Religious Studies

Why take courses in this discipline?

Religious studies helps you develop tools to understand the complex ways that people across history and around the world have practiced and engaged with religious traditions to oppose oppression, justify violence, understand their bodies, and give meaning to their lives. Our curriculum is among the most international on campus and many majors study abroad, bringing their experiences to capstone seminars and mentored research projects. We prepare you for a diverse world and a variety of professional paths including law, medicine, and nonprofit leadership.

How does this discipline contribute to the liberal arts?

All of the courses in the religious studies department involve communication/writing and the study of human behavior and society.

What kinds of questions are asked in this discipline?

To study religion is to ask about the traditions, literatures, practices, and beliefs that have shaped human societies since the earliest civilizations. We ask how rituals and festivals organize perceptions of time and place, how spiritual disciplines develop modes of physical and mental awareness, and how ideas of holiness, justice, love, and beauty have influenced the highest aspirations of human beings. Many of our courses focus on how studying religion helps us to understand contemporary society and culture, exploring, for example, connections between religion and racism, religion and film, and religion and politics.

How does a student get started?

First-year students should take one of the 100-level Studying Religion courses. Many non-majors take one or more of these 100-level courses, though only one 100-level course may be counted toward the major. Completing a 100-level course will enable first-year students to waive the second-year standing prerequisite for most 200-level courses. Second-year students and above may enroll in 200-level courses without having taken a 100-level course.

Courses in Religious Studies

All Courses in Religious Studies

Regular 200-Level Courses

  • The Hebrew Bible
  • The Christian Scriptures
  • Zen Buddhism
  • Religious Traditions of India
  • Global Christianities
  • Gods of Bollywood
  • Religion is Everywhere
  • Islam in the Modern Era
  • Islam and Gender
  • Religion, Philosophy, and the Good Life
  • Islamic Law in Theory and Practice
  • The Crusades in the Middle East
  • Religion, Healing, and Health
  • Women and Religion
  • Religion and Food
  • The Life of the Quran
  • Religion and Politics in Modern China
  • Being Muslim in America
  • Violence and Nonviolence

Recent Seminars

  • Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
  • Advanced Topics in Religious Studies

Recent Special Topics

  • Race and Religion in the U.S.
  • Guilt, Atonement, and Forgiveness
  • Pilgrimage, Voyage, and Journey
Sample Four-Year Plan for a Religious Studies Major
Year Fall Spring
First REL 101, 102, 103, 104, or 105 REL 2XX
Second REL 2XX REL 2XX
Third REL 311 off-campus study
Fourth REL 2XX REL 394

Off-Campus Study

Religious studies majors have studied in India, Rome, Copenhagen, London, Jerusalem, Bhutan, Istanbul, Sri Lanka, Tokyo, and other places. Religious studies courses taken at other institutions can count toward the major with approval from the department.

Contributions to Other Majors/Concentrations

Some courses in religious studies contribute to these majors/concentrations:

Department Events and Opportunities

Annual Gates Lecture and other outside speakers, support for internships, the Burkle Prize, career workshops, and others.

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