Religious Studies | Religion & The Self: Augustine, Kierkegaard, Freud
R365 | 3786 | Miller


This course is about the relationship between religion, psychology, and the moral life.  It focuses on the quality of dispositions;
our loves, fears, hatreds, and regrets; our sense of responsibility to ourselves and others; our (anxious) awareness that we are
limited in body and time; and our attempt to craft a narrative of self-understanding.  With these themes in mind, we will examine
questions of virtue, self-knowledge, religious experience, and the challenge of authenticity.

Some focal questions include: Is religion a source of psychic health, or an obstacle to it?  What problems is religion meant to
cure?  What problems do religious beliefs create?  How does religion bear upon our loves, our past, our mortality, our doubts?  We
will also look at concrete actions, cultural practices, and religious institutions.  Along the way we'll ask whether it is really
possible to want to do evil, whether it is possible to love or grieve too much, what is meant by purity of heart, whether we ought
to love the dead (and if so, how).  We'll think about these and other questions while looking at relationships with mothers and
fathers, the emergence of mega-churches, wearing authentic NBA apparel, and eating ethnic fast food.

We will study these questions and cases through the works of Augustine, Soren Kierkegaard, and Sigmund Freud.  These authors
examined how the self can be a problem to itself.  They were strong poets of self-analysis who turned to religion to provide either
a cure for or an explanation of the self's internal woes.  Each author believed that the path to truth was taken through
self-examination.  What we find as they direct us along that path will be a central topic of this course.  These authors also saw
their ideas as having broader implications for cultural and social criticism.  Their brilliant efforts to study the self's longings,
pathologies, cultural authorities, and religious practices will be the focus of our readings and discussions.