ... I have made it the inspiration for my paper [to explore] the definable moment of...epiphany for me. Man, this is the best class ever."