Courses of Study 2014-2015 
    Jul 06, 2022  
Courses of Study 2014-2015 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Religious Studies

In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings 

Our program offers an excellent opportunity to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complex ways in which religious traditions inform human thought and behavior. The courses offered explore religion as an academic, as opposed to a confessional, pursuit. Religious traditions are explored in all of their complexity through comparative and thematic studies as well as in specific historical or cultural contexts.

Throughout the academic year the program hosts lectures, conferences, and periodic social gatherings for faculty members and students to foster a sense of intellectual community.

The Religious Studies Program meets the needs of three classes of students: students planning to pursue advanced degrees in the academic study of religion or allied disciplines; students desiring a systematic study of religion as part of their liberal arts education; and students seeking courses on religion to fulfill distribution requirements.



J. M. Law, director; A. Blackburn, D. Boucher, R. Brann, C. M. Carmichael, A. Chignell, K. Clinton, L. Donaldson, J. Fajans, D. Fredericksen, C. Garces, D. Gold, S. Greene, K. Haines-Eitzen, J. S. Henderson, T. D. Hill, T. J. Hinrichs, D. Holmberg, C. Howie, P. R. Hyams, W. J. Kennedy, J. M. Law, S. MacDonald, K. S. March, L. Monroe, R. L. Moore, D. I. Owen, D. S. Powers, L. Ramberg, E. Rebillard, C. Robinson, P. S. Sangren, S. Toorawa, M. Washington, A. Willford

The Major in Religious Studies:

To sign into the major in Religious Studies, a student must have completed at least one course in Religious Studies. Here is the process:

  1. Schedule an appointment with Jane-Marie Law, the director of the Religious Studies Program,
  2. In addition to a copy of the current Cornell transcript, an informal one is acceptable, students should bring to their meeting with the director these forms, available in the Religious Studies office, 409 White Hall: a completed Religious Studies major application; a proposed plan which will be used to guide the student’s conversation with the director; and a College of Arts and Sciences advisor/major form, which will be signed by the director and advisor. The advisor will be assigned in this meeting, based on interest.

Upon entering the major in Religious Studies, a student is assigned a faculty advisor whose area of expertise most closely matches the proposed interest of the student. An up-to-date list of advisors is available in the Religious Studies office. Please note: not all faculty members who cross-list courses with Religious Studies can serve as advisors. Working closely with the Religious Studies advisor when selecting courses is an important component of this program, enabling students to fulfill the requirements for the major while creating an integrated and coherent course of study out of our large number of multidisciplinary course offerings.

To graduate as a major in Religious Studies, a student must (1) complete with letter grades the program’s three core courses, RELST 2250 - Introduction to Asian Religions ; RELST 2651 - [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam] ; and RELST 4449 - History and Methods of the Academic Study of Religion ; and (2) complete with letter grades seven additional courses approved for the major.

Students must complete 10 courses cross-listed with Religious Studies:


A combination of courses can satisfy RELST 2250  and RELST 2651  with some attention to breadth.  For example, one course in South Asian traditions AND one course in East Asian traditions can substitute for RELST 2250. For RELST 2651, two courses from the three traditions of Near Eastern origin—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—satisfy the requirement. All students must take RELST 4449 .

In selecting their courses for the major, students consult closely with their advisors to ensure that their programs have adequate breadth in Religious Studies generally and depth in a particular tradition, cultural area, or approach to the field.

Most courses approved for the major are offered by cooperating departments within the College of Arts and Sciences. A comprehensive, current list of these courses is maintained at the office of the Religious Studies Program, 409 White Hall and on the website

The Minor in Religious Studies:

Students interested in the academic study of religion are encouraged to apply for a Minor in Religious Studies by taking five courses (minimum of 15 credits) subject to the following conditions:

Those interested in Minoring in Religious Studies should contact the Director of Religious Studies to make an appointment.

Graduating with Honors in Religious Studies:

General Information

  1. Eligibility. 3.0 cumulative average and 3.5 average inside the major with no grade in the major below B–. Program director notifies eligible candidates during the spring semester of the junior year or before commencement of final year.
  2. The student submits the honors proposal to the Religious Studies administrator before the end of the spring semester of the junior year, or not later than Sept. 15 of the final year. The administrator then approves the student’s signing into the honors courses. Candidates must sign into RELST 4995 - Senior Honors Essay  and RELST 4996 - Senior Honors Essay  for up to 8 credits over two semesters. After completing RELST 4995 , the first semester, an R in the transcript indicates that this course is half of a yearlong course. When the project is completed at the end of the second semester, the grade applies to all credits earned.
  3. Honors Committee—three faculty members. While students are required to have three faculty members on their committee at the time of the submission of the final draft, only two of them must be identified when the proposal is submitted. In the event the advisor is on leave, the program will assign a committee member from the list of RELST advisors. The three members should be:
    • The professor who has agreed to work closely with the student over the year and to be the supervisor of the project.  This is the chair of the committee.
    • The student’s Religious Studies major advisor, required.
    • One additional faculty member.

Sometimes the advisor is the supervisor and committee chair. If that is the case, the student needs two additional professors for the committee of three.