Religious Studies is an academic discipline devoted to the study of religion in general and to specific world religions in particular, investigating such dimensions of religion as scripture and myth, experience, belief, ritual, ethics, institutions, and material culture. It employs an interdisciplinary and comparative methodology that borrows from and has influenced a broad array of other fields. The academic study of religion recognizes the interconnectedness of religion with other dimensions of culture but acknowledges that religion is qualitatively different from other forms of human expression.

Religious Studies Forums

Click to play videoBehind Enemy Lines

Marthe Cohn
Author, Holocaust Survivor, and French Spy

Marthe Cohn was born Marthe Hoffnung on April 13, 1920 into an Orthodox Jewish family and raised in Metz, France near the German border. By the time she was in her late teens, Hitler rose to power, and Cohn’s sister was sent to Auschwitz. In November 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Marthe became a member of the Intelligence Service of the French 1st Army, assuming the identity of a German nurse named Martha Ulrich, claiming she was searching for her missing fiancé. The intelligence she gathered and reported led to positive military outcomes for the French 1st Army. Today as a highly decorated war hero, Marthe travels the world with her husband, Major L. Cohn, sharing their experiences. Presentation time: 1 hour, 49 minutes | View Now

Naturalism in Religion

Dr. Howard Wettstein
Department of Philosophy, UC, Riverside

Slide image from the "Naturalism in Religion" presenationBefore teaching at Riverside, Howard Wettstein had a moment of philosophical change while working at Notre Dame. He called a colleague of his, and mentioned that up until that day he would think about reference, meaning, and language but now he is thinking about God. Worried about what his colleagues will think of him, he was advised to forget about any critiques on his expertise. Since that day he changed directions in his philosophical career. During this discussion he mentions how the Book of Job and other passages in the Bible have made an impact in his life and helps him share wisdom with others. Presentation time: 1 hour, 15 minutes | View Now

What Religious People Think About Science and Scientists

Dr. Elaine Howards Ecklund
Sociology Department, Rice University
Dr. Gregory Cootsona
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico
Dr. Brian Oppy
Psychology Department, CSU, Chico

Decorative: Slideshow image of What Religious Peopole Think About Science and ScientistsIn a continued series, Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund discusses religious people and their view of science in a broad sense. She utilizes personal stories gathered during her research to break down stereotypes and emphasize new or surprising findings. In her presentation she details how clergy members view universities and what is at stake in these conversations. Dr. Cootsona, of Chico State, continues the conversation with his presentation, Religion and the Public: Bringing Science to Church. Finally, Dr. Oppy from the Chico State Psychology Department, uses his research to explain why religious people and scientists have been viewed as opposites. Dr. Ecklund has written a book entitled, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think. Join the panel of Dr. Ecklund, Dr. Cootsona, and Dr. Oppy in the discussion of science and religion. Presentation Time: 1 Hour and 51 minutes | View Now

What Scientists Think About Religion and Religious People

Dr. Elaine Howards Ecklund
Sociology Department, Rice University

Decorative: Slideshow image of What Religious Peopole Think About Science and ScientistsDr. Elaine Howard Ecklund’s presentation encapsulates how her extensive knowledge of social sciences and personal experiences with religious people prompted her to begin a new study. Her findings refute the major stereotypes categorizing Scientists and Religious people against one another. In contrast to her What Religious People Think About Scientists presentation, Dr. Ecklund highlights how religion should not hurt a Scientist’s credibility in academia. She also explains how there are all different kinds of religious scientists or spiritual atheists. Join Dr. Ecklund in the conversion of how theology and science can be interwoven. Presentation Time: 1 hour and 14 minutes | View Now

Martin Luther: 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses

Dr. Erin Kelly
English Department, CSU, Chico 
Dr. Jason Nice
History Department, CSU Chico 
Dr. Joel Zimbelman
Comparative Religion & Humanities Department, CSU, Chico 

Decorative Use: What Constitutes Scripture?The German priest and professor of theology Martin Luther (1483-1546) may or may not have started a revolution in 1517 when he presented his famous Ninety-Five Theses. His actions led to a break with the Catholic Church of Rome and resulted in the formation of various Protestant denominations. Five hundred years later, faculty from three departments within the College of Humanities and Fine Arts discuss the origins, impact, and legacy of the Protestant Reformations. Presentation Time: 1 hour, 18 minutes | View Now

What Constitutes Scripture?

