College Of Arts And Sciences | Religion, Medicine and Suffering
E103 | 0033 | Orsi


E103 Religion, Medicine and Suffering (3 Cr.) MW 10:10-11:00 ED 1120
(section 0033, plus discussion section) (Orsi)

The modest belief in the proposition that God is not mad has been proposed
as a minimal definition of religion.  Men and women who are suffering,
however, whether from physical pain, emotional distress, or other critical
difficulties may have special trouble with this idea.  This class will
explore the ways in which pain has been interpreted and understood in the
religious traditions of the West.  We will begin with some considerations
of pain itself and on the cultural process by which pain (of various
sorts) is transformed into suffering and into the ideas of sickness.  Then
we will look at the ways in which sickness and pain have been imagined,
interpreted, and experienced by religious people.  Our topics will
include: religious healing; sickness and ritual; the western traditions of
asceticism and martyrdom; missionaries to the sick; and leprosy as a
spiritual idea.  We will consider some of the characteristic western
strategies of theodicy, which is the attempt to account for the existence
of evil and suffering in a world presided over by a good God.

Textbooks: Susan Sontag, Illness as a Metaphor; Harold Kushner, When Bad
Things Happen to Good People; Dominique La Pierre; At the Will of the
Body.