Religious Studies Major

Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion

Department Faculty

The Religious Studies Program

The academic discipline of the study of religion investigates the religious dimension of human experience throughout history, across cultures, and around the world. Courses in religious studies acquaint students with the world’s major traditions, texts, and figures. Students learn the methodologies of religious studies and engage in critical discussion of diverse themes, issues, and theories related to the study of these traditions. Leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies, the major in religion offers close faculty guidance and a high degree of flexibility such that individual interests are both encouraged and supported. Well-trained in the tools of a liberal arts education necessary for many careers, graduates of the major enter the world beyond college with a broad cultural awareness that appreciates the challenges of diversity and the ability to engage in dialogue skillfully. They are trained to conduct research, to think critically, and to write and express ideas persuasively. Religious studies majors have pursued careers in fields such as public relations, journalism, teaching, library science, service organizations, business, and the arts. The Religious Studies major also prepares students for graduate or divinity school in the study of religion, as well as for graduate study in other fields such as law and social work.

Honors are awarded in Religious Studies on the basis of excellence both in coursework for the major and in a final project for RELG 401. Only students who complete 401 are eligible for Honors. Internships are available to qualified students.

Courses in other disciplines are accepted towards the Religious Studies major, which allows students to have an interdisciplinary approach in the formation of their major. Various religious studies offerings also complement work in American studies, anthropology, classics, drama, English, history, international affairs, philosophy, and psychology, among other disciplines. The Religious Studies program contributes to several minors, including Contemplative Studies and Asian Studies, as well as to the American Studies Program.

Requirements for the Religious Studies Major

Thirty (30) credits including the introductory sequence (RELG 101 and 102); one course from Abrahamic religions (RELG 103, 117, 204, 205, 206, 208, 210, 252, or 253); one course from non-Abrahamic religions (RELG 251, 283, 284, or 383); fifteen (15) additional credits, nine of which must be at the 300- or 400-level (at least two of these must be religion courses or CPRD 104, 299, 304, PHIL 301, ANTH 318); and either 401 or another 300- or 400-level course.  Additional courses (such as Special Topics in other disciplines) may count as electives towards the major with the approval of the Chair.

Religious Studies Course Offerings

Religious Studies course offerings will be found under the 4 letter code of RELG in the course listings.

101 – Introduction to World Religions (3)

Survey of the major religions of the world including among others Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Daoism.

102 – Introduction to the Study of Religion (3)

Examination of the religious dimension of human life, the ways in which it is defined, and the methods by which it is studied.

103 – The Abrahamic Religions (3)

Introduction to the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

117 – Introduction to Christian Theology (3)

Christian theology is characterized as a way of seeking to make sense of life in relation to central doctrines and concepts.

201 – Judaism (3)

Historical and religious development of Judaism from biblical times to the present.

205 – Hebrew Bible (3)

Study of the literature, history, and culture of ancient Israel within the broader context of the ancient Near East.

206 – Christian Beginnings (3)

Study of the literature, history, and beliefs of the first Christians within the broader cultural context of the Roman Empire.

208 – Christianity After the New Testament (3)

In this course, we will consider the interaction between Christianity and Imperial power, the creation of a specifically Christian culture, the origins and development of the ascetic movement within Christianity, Christian conflicts with the Jews and Hellenes, and the ways that Christian ritual and sacred space changed the landscape of the Mediterranean world.

210 – Islam (3)

This introductory course examines the Quran, the life of the prophet Muhammad, Islamic law, philosophy, theology, mysticism, and art.

211 – Greek and Roman Religion (3)

The public, personal, and mystery religions of the Greeks and Romans, and the development of classical religious ideas. Cross-listed as CLAS 211.

231 – Special Studies in Religion (3)

Among topics taught at different times: Current Theological Issues, The Roman Catholic Tradition, World Religions II. Different subjects taught under this course number count as different courses.

250 – African American Religions (3)

A study of the variety of African American religious expression from colonial times to the present. Course will include slave religions, African American interpretations of Protestant and Roman Catholic thought, religion and the Civil Rights struggle, as well as Santeria and Voodoo.

251 – Native American Religions (3)

A study of the variety of Native American religious expression from pre-European contact times to the present. Course will explore the similarities and differences among the beliefs of the First Nations, as well as a discussion of how contact with European settlers influences those beliefs.

252 – Religion and Politics in Islam (3)

This course is designed to familiarize students with political aspects of Islam, in particular radical Islam and its major ideologues.  The emphasis will be placed on modern and contemporary periods (1850-present).

253 – Muhammad and the Qur’an (3)

In this course, the life of Prophet Muhammad with special emphasis on his sayings (Hadith literature) will be studied first, followed by an in-depth study of the Qur’an.  Verses of the Qur’an will be analyzed and interpreted, particularly those that are in dialogue with Judaism and Christianity.

277 – Religion in America Before the Civil War (3)

An examination of principal figures, trends, and issues in religion in America from the pre-contact era to the Civil War.

278 – Religion in America After the Civil War (3)

An examination of the principal figures, trends, and issues in religion in America from the Civil War to present day.