Dr. David Bertaina
History Department, University of Illinois-Springfield
Dr. Najm Yousefi
History Department, CSU Chico

Decorative Use: What Constitues Scripture?In the first part of this presentation, Dr. Bertaina addresses the difficulty of dialog between believers when their definition of what constitutes scriptures excludes the existence of other scriptures. He states that the overlapping literary and thematic material in the Bible and Qur’an exacerbates the problem. He then explains how Jewish, Christian, and Muslim authors have compared their scriptures with the scriptures of others. Then, Dr. Yousefi asks if there is a way followers of these three faiths can find common ground and have a dialog. There is some commonality in that Islam builds upon the older traditions of Christianity and Judaism. He states that perhaps one way of finding this common ground is to focus on the formulative period of Islam, when the focus was on the Qur'an’s emphasis on the continuity and unity of the divine message. Dr. Yousefi notes that the Qur'an can be interpreted as putting Mohammad “on the same playing field with other prophets.” Presentation Time: 53 minutes | View Now

Religion in the Public Sphere: Conflict or Dialogue?

Panel Discussion

Slideshow Image: Religion in the Public Sphere: Conflict or Dialogue?Six religious scholars explore their role as educators in relation to religious issues in the non-academic world, and the challenges caused by those issues. The presentation begins with a five-minute talk from each panelist. These talks bring up many topics for subsequent discussion by the panel and the audience, such as intersections of religion with African-American culture, the loss of status of white Protestant churches in the U.S., the increased interest in studying Islam, and the fact that 25 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation. Dr. Eric Michael Mazus of Virginia Wesleyan University moderates the panel, which is comprised of Dr. Vernon Andrews, San Jose State University; Dr. Jason Clower, CSU, Chico; Dr. Andrew Flescher, State University of New York, Stony Brook; Dr. Katherine McCarthy, CSU, Chico; and Dr. Sarah Pike, CSU, Chico. Presentation Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes | View Now

The Internet as Transnational Religious Space

Dr. Daniel Veidlinger
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Daniel VeidingerThe internet has been used as a tool to learn about religions from the beginning. However, according to Dr. Daniel Veidlinger, now there are many people throughout the world using the internet as a tool to practice religions. He tells of how people join together in online “churches” and attend these churches virtually. These gatherings of religious believers are facilitated through online video stream, audio stream. and/or written religious messages. This is not a strictly Christian phenomenon. Dr. Veidlinger provides website links for virtual practice of various religions – among them Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Join in the exploration of this new religious frontier. Presentation Time: 49 minutes | View Now

Many Religions, One Science

Dr. John Mahoney
Biological Sciences Department, CSU, Chico

Many religions, one scienceDr. John Mahoney not only uses PowerPoint slides and a lecture to make his points, he also plays guitar and sings. He notes that there are major disagreements between religion and science, and that these disagreements have to do with empirical claims about the natural world and the different approaches. This results in discrepancies on such subjects as the creation of the world, the understanding of the changes/evolution in living organisms, and the relationship of humans with other animals. Furthermore, Dr. Mahoney contends, these discrepancies have consequences. Presentation Time: 34 minutes | View Now

Nature Religions and the Spiritualization of Science

Dr. Sarah Pike
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Nature Religions and the Spiritualization of ScienceDr. Sarah Pike studies the range of alternative spiritual movements in North America. This talk focuses on “nature religions,” including various contemporary forms of paganism. She points out that these religions are sometimes seen as being “anti-science” and “superstitious” by the scientific community, while they are often seen as “anti-religious” or “anti-Christian” by conservative evangelicals. Dr. Pike explains that these alternative religions have taken science and given it a spiritual twist – two examples of this are the Gaia Hypothesis and the theory of Quantum Physics. She goes on to describe both of these concepts. Presentation Time: 34 minutes | View Now

