Students in the undergraduate College may elect to pursue a major or a minor in Religious Studies. Students in other majors are invited to take electives in Religious Studies, which can complement programs in history, literature, philosophy, biology, economics, or sociology, to name just a few.
The program in Religious Studies engages enduring questions about religion and human society. It investigates religions and how they shape and are shaped by human cultures. Studying religion invites us to consider humanity in its quest for transcendence and communion with the divine. It permits us to see what effect these desires have had on individuals and communities, for good or for ill. Since it touches all facets of human experience, the study of religion is a crucial conversation partner with many other fields of study.
The study of religion involves explorations and investigations of religious phenomena throughout the world, and invites multiple perspectives. 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. Students in the College who major or minor in Religious Studies are able to explore numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
Reflecting the discipline’s multiple perspectives, the courses offered in Religious Studies fall into three major areas:
Historical Studies in Religious Traditions. Courses that investigate the development of particular religious traditions, including their social practices, rituals, scriptures, and beliefs in historical context.
Constructive Studies in Religion. Courses that explore 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.
Undergraduates desiring a sharper focus on issues of religion may choose either to major or minor in Religious Studies. A full discussion of the requirements for the major and the minor is available on the Religious Studies page of the College Catalog.
The gateway course for both majors and minors into the program is RLST 10100, "Introduction to Religious Studies." Students should take the introductory course as early in their academic programs as possible. College students are also welcome to take RLST 10100 as an elective.
The major requires students to explore one particular question in detail in a senior BA Paper. During May of their third year, students choose a faculty adviser and a research topic, and plan a course of study for the following year. Both the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Lucy Pick, and the Religious Studies preceptor can help with this task. Check out the Faculty profiles, below, to help locate faculty advisers who share your academic interests.
BA Paper proposals must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students will enroll in the senior seminar convened by a preceptor during the Autumn and Winter quarters. This seminar helps students create 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 is firm.
Anyone who is interested in the study of religion in the College should sign up for the “religiousstudies” listhost at: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/info/religiousstudies The listhost distributes information about requirements for the major and minor, new courses, fellowships and other opportunities, and Divinity School events like lectures and conferences.
Religious Studies courses for Winter 2014 include:
RLST 26801 — Many Ramayanas (Doniger)
RLST 28900 — Magic, Science, and Religion (Doostdar)
RLST 23104 — Immanuel Kant's Critique of Practical Reason (Schweiker)
RLST 25101 — Augustine's Confessions (White)
RLST 25112 — Philosophy, Talmudic Culture, and Religious Experience: Soloveitchik (Davidson)
For a full listing of courses, including schedules and cross-listings, please visit the Religious Studies section of the Time Schedules.