Courses in Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam form the core offerings in the department. Students examine cultural and social expressions of those religions (sacred texts, rituals, spiritual and legal writings, institutions) at a particular period, over time, and in relation to broader historical, philosophical, and ethical issues. In addition, a number of elective courses are offered that focus on a particular theme, issue, or tradition not covered in the core offerings. Such courses include Rationality and Religious Belief and Religion of Ancient Egypt.

Required for the major in religious studies

Students who complete the major in religious studies will understand and explain the basic historical development of at least one major religious tradition, as well as some of its complexities, given that religious traditions are dynamic evolving phenomena with multiple interpretive strands. They will understand and explain basic elements of at least two theories or approaches to the academic study of religion and use this knowledge to analyze religious traditions and draw their own conclusions, producing clear, thesis-driven papers reflecting these skills.

The major in religious studies requires the following:

  1. RLST 100: Introduction to Religious Studies
  2. Three 200-level courses on religious traditions
  3. Two 300-level theory courses
  4. One 400- or 500-level seminar
  5. Two electives in religious studies
  6. RLST 610: Senior Projects

Independent studies/tutorials may be used to fulfill only the elective requirement.

Majors must complete a senior capstone project, which includes taking the Senior Projects course and presenting at the religious studies symposium at the end of spring term of their senior year.

Senior Experience in religious studies

The Senior Experience in religious studies consists of a one-term seminar (RLST 610, taught in the spring term) that gives students the opportunity to complete a project (usually a paper, but other formats are possible) that builds upon the previous course work and academic experiences of the student. The class also offers students an introduction to several theoretical perspectives that will enable them to see their project from a broadly comparative perspective. Additionally, students are required to participate in a departmental symposium, in which student work is presented and discussed by majors, minors, and faculty. Students pursuing double majors, double degrees, or teacher certification are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisors and relevant departments to plan and negotiate their overall Senior Experience as early as possible.

Required for the minor in religious studies

The minor in religious studies is intended to enable students to concentrate on a particular religious tradition or set of issues connected to the academic study of religion.  It requires a minimum of five courses (30 units), which include:

  1. Two 200-level courses (12 units) on religious traditions
  2. One 300-level theory course
  3. A 400- or 500-level seminar course
  4. One additional six-unit course.

    RLST 100 (Introduction to Religious Studies) is not required for the minor but may count as the elective.

Graduate school

Students considering graduate work in religious studies should note that completion of a graduate degree typically requires demonstrated proficiency in at least one modern foreign language, normally French or German, as well as one or more additional languages depending on the area of concentration. College work leading toward graduate study should be planned with these requirements in mind.