The Major

College of Arts and Science Requirements

  • minimum 120 hours with a cumulative GPA of 2.0
    Up to 40 Religious Studies hours may count toward the total 120.
  • minimum 30 hours numbered 3000 and above

Religious Studies has developed 3 new emphasis areas for majors. Students are required to take 1 of 2 introduction courses and a 4000-level course on theories and methods. The remaining 24 credits are split evenly between an emphasis area and electives.

The new emphasis areas were created to give students a sense of direction in terms of job prospects and thus are connected to NACE competencies. I’ve listed 2 courses under each area to serve as examples and I plan to make sample syllabi for each available on our revamped website.   

Emphasis Area 1: Global Religions.
The Global Religions Emphasis Area is rooted in historical, anthropological, and comparative approaches to the study of religion, namely the history and development of the major religious traditions of the world as cultural systems. Students will learn to think critically about the concept of religion; to understand the uses and limitations of comparison as an analytical framework; and to historicize religious claims and narratives. Upon completing the degree, majors with a Global Religions emphasis will be familiar with the history, beliefs, practices, and demographics of religions of the world.

This area of emphasis will be of particular benefit for those preparing for professional careers in academia, education, law, security, or intelligence.

NACE Competencies met: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving; Oral/Written Communications; Global/Intercultural Fluency

Sample Courses:

REL_ST 2630: History of Christian Traditions

An overview of the origins and development of Christianities from the first century of the Common Era to the present day. Topic will include competing Christian theologies, colonialism, conversion narratives, globalization, religious violence, and heresy.

REL_ST 3200: Hinduism

Origin and development of central themes of traditional Hinduism from earliest times to the modern period. Topics include: the Vedic tradition, rituals and practice, varieties of yoga, and meditation, Indian religious thought, and devotional Hinduism.

                               

Emphasis Area 2: Religious Literacy for Professionals

“Religious literacy entails the ability to discern and analyze the fundamental intersections of religion and social, political, and cultural life through multiple lenses” (Harvard Religious Literacy Project). Critical to this definition is the importance of understanding religions and religious influences in context and as inextricably woven into all dimensions of human experience. This emphasis area prepares students for working in a range of professional fields in which an understanding of diverse worldviews will be necessary. Upon completing the degree, majors with a Religious Literacy emphasis will understand the different ways religion is embedded in people’s lives. They will be familiar with religious issues they are most likely to encounter in their work, and they will know how to engage those issues thoughtfully and effectively. This area of emphasis will be of particular benefit for those seeking careers in the health professions, education, journalism, social services, business, and in the non-profit sector.

NACE Competencies met: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving; Oral/Written Communications; Global/Intercultural Fluency

Focused Competencies: Teamwork/Collaboration; Leadership; Professionalism/Work Ethic; Digital Technology; Career Management

 

Sample Courses:

REL_ST 2042: Religion and STEM Disciplines       

This course examines the origins of STEM disciplines in religious societies. Our readings focus on the historical contexts of knowledge production in varied religious cultures including, but not limited to Indigenous traditions, Medieval Islam, Talmudic scholarship, Hindu cosmology, as well as the dialogue between Buddhism and modern science. Learning the historical contexts of scientific thought aids in a deep understanding of the importance of scientific thinking and the many ways that, contrary to American Evangelical anti-scientific movements, religion and science together have been and still are powerful ways to find human meaning in the natural world.

 REL_ST 3100: Religious Literacy for the Public and Professions

This course teaches students to engage and encounter religion in day-to-day life and in the professional workplace. Its primary goal is to examine religious diversity in private and professional contexts from a practical standpoint by examining a variety of case studies.

 

Emphasis Area 3: Religions, Cultures, Societies

This emphasis area is rooted in a cultural studies approach to the study of religion. Courses in this area train students to critically examine claims about the religious character of certain social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. They will learn to identify the implicit assumptions embedded in such claims, to both historicize them and to formulate alternative ways of categorizing them. Students will learn to use the insights of religious studies to analyze social, cultural, and political phenomena that are typically not considered religion. This emphasis area benefits students who want to go on to graduate school, those seeking careers in government, non-profit organization, or creative fields like advertising.

NACE Competencies met: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving; Oral/Written Communications; Global/Intercultural Fluency

 

Sample Courses:

REL_ST 3042: Sacred Humor: Tricksters, Clowns, and Contraries

This class will explore the notion that humor plays an important role in conveying sacred meaning. To that end, we will need to adopt a fairly common vocabulary regarding the concepts "humor" and "sacred," and will do so while exploring some of the key aspects of the sacred humor discourse, especially the "trickster," "clown," and "contrary" motifs in mythic narrative.

REL_ST 3360: Cults and New Religious Movements

While religious traditions constantly change, and new religions emerge in every historical time period, the new religious movements of the past century present a particular challenge to contemporary cultures and societies. We will begin with a theoretical overview of new religious movements and proceed gradually to discuss in detail the religion of the Peoples Temple and its charismatic leader and founder, Jim Jones.

Majors must complete a graduation plan with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Religious Studies in 221 A&S, and personally deliver it to the A&S Advising Center in 107 Lowry to be officially filed.

Students who are interested in pursuing a double major, with majors in Religious Studies and another discipline in which they are also interested, are encouraged to do this. Double majors must complete a graduation plan for each major.