Courses of Study 2021-2022 
    Jul 25, 2024  
Courses of Study 2021-2022 [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.

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.



K. Haines-Eitzen, director; B. Anderson, C. Barrett, J. Barwick, A. Blackburn, D. Boucher, J. Boyarin, R. Brann, C. Brittain, C. M. Carmichael, C. Formichi, A. Fuhrmann, D. Gold, S. Golestaneh, A. Hicks, T. J. Hinrichs, C. Howie, M. Jonsson, W. J. Kennedy, J. S. Mokhtarian, J. M. Law, O. Litvak, S. MacDonald, L. J. McCrea, L. Monroe, S. Pinet, V. Platt, D. S. Powers, L. Ramberg, E. Rebillard, C. Robcis, C. Robinson, J. Rusten, J. Tenney, A. Van Oyen, A. Willford, M. Younes

The Major in Religious Studies:

A major in Religious Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the multifaceted relationship that humans have had with religion throughout history. The major is designed to allow students an academic environment in which to explore religion and religious traditions both in thematic and cultural contexts.

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements .


  • The applicant for admission to the major in Religious Studies must have completed at least one Religious Studies (RELST) content course.
  • Prospective majors must meet with the director of the Religious Studies Program and bring the following forms:
  • Current copy of Cornell transcript (unofficial accepted)
  • A completed Religious Studies major application (available in 409 White Hall or online)

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. 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.

Major Requirements:

To complete the Religious Studies major, students must take 10 courses, one being the prerequisite course, for a minimum of 32 credit hours. The sequence and combination of courses chosen to fulfill the major is selected in close consultation with the student’s advisor.

  • All courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade and students must receive a grade of B- or better in order for it to count toward the major.
  • No course may be used to satisfy two requirements. Students must fulfill requirements in the three areas listed below to graduate with a major in Religious Studies.
  • Furthermore, all students are required to have at least two of their courses be at the 4000-level or above, excluding the required RELST 4449  course. One, 4000-level course, must be in area 3 while the other course may be in either area 2 or 3.

In conjunction with the advisor, the student will select appropriate courses to fulfill these categories and requirements. Students pursuing honors will be able to count their two semesters of honors work to satisfy this requirement.

1. Approaches, Methods and Theory in the Academic Study of Religion:

2. Breadth of Religious Traditions:

Students are required to take at least three courses dealing with a diversity of religious traditions. Selection of these courses should be made with one’s academic advisor.

3. Depth of Focus:

Students are required to take at least four courses with a focus of a given religious tradition, geographical area or thematic or methodological topic. At least one course must be at the 4000-level or above.


While it is not required, we strongly encourage all majors to work on a relevant language during their studies to enhance and deepen this focused work. Students planning to attend graduate school in Religious Studies or related disciplines are strongly encouraged to make language work an ancillary part of their undergraduate major in Religious Studies. One course in advanced language study can be counted toward the Religious Studies major, and this by petition only, indicating that the material covered was directly related to the academic study of religion.

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. Minors will remain in conversation regarding their course of study with the director.

Graduating with Honors in Religious Studies:

General Information

  1. Eligibility: 3.3 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 by April 15 of the junior year. The administrator then approves the student’s signing into the honors courses. Candidates must enroll in RELST 4995 - Senior Honors Essay I  in their first semester of the Honors Program and RELST 4996 - Senior Honors Essay II  in their second semester, for up to 8 credits over two semesters. After completing RELST 4995  in 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—two to three faculty members. Once students have a thesis topic in mind, they should approach a faculty member to supervise their work on the honors thesis (Chair of committee). The student and the Chair will together identify one to two additional faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. It is the student’s responsibility to contact (at least) one of these faculty members to request their participation on the committee before they submit their honors application. The thesis committee members should be:
    • The professor who has agreed to supervise the student’s work (Chair of the committee)
    • The student’s Religious Studies major advisor, if advisor is not the Chair (Required)
    • Another relevant RELST faculty member (Optional)

More information on graduating with Honors in Religious Studies can be found on the department website

Learning Outcomes:

  • The ability to analyze, interpret, and write about the history, texts, and practices of one religious tradition in depth.
  • Strong analytical skills in comparative research across at least two religious traditions.
  • Critical thinking in the theories, interdisciplinary approaches, and methodologies that have been important to the academic study of religion.