283 – Hinduism (3)

This course explores the diverse beliefs, rituals, and literatures of Indian religion that constitute Hinduism, the historical progression of their development, and their current expressions throughout the world. Cross-listed as PHIL 283.

284 – Buddhism (3)

This course surveys Indian Buddhism’s diverse doctrines, practices, ethics, objectives, and their evolution over its 2500-year history, concluding with an examination of their transmission to the West. A major component is in-class contemplative and interactive exercises to reflect on core content and explore its relationship to human experience. Cross-listed as PHIL 284.

298 – Ethics of Religion and Violence (3)

Compares Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim constructions of the moral self, and explores provocative exemplars renowned for their response to violence, injustice and power in the modern world.


Prerequisites: All 300- and 400-level religious studies courses have as a prerequisite any 100- or 200-level religion course or permission of the instructor.


302 –Virgins, Monks, and Hermits (3)

In this course, we will explore some of the most influential early Christian ascetics, as well as their most extreme practices such as sexual renunciation, fasting, and poverty.

303 – Sex, Gender, and Religion in America (3)

A historical and thematic examination of the ways in which sexual identity, gender identity, and religion have shaped each other in American culture and history.

304 – Significant Books in American Religious History (3)

A reading-intensive examination of books that have played a critical role either in shaping American religious history or interpreting periods of American religious history.

305 – Religion and Politics in the United States (3)

A historical and thematic examination of the interaction of religion and politics in U.S. culture.

309 – Death and Dying in Early Christianity (3)

In this course, we will narrow our study to how early Christians thought about, ritualized, and created theological principals around the various processes of and theories on the topic of death and dying.

310 – Women and Sexuality in the Western Religious Tradition (3)

Study of the changing understanding and roles of women and sexuality in the western religious tradition from the origins of Christianity to modern times.

318 – Philosophy of Religion (3)

Philosophical examination of such topics as the relationship between faith and reason, the existence or non-existence of God, life after death, mysticism, and miracles. Cross-listed as PHIL 318.

331 – Special Studies in Religion (3)

Among topics taught at different times: Asceticism, Body, and Gender in Late Antiquity; 19th-Century Theology; Religion and Politics in Islam, Early Christian Monasticism. Different subjects taught under this course number count as different courses.

341 – Major Religious Thinkers (3)

Among thinkers studied in some depth at different times: Augustine, Avicenna, al-Ghazzali, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Wiesel. Different figures taught under this course number count as different courses.

353 – Islamic Philosophy and Theology (3)

Central themes and topics in the Islamic theological and philosophical tradition will be discussed in some detail.  Such topics include the existence of God, free will and determinism, eschatology, ontology and epistemology.  References will be made between major Islamic philosophers and their medieval Christian counterparts.  Cross-listed as PHIL 353.

383 – Yoga in Theory, History, and Contemporary Society (3)

Critically explores the long history and diverse beliefs, practices, rituals and literatures of the religions that constitute Yoga, especially their theories of the body, mind and transcendence, as well as their popular expressions throughout the contemporary world.

400 – Research Seminar: Selected Religious Texts (3)

Prerequisite: Junior or senior status or consent of instructor. In-depth study of selected religious texts chosen by the instructor. Text selection will vary; examples include the Bhagavadgita, Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments and Augustine’s Confessions.

401 – Guided Research (3)

Preparation of a senior thesis under the direction of the religion faculty. Choice of topic by student.

491, 492 – Individual Study (1-3, 1-3)

Individual work under the guidance of the religion faculty. By permission of the instructor and chair.

499 – Internship (1–6)

Supervised off-campus learning experience, developed in consultation with the religion faculty.

Classics-Philosophy-Religion Course Offerings

Classics-Philosophy-Religion course offerings will be found under the 4 letter code of CRPD in the course listings.

100 – Topics in Classics, Philosophy, and Religion (3)

Special interdisciplinary offerings in Classics, Philosophy, and Religion

104 – Meditation and Contemplative Practices (3)

This course offers a practical, experiential and theoretical introduction to mindfulness meditation and contemplation.  Students learn and practice meditation techniques daily while exploring the contemplative practices and theories of diverse cultural traditions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, such as philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.

299 – Mysterium Humanum Studies (3)

Different topics of fundamental human concern are treated at different times in this interdisciplinary course involving the entire faculty of the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion. Topics covered in the past include “Wrestling with Death,” “The Tempest of Time,” “Sex and Society in the West,” and “Slavery.”

301, 302 – Studies in Ancient Languages (3, 3)

Introduction to the morphology and syntax of selected ancient languages relevant to the study of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion (such as Coptic, Quranic Arabic, and Sanskrit). By permission of instructor. These courses do not satisfy the College’s general education requirement for proficiency in a foreign language.

304 – Contemplative Practice II (3)

Prerequisite: CPRD 104.  Contemplative Practice II is a continuation of CPRD 104.  Students will further develop and refine their daily meditation practice by exploring additional techniques and advanced topics.  It also surveys current trends in psychological and neuroscientific research on meditation, and deeply engages related philosophical concepts and debates.

331 – Cross-disciplinary Topics in Classics, Philosophy, and Religion (3)

A consideration of a theme from the perspective of two or three of the disciplines taught in the Department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion.