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Grace Eberly

Rethinking Religion: Enrolling in classes focused on religion benefits all students

Columnist Grace Eberly discusses what religion courses she thinks Ohio University students should take during their academic careers.


Spring Semester course registration is just around the corner, and students will fight tooth and nail to get the last remaining seats in Bowling and Introduction to Ceramics.

I, of course, have nothing against recreation studies or studio art, but I want to challenge every Ohio University student to step outside of their comfort zone when signing up for classes in the coming weeks. Take a course that you normally wouldn’t. Take a course that none of your friends are taking. Take a course that will introduce you to diverse perspectives. Take a course that will challenge you academically and personally. Take a course in classics and world religions.”Difficult Dialogues: Religion, Gender and Sexuality” (CLWR 2220) is simply one option among many. This course will challenge your assumptions about gender and sexuality in relation to religious experience. You will meet students whose religious inclinations are radically different from your own. Together you will try to make sense of these things. You will walk away with a clearer understanding of the complex intersectionality of religion and gender. More importantly, you will walk away with a clearer understanding of yourself and your own beliefs.

Or maybe you are looking for something a little more sinister. Try “What is Evil?” (CLWR 2230) — a course dedicated to exploring the various ways that human beings have historically grappled with the seemingly-undeniable existence of evil. You will try to answer the fundamental question through a consideration of the perspectives of the major world religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Speaking of Buddhism, get your Zen on and take the course focused on that religion, (CLWR 3350) with Brian Collins, the Gawande chair in Indian religion and philosophy. You will learn about the tradition’s doctrines, practices and institutions and look at the way Buddhist ideas have taken shape in specific geographical locations and in particular historical contexts. Collins is an expert in every sense of the word, and I can tell you from experience that his lectures are relevant and engaging. Bonus: He is a cool professor and an even cooler person. It should be a sin (pun intended) to leave OU without meeting him.

Interested in Christianity? Consider taking “New Testament” (CLWR 3320) or “Sex and the Bible” (a brand new course — UP 4901) with Cory Crawford. Yep — that’s right. Sex. And the Bible. Need I say more?

Don’t forget about “Theories of Religion” (CLWR 3360) or “Political Islam” (CLWR 4330), taught by Loren Lybarger, who recently returned from doing field work for his research on “Secularism and the Religious Return among Palestinians in Chicago.” If you are interested in Islam or the Middle East, Lybarger is your guy.

And last but certainly not least, consider taking Self-denial and Religion: Virgins, Monks, Hermits and other Ascetics (CLWR 3450). You will examine the fascinating phenomenon of asceticism — the rejection of physical pleasure and material wealth — in both philosophical and religious contexts.

Regardless of your major, taking a course in world religions will enhance your college experience. You will develop critical thinking skills, skills that employers value and appreciate. You will be introduced to a much larger, richer world than the one you know now. You will be challenged in the most incredible way and for it, you will come out a better academic and a better human being.

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I must admit my bias: In the spring, I will graduate from OU with a B.A. in World Religions. Since transferring to OU and joining this department three years ago, I have had the privilege of learning from some of the most knowledgeable scholars I have ever known. As a student in this department, I have been nurtured, enlightened and inspired. I can tell you with total confidence that your own experience will be nothing short of spectacular, rewarding and transformative.

If you are a freshman or sophomore just beginning your time at OU, take a religion course. If you are a junior or senior who will soon leave this academic institution, take a religion course. If you are a believer, take a religion course. If you are a nonbeliever, take a religion course. If you are a human being who interacts with other human beings (all of you, presumably), take a religion course.

Grace Eberly is a senior studying world religions and biology.What religion courses are you interested in? Email her at

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