Buddhist Attitudes Towards Science & Technology

Dr. Daniel Veidlinger
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Buddhist Attitudes Towards Science and TechnologyAs an introduction to his presentation, Dr. Daniel Veidlinger notes, “Buddhism has long been considered a religion that is more amenable to scientific ways of thinking than many others. While divinities are mentioned, it does not require belief in a God as part of its core doctrines, but focuses rather on techniques such as meditation whose benefits can be scientifically investigated. The Buddha and other important figures in the religion have also spoken of the importance of using empirical experience to help guide one’s beliefs and practices. Furthermore, Buddhists have used their knowledge of science to achieve technological breakthroughs such as the printing press.” Presentation Time: 48 minutes | View Now

Emerging Adults on Religion & Science

Dr. Greg Cootsona
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Emerging Adults on Religion and ScienceDr. Greg Cootsona shares his research on young people age 18-30, called “Science for Students & Emerging Young Adults.” The guiding question for the research was, “How do emerging adults come to their attitudes about religion and science, and how do these attitudes change?” Dr. Cootsona notes that each new generation tries to figure out how to relate religion and science. Presentation Time: 53 minutes | View Now

"Earth First" or Anti-oppression? Ritual & Conflict Within Radical Environmentalism

Dr. Sarah Pike
Comparative Religion and Humanities Department, CSU, Chico

Ritual and Conflict within Radical EnvironmentalismDuring several years of conducting research about radical environmental groups such as “Earth First!”, Dr. Sarah Pike has been seeking the answers to two questions: (1) What is the relationship between ritual and social change – that is, are there cultural conditions underlying social change that include ritualizing? (2) What motivates young people to risk arrest, and sometimes their lives, in dangerous protests? She shares some of her observations of these groups, including a trend in radical environmentalism of linking the devastation of the natural world to other forms of abuse and oppression. Dr. Pike also talks about how the label “eco-terrorist” sparked her interest in this research. Presentation Time: 43 minutes | View Now

Buddhism and Chocolate Cake: How to be Happy

Robina Courtin
Buddhist Nun

How to be HappyThe Venerable Robina Courtin, a Buddhist nun from Australia, has worked full-time since the late 1970s for Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. In this presentation, she discusses the nature of happiness and where it comes from. But first, she outlines concepts such as the nature of the Buddha and how the Buddhist sees the mind. Along the way she includes some humor and practical examples. Presentation time: 1 hour, 44 minutes | View Now

Whither the Secular City

Dr. Louis Greenspan
Professor Emeritus, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Whither the Secular CityDr. Greenspan, a scholar of Canadian intellectual history and modern, liberal Jewish thought, traces the changing roles of religion and secularism in the past 60 years - both in universities and in the world. He draws on his personal observation of university religious studies departments from the 1950s, an era in which those departments seemed like "museums of a dying world," to the current era of dynamic international changes in which religion often plays a major role. Dr. Greenspan also discusses ideas from Charlies Taylor's book, "A Secular Age," and from Harvey Cox's book, "The Secular City." Presentation time: 57 minutes | View Now

Please note: During the first seven minutes of this presentation the sound is somewhat weak. After that, the audio is clear and at normal volume.

Bertrand Russell Editorial Project

Dr. Louis Greenspan
Professor Emeritus, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Decorative Only: Photo from the Bertrand Russell Editorial ProjectIn this lecture, Dr. Greenspan, director of the Bertrand Russell Editorial Project at McMaster University from 1994 to 1997 and its managing editor from 1986 to 1994, discusses Russell's writings on religion and chance. ("Chance" is the CSU, Chico Humanities Center theme for 2010-2011.) Russell's papers are housed at McMaster. The lecture focuses on Russell's "History of Philosophy." Bertrand Russell was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century. Among other things, Russell transformed logic and placed it at the center of philosophic inquiry. As a social critic, political thinker, and humanist, Russell addressed major issues such as nationalism and imperialism, modern industrialism, Soviet Communism, and the nuclear peril. For information about the Bertrand Russell Research Centre at McMaster University, go to the Centre's website. Presentation time: 1 hour, 8 minutes | View Now

Contested Knowledge: What Conspiracy Theories are Telling Us

Professor Rebecca Moore
Professor of Religious Studies, San Diego State University

Betrand Russell Editorial ProjectProfessor Moore's lecture focuses on the current interest, or revival, in various conspiracies, with a look at what they mean in terms of the democratic process. She is the author of "Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple" (Greenwood Press, 2009) and co-author (with Risa Levitt Kohn) of "A Portable God: The Origin of Judaism and Christianity" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). Presentation time: 50 minutes | View Now