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Religious Studies and Philosophy

The Religious Studies and Philosophy Department equips students with the means to examine critically and objectively fundamental truths about humanity, its place within the universe, and human understandings and experiences of ultimate, greater realities. Its course offerings share a common commitment to the reasoned and respectful exploration of beliefs and issues crucial to human existence and to the development of the student’s capacity to comprehend and evaluate questions that pertain to life, what gives life meaning, and what is ultimately true and real.

Religious literacy is a central component of preparatory education in an increasingly connected global society. The department aspires to foster a more humane, aware, and conscientious student and neither presumes nor promotes the particular ideals and values of any single system of belief. Its course offerings compel students to reflect actively upon responsible, consciousness-raising education as a component of meaningful social diversification and their overall intellectual and personal formation.

Students in the Third Form are required to take and complete the Sacred Texts and Ancient Peoples course. Students who enroll in the school after the Third Form are required first to complete the Comparative Religion course. Thereafter, all students must complete a minimum of any one-term departmental course offering at any point in or beyond the winter term of the Fourth Form, or in the fall term of the Fourth Form, pending departmental permission.
  • Classical Arabic and the Qur'an (W)

    This elective course offers an in-depth exploration of the foundational text of Islam and basic exposure to classical Arabic language. The course simultaneously allows students to become familiar with one of the world’s most influential scriptures and provides an introduction to a language that is more than two millennia old and yet is currently one of the five most spoken languages in the world. Students emerge from the course with an ability to read basic Arabic scripts, recognize a host of key Qur’anic concepts and terms in the original language, and appreciate this classical language in the context of religion and Arabic literary culture more broadly. This course will satisfy the Ethics requirement.
  • Comparative Religion (F)

    This course utilizes a comparative and conceptually-based methodological approach to introduce students to the phenomenological study of religion. Students identify fundamental concepts that comprise various manifestations of religious thought, meaning, experience, and behavior. The concepts are then examined within the purview and historical unfolding of five of the world’s major religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), in order to compare how adherents of these traditions in diverse times and places have adapted and reinterpreted them, while simultaneously maintaining continuity with their prior forms and expressions. By employing a methodology that not only is conceptual and historical, but also gives precedence to the first over the second, the course fosters a systematic and critically-disciplined understanding of religion.
  • Ethics (F)

    Why do people do what they do? How do people determine morality and make ethical decisions? What frameworks help societies to formulate ethical questions and examine their conclusions, related conduct, and behavior? This course explores classical ethical theories such as Utilitarianism, Egoism, and Cultural Relativism and examines how they may be applied to contemporary situations that require moral clarity and discernment. Case studies may address such issues as: environmental ethics; abortion and euthanasia; social justice; capital punishment; and, media ethics. The materials for the class include textbook readings, primary sources, popular culture, and news media. This course fulfills a one-term diploma requirement.
  • Islamic Ethics (W)

    This course is an introduction to the topic of ethics in Islamic intellectual history. Themes covered include gender relations, concepts of just warfare, approaches to poverty and wealth, and Islamic virtue ethics. How do Muslims, individually and as social collectives, seek to live righteously, peacefully, and productively by articulating and applying ethical principles derived from Islamic foundational sources? How do principles in Islamic ethics compare and contrast to other ethical frameworks? In answering these questions, attention is given to Islamic conceptions of justice and to the relationship between social norms and conceptions of law in historical and contemporary contexts. This course will satisfy the Ethics requirement.
  • Racial Justice (F)

    This course considers ethical topics relating to racial justice. We dive into historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives that help us understand better how racial categories are constructed and deployed. We look at social movements dedicated to combating racism and at contemporary ethical issues surrounding disenfranchisement and privilege. We consider race and representation in different forms of media. We also look at interlocking systems of oppression based on other identity categories. The course is grounded in the US context but also considers how racial categories function in different national and regional contexts. Students will reflect on their own experiences with racial categories. This course will satisfy the Ethics requirement.
  • Religion and the Public Sphere (F)

    This elective course builds upon Groton School’s required Third Form history course and offers an opportunity for students to delve deeper into the connections, influences, and encounters between faith traditions in the contemporary world. The course looks at different settings for interfaith dialogue and considers ways in which religious leaders from different traditions have engaged cooperatively in struggles for social justice. The course also looks at the ways in which religion and religious identity are used both as a wedge to exacerbate political conflicts and a bridge to engender healing and reconciliation. This course will satisfy the Ethics requirement.
  • Sacred Texts and Ancient Peoples (Y)

    Taught jointly by the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department and the History Department, this course introduces students to religious traditions and the history and cultures that shaped their origins and development. Global in scope, the course considers religious traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as Chinese philosophies. Similarly, the course surveys traditions and history of Africa and the Americas and the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. This foundational course introduces students to religious pluralism, methods for the study and interpretation of religion, history, and culture; it aids students in gaining religious literacy and intercultural knowledge; and it develops students' skills as note-takers, critical readers, analytical writers, researchers, and interpreters of primary sources.
  • Women and Ethics (S)

    This course introduces key theories and methods in women’s studies, explores the works of women moral philosophers, and probes ethical issues related to women and gender. Themes and topics covered include sexual and reproductive ethics, feminist social theories and movements, the concept of intersectionality, including womanist and muherista contributions to moral philosophy, and themes related to women’s leadership and political activism. The course focuses on honing academic writing skills and provides students with an opportunity to explore their voice and views on important issues of public concern. This course will satisfy the Ethics requirement.

Our Faculty

  • Photo of Celene Ibrahim
    Celene Ibrahim
  • Allison Read