2014-2015 Catalog


Religion B.A.

The academic study of religion enables students to explore many different religious perspectives on the world, human life, and ultimate human concerns that appear across all historical periods, within diverse cultures, and through multiple traditions.  Through the major in Religion, students pursue several interrelated educational goals:

  • Cultivate understanding of religion or religious experience as a primary and enduring human expression of and response to the human condition;

  • Encounter many of the intellectual, practical, and theoretical issues and questions that accompany the appearance of religion in human life and communities;

  • Acquire knowledge of diverse historical and contemporary religious communities, traditions, ideas, and phenomena, as well as knowledge of diverse academic methods for the study of religion;

  • Examine some of the classic texts in both human religious history and the academic study of religion;

  • Develop descriptive, analytical, interpretive, critical, creative, and constructive skills for the study of religious phenomena;

  • Sharpen abilities to communicate critically, yet constructively, through engagement with the religious practices and ideas of other people and their communities; and

  • Enhance appreciation for the complexities and possibilities in the academic study of religion.

Students who pursue the academic study of religion will learn and develop well-informed, rigorously-critical,creatively-constructive, and responsibly-engaged approaches to thinking, talking, and writing about religion.

Requirements for the Major

A student will complete a major in Religion by fulfilling the following requirements, in addition to the other required courses (electives and courses in General Education) for a degree:

Required Core Course

REL 100Religion in Global Context

1 Course Credit

Required Capstone Course

REL 480Seminar in Religion

1 Course Credit

Required Distribution Courses

Students must complete at least one (1) course from each of the following three areas of study:

    Area I: Historical Studies of Religion

    Area II: Cultural Studies of Religion

    Area III: Normative Studies of Religion

While all three areas examine various historical, cultural, and normative dimensions of religion, each of the three areas emphasizes one primary area or method of inquiry.

Area I: Historical Studies of Religion

In this first area of religious studies, courses explore the historical development and contexts of specific religious communities, traditions, or movements, with careful attention to their social organization, institutions, practices, rituals, sacred narratives, scriptures, and beliefs.  This field in the academic study of religion roughly corresponds to the history of religions, with studies of sacred texts in various religious traditions as one of its sub-fields, here focusing on scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other East-Asian religious traditions.
REL 105Intro to Old Testament

1 Course Credit

REL 107Intro to the New Testament

1 Course Credit

REL 132/AST 132Religions of China (AST)

1 Course Credit

REL 135/AST 135Religions of Japan (AST)

1 Course Credit

Area II: Cultural Studies of Religion

This second area of religious studies contains courses that examine religious, moral, social, economic, and political questions, problems, or issues that either emerge from the cultural contexts of religious communities, experience, thought, and practice, or occur as religious questions or issues within more expansive cultural frames of reference.  This field in the academic study of religion poses comparative questions about diverse religious and cultural traditions and experiences from literary-critical, social-scientific, anthropological, and phenomenological perspectives.
REL 102Intro to Study of Spirituality

1 Course Credit

REL 136/AFR 136African Trad Religion (AFR)

1 Course Credit

REL 211/WGS 211Women in Religion (WGS)

1 Course Credit

REL 260/AST 260Buddhism (AST)

1 Course Credit

Area III: Normative Studies of Religion

The third area of religious studies includes courses in which students will consider normative questions, problems, and issues, as well as constructive solutions and proposals about the existence and character of sacred or ultimate reality, the world and universe, and the nature and conduct of human life that emerge within religious experience, communities, and traditions. This field in the academic study of religion includes investigations in philosophy of religions, ethics, and theology.

REL 109Intro to Christian Thought

1 Course Credit

REL 126Poverty and Justice

1 Course Credit

REL 212Rel, Rhetoric, & Rationality

1 Course Credit

REL 235Christian Social Ethics

1 Course Credit

Required Elective Courses

  • For the major in religion, students must complete three (3) elective courses that they will choose from all other Religion courses, including courses that the three distributive areas of study do not include, with the option of choosing interdisciplinary collateral courses in religious studies from other academic programs of the college that the Religion Program may approve upon request.
  • Of the three elective courses for the major in Religion, a student must complete at least one (1) regular 300-level course from the curriculum of the Religion Program. NOTE: Independent studies, internships, team-initiated studies, and directed studies will not fulfill this basic requirement.

Required 200-Level Courses

  • Of the six combined required distributive and elective courses, a student must complete at least two (2) 200-level courses in the study of Religion.
  • The faculty of the Religion program recommends that students who choose the major in Religion take at least one (1) 200-level course from the courses listed in the three required areas of distribution.

Recommended Elective Courses

  • The major in Religion does not require the study of a foreign language.  For students who plan to pursue graduate studies in religion or ministry, however, the faculty of the Religion program strongly recommends that students who choose the major in Religion also study a foreign language through the third level (103).  To this end, the faculty strongly advises students who choose the major in Religion to fulfill the International (Language or World Cultlure) Perspective of General Studies with the study of a foreign language.
  • Graduate programs in religious studies require foreign languages for research.  In graduate studies, however, the required foreign languages vary according to the areas of specialization that graduate students choose to pursue.  As one example, students who intend to study Japanese religions at the graduate level typically would need proficiency in Japanese.  As another example, students who enter graduate programs in the study of Christian ministry may also need to develop some level of proficiency in biblical Hebrew and/or Greek.

Guidelines for Students Pursuing Two Academic Majors

  • The faculty of the Religion Program has designed the major in Religion to reflect the interdisciplinary character of the contemporary academic study of religion. Toward that end, the Religion Program offers a curriculum that encourages students to develop their programs of study through majors in two academic programs with the major in Religion as either the primary or the secondary major field of study.
  • A student who intends to complete requirements for two academic majors, with the major in religion as either the primary or the secondary major, should work with her or his faculty advisor, the Coordinator of the Religion Program, and the Coordinator of the other academic program as the student develops a degree plan.
  • Because the Religion program cross-lists many of its courses in the curricula of several other academic programs, the potential exists for students to take courses that will fulfill requirements and count toward majors in both the Religion Program and some other academic programs. For this reason, students who also pursue another academic major, as well as the major in Religion, must complete at least six (6) courses from the curriculum of the Religion Program that do not also count toward curricular degree requirements for another major. Students should direct questions about how specific courses will count toward both academic majors to the Coordinator of the Religion Program early in their program of study.

Exploring the Major Students who have interests in the academic study of Religion as a major should begin to explore the field of study through one of the several introductory courses that the Religion program offers, but especially through REL 100: Religion in Global Context, which the program requires for all students who choose the major in Religion.

Admission to the Major The Religion program does not require any special curricular requirements of students who apply for admission to the major in Religion.

Course Sequencing Considerations (in order to complete degree requirements within eight terms) Although the major in Religion does not require students to follow a mandatory sequence of courses in general, students who chose the major in Religion should complete REL 100: Religion in Global Context early in their studies since this course introduces students to categories and methods in the academic study of Religion that they will encounter and will employ in other courses.  Students should take REL 480: Seminar in Religion (the capstone experience and essay/project) during their final year of study.

Proficiency Requirements for Retention in and Completion of the Major In addition to successful completion of specific requirements for the major in Religion, each student must satisfy the Religion program's standards for written and oral communication.