Students in the 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. Religious claims and institutions affect our cultural and political lives, global affairs, and personal formation, for good and for ill. Religious beliefs and practices have shaped and continue to shape individuals’ and groups’ perception of themselves and the world around them. Religion touches all facets of human experience, and the religious studies program is the place to investigate its intersection with other spheres like gender and sexuality, race, the nation-state, violence, memory, ethics, emotions, politics, economy, power, art, literature, and media.
Students of religion study 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.
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 different 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 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 BA paper will be due early in the spring quarter. Normally it should be between 30 and 40 pages; the upward limit is firm.
For more information about the Religious Studies program, please contact the director, Lucy Pick at or 773-702-8278. All those who are interested in the study of religion at Chicago are invited to 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 that you are welcome to attend.
For a full listing of courses, including schedules and cross-listings, please visit the Religious Studies section of the Time Schedules.
Recent Religious Studies courses include:
RLST 10100 – Introduction to Religious Studies. (Rosengarten)
RLST 11004 – Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. (Chavel)
RLST 23400 - Introduction to Christian Theology. (Coyne)
RLST 23900 – Buddhist Thought in India and Tibet. (Arnold)
RLST 26800 - The Mahabharata in English Translation (Doniger)