Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies
The field of religious studies engages enduring questions about religion and human society. It investigates religions and how they shape and are shaped by human cultures. The study of religion allows us to consider humanity in its quest for transcendence and communion with the divine. It permits us in turn to see what effect these desires have had on individuals and communities for good and sometimes for ill.
Religion is expressed in many forms throughout the world's cultures, and the academic study of religion therefore requires multiple perspectives on the subject. Students of religion should know the historical development of specific religious traditions, understand and critically engage the ethical and intellectual teachings of various religions, and begin to make some comparative appraisals of the roles that religions play in different cultures and historical periods. Reflecting these multiple perspectives on religion, the courses offered through the undergraduate concentration in religious studies fall into three major groups:
Historical Studies in Religious Traditions: courses investigating the development of particular religious traditions, including their social practices, rituals, scriptures, and beliefs in historical context.
Constructive Studies in Religion: courses that investigate constructive or normative questions about the nature and conduct of human life that are raised by religious traditions, including work in philosophy of religions, ethics, and theology.
Cultural Studies in Religion: courses that introduce issues in the social and cultural contingencies of religious thought and practice by emphasizing sociological, anthropological, and literary-critical perspectives on religion and by raising comparative questions about differing religious and cultural traditions.
Students pursuing other concentrations are encouraged to take electives in religious studies. Particular courses in religious studies can complement programs in history, literature, philosophy, or sociology, to name just a few, providing a different window through which to look at the problems posed by these concentrations.
Those undergraduates desiring a sharper focus on issues of religion may choose to concentrate in religious studies. The concentration exposes students to different sources, problems, and methodologies in the study of religion and allows them to explore one particular question in detail in a senior essay. It encourages cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of religion including those that are historical, philosophical, theological, sociological, or literary-critical. It accommodates interests that can be descriptive, explanatory, or normative. The gateway course for concentrators into the program is RLST 10100, "Introduction to Religious Studies." Students interested in the program in Religious Studies should take the introductory course as early in their academic programs as possible. Non-concentrators are also welcome to take RLST 10100.
A concentration in religious studies consists of twelve courses, including one introductory course and the two-quarter senior seminar. Students who wish to pursue a concentration in religious studies should speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as soon as possible, preferably before the end of their second year. Students will be assisted by the Director of Undergraduate Studies to create a program of courses which will give them sufficient depth in one area to ensure that they are able to write a B.A. paper in their final year. With this in mind, students, with the consent of the Director, can count language courses that go beyond the Common Core requirement and are pertinent to the research area of their B.A. papers. Likewise, students may count two extra-departmental courses towards the concentration. Students are encouraged to explore more than one religious tradition through their course work.
All undergraduate concentrators in religious studies are required to take RLST 10100. It need not precede other course work in the concentration, but students are advised to take it by their second year. It will normally be offered every year, during the autumn quarter. The course is designed to introduce students to some of the central themes in religious studies, and its particular focus will vary according to the interests of the professor teaching it.
Students are required to take at least one course from each of the following groups:
Historical Studies in Religious Traditions
Constructive Studies in Religion
Cultural Studies in Religion
Senior Seminar and B.A. Paper
The two-quarter senior seminar will assist students with the preparation of the required B.A. paper. During May of their third year, students will work with a preceptor to choose a faculty adviser and a research topic, and to plan a course of study for the following year. These must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students will enroll in the senior seminar convened by a preceptor during the fall and winter quarters. This seminar will allow the students to prepare their bibliographies, hone their writing, and present their research. The B.A. paper will be due early in the spring quarter. Normally it should be between 30 and 40 pages; the upward limit will be firm.
Students who write senior papers deemed exceptional by their faculty advisers will be considered for graduation with honors. They will be required to have a 3.5 grade point average or better in the concentration and no lower than a 3.25 average overall.
Summary of Requirements
1 introductory course
1 course in Historical Studies in Religious Traditions
1 course in Constructive Studies in Religion
1 course in Cultural Studies in Religion
6 other courses in religious studies
2 Senior Seminar
- B.A. essay
Go to Religious Studies Courses or Religion and the Humanities Courses in the University's Time Schedules for a list of current course offerings.