Skip to main content area Skip to sub-navigation
Skip to main content

Major/Minor Requirements

Applicable for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The purpose of the academic study of religion is to analyze and interpret religious beliefs and practices in their cultural contexts and historical development. The discipline of religious studies requires critical reflection on ideas about the nature of reality, ideal forms of human society, rituals of individual and societal identity, and sources of authority in personal and social morality. Our faculty is formally trained in Biblical studies, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Our areas of expertise range from the ancient period to the present day, spanning the Near East and the Mediterranean, Europe, South, Southeast and East Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Every year we cross-list a variety of courses with Asian studies, with feminist and gender studies, and with race, ethnicity, and migration studies, and we regularly offer courses on indigenous traditions. Our department warmly invites you to explore our curriculum and discover the many ways that the study of religion inspires self-reflection and enhances critical thinking, offers knowledge of diverse cultures, and enriches the liberal arts education. 


The major in religion consists of 10.5 courses in religion, including:

  1. Three 100-level courses, at least one of which must be chosen from religions originating in Asia (160, 170, 180) and at least one of which must be chosen from religions originating in the Middle East (110, 120, 130, 140). These courses introduce students to basic skills and concepts in the academic study of religion, such as critical methods for the close reading of texts, the relation between religious beliefs and practices and their historical and cultural contexts, and basic elements of religion including myth, ritual, devotion, theology, and ethics.
  2. Two 200-level courses on topics in religious studies. These courses include material from two or more religious traditions, examine different interpretive approaches within a tradition, or compare patterns of the formation of religious identity or institutions in various traditions.
  3. Three 300-level courses in advanced study of a topic or tradition. These courses carry prerequisites and demand greater depth of reading and higher quality of writing. Students will typically conduct independent research in the completion of a major project.
  4. Seminar in Theory and Method (302). This seminar examines theories about the origin and function of religion, as well as leading methods of religious studies, through close reading of classic and contemporary texts. Enrollment is limited to junior and senior majors.
  5. Senior Project Preparation (405) in the fall of the senior year.
  6. Senior Thesis (406) or Senior Research Paper (407) in the spring of the senior year.
  7. Students may apply a maximum of 2 courses cross-listed with the Department of Religion but taught by faculty from outside the Department towards the satisfaction of the major.

We strongly recommend that majors gain proficiency in a foreign language, classical or modern. We further recommend that majors take a course in the study of religion in the social science division.  

Study Abroad:  The Department of Religion will consider giving students credit for courses taken abroad, but we do not typically award more than one unit towards the requirements for the major.  In order to consider such requests, we require that materials from the relevant course abroad be submitted to the chair, and then reviewed by the appropriate faculty member.  Students intending to study abroad and hoping to receive credit should therefore discuss proper procedures with their advisors prior to departing.

The department awards the graduation honor of Distinction in Religion for superior achievement in a senior thesis or cumulative excellence in departmental courses.  


The minor in religion consists of a minimum of five courses, distributed as follows and chosen in consultation with an adviser in the department:

  • Two 100-level courses.
  • Three upper-division courses, including at least one 200-level course and at least one 300-level course for which the student has completed the prerequisite.
  • Students may apply a maximum of 1 course cross-listed with the Department of Religion but taught by faculty from outside the department towards the satisfaction of the minor.