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.

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, economic, philosophical, psychological and artistic questions. We encourage religious studies majors to take relevant courses in other departments. The Department of Religious Studies maintains close relationships with interdisciplinary programs such as Asian and Middle East studies, American studies, African diaspora studies, international studies, and women's and gender studies. Our courses require no commitment to a particular faith. However, students of any background, secular or religious, can benefit from the personal questions of meaning and purpose that arise in every area of the subject.


The Curriculum

The curriculum mirrors the diversity of the faculty. We offer courses in Judaism, Christianity, religions of the Americas, Islam, Buddhism, South Asian religions and East Asian religions. Religious studies majors are required to take courses in at least four of these areas. In our courses we emphasize work with primary sources, both textual and nontextual. 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 introductory courses (RLST 101, 102 and 103) are designed especially for students new to the study of religion, although they are not prerequisites to other courses. 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 women and religion. 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 this purpose we especially recommend our foundation courses (200-level), which can also serve as first courses in religious studies.

A few upper-level courses do have specific prerequisites, and a few with no specific course prerequisites do require sophomore or junior standing. Please refer to the course descriptions for further information. The 200-, 300- and 400-level courses do not need to be taken in sequence.

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 Encountering Religion
  • RLST 390 Approaches to the Study of Religion
  • RLST 490 Senior Seminar

II. Four foundation or survey courses, one from four of the five areas listed below

  • Judaism
    • RLST 210 Creating Judaism
    • RLST 211 Jew-ish in a Modern World
    • RLST 215 The Bible and Its Interpreters
  • Christianity
    • RLST 220 Faith of Christians
    • RLST 225 New Testament
  • American Religions
    • RLST 230 Religion and Society in America
    • RLST 235 African Spirituality in the Americas
    • RLST 332 African American Religions
  • Islam and South Asian Religions
    • RLST 240 Classical Islam
    • RLST 250 South Asian Religions
  • Buddhism and East Asian Religions
    • RLST 260 Buddhist Thought and Practice
    • RLST 251 East Asian Religions

III. One course, 300 or 400 level, in one of the categories chosen from the areas above

IV. Two other elective courses in religious studies

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.


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 to three 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:

  • 1- 100 or 400 level course, all of which serve to introduce students to multiple religious traditions as well as various theoretical approaches to the study of religion
  • 4 other 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 200 level foundation course in a tradition that the student is not specializing in may serve as a substitute for the 100/400 level course requirement. 

Transfer Credit Policy

Courses taken abroad or as transfer credit may be counted towards major requirements, a maximum of two courses. 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 courses.  (For information on nondepartmental courses that may count towards the religious studies major, consult the department chair.)