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Human-Animal Studies: Courses in Religious Studies

Religious Studies Overview

This is a list of colleges and universities around the world who provide courses for Religious Studies in relation to the human-animal relationship.  This includes the name of the college, the name of the course, who is teaching the course, and brief description of the Religious Studies course that the instructor will be covering.


Canisius College

Religious Perspectives on Animals.

Paul Waldau

Comparative survey of mankind’s religious perspectives on other species.


Claremont School of Theology

Animal Theology, Animal Ethics: Rethinking Human-Animal Relations

Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Animal studies (a.k.a. human-animal studies) represents the cutting edge of academe, as scholars from a wide variety of disciplines are increasingly acknowledging that we can no longer bracket “the question of the animal” if we are to live truly examined lives. This course provides a serious engagement with philosophical and theological discourse on the ethical status of nonhuman animals as well as the nature and extent of human obligations toward them. As we raise classical philosophical, theological, and legal/public policy questions about animals (e.g., can animals be directly wronged? Does/did God delight in animal sacrifices?), we will discover that we are simultaneously raising perennial questions about the human condition.


Claremont Lincoln University

Vegan/Vegetarian Nonviolence: Ahimsa in Theory

Brianne Donaldson


Episcopal Divinity School

The Environment, Eco-Justice, and the Christian Faith

Norman Faramelli

This course will focus on basic environmental issues confronting our planet- and the necessity of developing a bicentric view if we are to be faithful to the doctrine of Creation. But in addition to concerns for air and water quality, land pollution, and the depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, we will explore and develop the linkages between the natural environment and concerns for social justice in all areas.


Guilford College

Animals in Religion

Eric D. Mortensen

In this course, we will examine the differing roles and relationships animals play in a variety of religious traditions. We begin the semester with a study of ancient humans and their religious relationship with the natural world, and look in depth at the religious roles of animals in Native American traditions of the Pacific Northwest. We will then address animals in Abrahamic thought and in various religious cultures across the globe. Some attention will be paid to so-called “world religions” including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. However, we will pay considerable attention to the roles of non-human animals in more “local” traditions in Native America, areas in the Himalayas, India, China, Africa, and Circumpolar regions. We will use these particular cultural histories as paradigms in the consideration of several themes and topics. This class will take as its central theme the possibility that animals can be seen as subjects, rather than as objects. We will also devote several weeks of the course to themes including: the ritual function of animals in human religious worlds; differing understandings of animals’ relationships with the divine; deep ecology; sacrifice; divination; anthropomorphism and zoomorphism; animal consciousness and intelligence; magic; creationism, evolution, and scientific discourse; animal rights; and the relationship between human children and animals. Central to our work will be the evaluation of theoretical models of comparison and their relevance to the study of animals in the history of religion.


Harvard University

Religion and Animals

Paul Waldau

Students trace the history and shape of this emerging academic field and its relation to other academic disciplines. Students also examine social, public policy, conceptual, environmental, ethical and philosophical implications of the field. Class sessions are discussion-based, and students undertake both group work and a number of individualized writing projects.


Harvard University Divinity School

Animals and Religion

Kimberley Patton

Focuses on the symbolism and ritual function of animals in human religious worlds. Using particular cultural histories as paradigms, considers themes such a cosmogony, hierarchy, magic, metamorphosis, antinomianism, prophecy, mimesis, hunting, sacrifice, and the role of fantastic creatures. Central to the course is the evaluation of developmentalist and other theoretical models and their impact on the history of religion. (This course is taught periodically. Please contact the instructor for scheduling.)


Indiana University

Science, Religion, and the Environment

Lisa Sideris

Examines arguments that hold scientific and religious world views responsible for our environmental crisis and the devaluation of nonhuman animal life. The structure of the course follows a thesis-antithesis-synthesis format. We start with a historical survey of Christian thinkers (Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther) up to and including modern Christian thinkers who have been criticized by environmentalists. We then cover scientific thinkers, such as Bacon and Descartes, and modern physicists. The third section involves a reconsideration of the thesis that science and/or religion have been responsible for environmental problems and disregard for animals. We look at thinkers both in science and religion who have contributed positively to the human-nature relationship, both in the past and present.


Loyola Marymount University

Ecology and Theology

Christopher Chapple

In this course we will explore the responses to ecological degradation from a variety of the world’s religious traditions. We will also engage in service projects that relate to actions being taken to correct and improve the environment . The course will begin with an overview of how the world’s religious traditions are responding to such issues as global climate change, rising species extinctions, issues over access to clean water, and the effects of chemicals within the environment.


University of Toronto

Religion and Animals.

Paul York

This course examines animals in myths, legends, parables, and how animals figure into religious and cultural identities. It also examines the intersection of religious cosmologies, mythology, religious art, religious imagination, animal ethics, and environmental problems. The topic of religion and animals is a growing field of religious studies. Animals appear in numerous myths, legends and parables, as anthropomorphized symbols of human traits, as bearers of moral instruction, as agents of supernatural powers, and as divine messengers. Such questions as how to treat them properly and how human beings differ from them have helped define religious and cultural identities for millennia. In recent years scholars of religion have begun to bring together this corpus of material under a unified subject heading: religion and animals.


Webster University

Environments and Religion

Joseph Stimpfl


Wilson College

Thinking About Animals

David True

This seminar examines prominent interpretations of animals in philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions, in conversation with recent revisionist interpretations.  Central to the seminar is the relationship between animals, human beings, morality, and religious understandings of the divine.  Questions to be considered include: What are the origins of our interpretations of animals?  What, if anything, distinguishes human beings and animals?  How should animals be treated?  Should we continue to ride horses, eat meat, and experiment on animals?

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