Requirements: Religious Studies

Humanities Division

We understand the study of religion as a crucial element in the larger study of culture and history. We consider the study of religion to be inherently interdisciplinary and a necessary component for intercultural literacy and, as such, essential to the liberal arts curriculum. Our goals include helping students to recognize and examine the important role of religion in history and the contemporary world; to explore the wide variety of religious thought and practice, past and present; to develop methods for the academic study of particular religions and religion in comparative perspective; and to develop the necessary skills to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the nature and role of religion. Our courses require no commitment to a particular faith.

Since the phenomena that we collectively call "religion" are so varied, it is appropriate that they be studied from a variety of theoretical perspectives and with a variety of methods. The diversity of areas of specialization and approaches to the study of religion among our faculty members ensures the representation of many viewpoints. Our courses investigate the place of religion in various cultures in light of social, political, historical, economic, philosophical, psychological and artistic questions. We encourage religious studies majors to take relevant courses in other departments. The Religious Studies Department maintains close relationships with interdisciplinary programs including African diaspora studies, American studies, Asian and Middle East studies, international studies, women's and gender studies.

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The Curriculum

The curriculum mirrors the diverse areas of expertise of the faculty. We offer courses in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, American religions, East Asian religions and South Asian religions. Religious studies majors are required to take courses in at least three of these areas. In our courses we emphasize work with primary sources, both textual and non-textual. To this end, students are encouraged to study relevant languages and to spend at least part of their junior year abroad in an area of the world relevant to their particular interests.

Our 100-level introductory courses are designed especially for students new to the study of religion. RLST 101, 102 and 103 are introductions to the discipline of religious studies. RLST 101 is a regular lecture/discussion class; RLST 102 covers the same material in the format of a seminar limited to first-year students; RLST 103, also a first-year seminar, covers equivalent material with a focus on religion, gender and sexuality. All other 100-level courses are introductions to distinct religious traditions or the religions of distinct geographic regions. Students who enroll in any one of these and wish to fulfill their humanities requirement with religious studies courses may do so by taking any other course in the department for which they are eligible.

Our 200-level courses are advanced courses in distinct religious traditions or the religions of distinct geographic regions. These courses further a student's understanding of a given religion or a given geographic area's religious life. Our 300-level courses focus on themes important to the study of religion or on influential theoretical and methodological approaches in the discipline of religious studies. Aside from those courses listing specific prerequisites, there is no required sequence in which our courses must be taken. However, we encourage those new to the study of religion to start with the courses at the 100-level.

Requirements for the Major

Students majoring in religious studies are required to take a total of at least 10 courses. The courses should include the following:

I. Required courses for all majors

  • RLST 101, 102 or 103
  • At least one 200-level course
  • At least one 300-level course
  • RLST 490 Senior Seminar
  • Any other six courses in the department

II. Of the 10 courses required for the major, three should be courses covering distinct religious traditions or religions of distinct geographic regions. These courses may be drawn from any three of the seven areas listed below. They may be taken at the 100- or 200-levels.

  • Buddhism
    • RLST 160 Buddhist Thought and Practice
    • RLST 265 Zen Buddhism
    • RLST 272 Modern Buddhism
  • Christianity
    • RLST 120 Faith of Christians
    • RLST 125 New Testament
    • RLST 213 Medieval Christianity
    • RLST 217 Christianity in the Global South
    • RLST 219 Christian Mysticism
    • RLST 255 Parting of the Ways
  • Islam
    • RLST 140 Islam's Diverse Paths
    • RLST 285 Voices of Contemporary Islam
    • RLST 290 Seminar on Sufism
    • RLST 295 Islam in North America
  • Judaism
    • RLST 110 Creating Judaism
    • RLST 115 The Bible and Its Interpreters
    • RLST 165 Jew-ish in a Modern World
    • RLST 205 Defense Against the Dark Arts
    • RLST 255 Parting of the Ways
  • American Religions
    • RLST 130 Religion and Society in America
    • RLST 135 African Spirituality in the Americas
    • RLST 242 African American Religions
    • RLST 252 Rastafari
    • RLST 280 Religion and Popular Music in the African Diaspora
  • East Asian Religions
    • RLST 166 East Asian Religions
    • RLST 265 Zen Buddhism
  • South Asian Religions
    • RLST 150 Hinduism in its Religious Context
    • RLST 160 Buddhist Thought and Practice

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in religious studies consists of two components:

  • Senior Paper: A 15-20 page paper on a religious studies related topic of the student's choosing. The paper will be drafted as part of the "Senior Seminar" (taken during the fall semester of senior year) and then revised and submitted early in the spring semester. This paper will form the core of the student's presentation during the Senior Conference.
  • Senior Conference: The Conference consists of panels of students who will discuss each other's Senior Papers. All departmental faculty will attend the Conference and other students and guests may be invited. All attendees will also have a chance to engage in discussion with students on their Senior Papers.

Honors

Students with an overall grade point average of 3.33 or better and 3.5 or better in religious studies courses are eligible to submit a proposal for an honors project. Honors candidates select a field of concentration entailing two courses of advanced research and writing under the supervision of one or more faculty members.

Requirements for the Minor

The religious studies minor is designed to expose students in a systematic way to the study of religion, while simultaneously giving them some degree of more advanced knowledge in at least one religious tradition. A total of five courses are required for the minor in religious studies. The following are the minimum requirements:

  • RLST 101, 102, 103 or one 300-level course, all of which serve to introduce students to multiple religious traditions as well as various theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion
  • Any other four courses in the department

There are multiple pathways to fulfilling the minor requirements. 

  • Should a student desire to learn about a variety of religious traditions, themes, and theoretical questions, they can choose widely from the available course offerings. 
  • Should a student desire to focus on a single religious tradition or geographic region, that student should arrange to meet with the relevant faculty to devise a course plan. Students who focus on one particular tradition or region will be qualified to claim specialization (such as a minor in “Jewish studies” or “American religions”) upon resumes/curriculum vitae. In these cases, a 100-level course in a tradition or region that the student is not specializing in may serve as a substitute for the 101/102/103 or 300-level course requirement. 

Transfer Credit Policy

A maximum of two courses taken abroad or as transfer credit may be counted towards major requirements. Religious studies majors who wish to use these courses to satisfy requirements for the major must discuss them with their advisor and department chair before taking the course. (For information on nondepartmental courses that may count towards the religious studies major, consult the department chair.)