Undergraduate Program in Religious Studies

Students in the College may elect to pursue a major or a minor in Religious Studies. 


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.

College students of any major 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.

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 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 Ryan Coyne, Director of the program, at . 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. 

Upcoming Courses:

RLST 22910 – Gender and Sexuality in Late Antiquity: Precursors and Legacies (Erin Walsh)

RLST 23497 – Ethnographies of Buddhism in Southeast Asia (John Holt)

RLST 14358 – Hindu Goddesses and the Deification of Women (Padma Holt)

RLST 22050 – Murder, Adultery, and Thy Neighbors’ Ass: The Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Bible and Contemporary America (Cathleen Chopra-McGowan)

RLST 26670/SIGN 26067 – Religious Autobiography (Richard Rosengarten)

RLST 24550/SIGN 26068 – Major Trends in Islamic Mysticism (Yousef Casewit)

RLST 19402 – Race and Religion in the US in the 20th Century (Curtis Evans)

RLST 24601 – Martin and Malcolm: Life and Belief (Dwight Hopkins)

RLST 25050 – Religion and the Nobel Peace Prize (Russell Johnson)

RLST 21117 – Hinduism for Theoretical Midwestern Teens (Anand Venkatkrishnan)

RLST 24503 – Dreams in the Ancient World (Sophia Torallas-Tovar)


Spring Quarter 2019

Spring Quarter 2019 classes (see below) spanned religions past, present -- and future. Read more about the inspiration behind and topics covered in classes like American HinduismThe Problems with God-Talk, "Virgins, Victims, and Vixens," and Star Wars and Religion