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Major Requirements


The major in religion—Religion expresses the meaning of life in every culture and in every historical period. It manifests itself in a variety of forms including oral traditions, scriptures, art, material culture, beliefs, rituals, and institutions. The academic study of religion encompasses many disciplines—e.g., textual study, history, philosophy, and social sciences—and it applies these to the broad range of phenomena found in the world's most well-known religious traditions. In addition, it fosters a critical appreciation of the ethical and cultural values of these traditions and, thereby in time, of one's own values.

The major is designed to help the student develop a sophisticated and nuanced appreciation of religion in the human experience. It does this by (a) providing a sound acquaintance with at least two significant religious traditions, (b) investigating one or more topics in depth through at least one departmental seminar, and (c) bringing to fruition in a senior thesis the skills and knowledge acquired in the major.

Students interested in majoring are asked to consult with the department chair as early as possible in their academic careers, in order to clarify the major requirements and to plan carefully for their course of study.

For more details on the department's faculty, requirements, and sources, visit our Web site at

The student major is required to complete 10 courses with a grade of C- or better. Among these 10 courses, the student must include:

  • three courses in a primary religious tradition

  • two courses in a secondary religious tradition

  • four elective courses

  • of the above, at least one must be a 300-level departmental seminar

  • a 400-level senior thesis course.

The Writing Intensive Part II requirement is fulfilled by the senior thesis.

The traditions available for study on a regular basis are: Buddhism, Christianity, indigenous religions, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Students interested in other specific religious traditions should see the department chair. The tradition requirement can be met with the following courses:

  • Buddhism (RELG 151, 252, 254, 256*, 353)
  • Christianity (RELG 105, 106, 110*, 211, 212**, 223, 224, 226, 231**, 248, 262, 267, 275, 312, 338)
  • Indigenous religions (RELG 184**, 281**, 285, 288*, 289, 310, 314)
  • Hinduism (RELG 151, 252, 253, 255, 333*)
  • Islam (RELG 181*, 253, 280, 282 283, 284, 286)
  • Judaism (RELG 104, 105**, 106**, 109*, 121, 203, 204, 205, 206, 211**, 214, 229, 307, 308, 310, 311, 315, 318). Together the sequence 103-04 counts for two religion credits (including 104 in the Jewish tradition) and one Jewish studies credit and fulfills the language requirement.
*/** To concentrate in a tradition, students must take at least one of the single-starred courses, and at least one of the double-starred courses, in the appropriate category.

No course may count for more than one tradition. Students may request tutorials or independent studies to fulfill the tradition requirement. Normally the department accepts up to two courses from outside the department as counting toward the religion major. However, the department will consider petitions asking for credit for additional courses taken outside the department.

Honors are awarded to those who attain a minimum grade average of A- in 10 courses fulfilling the major requirements and distinction on the senior thesis and oral examination.

Thanks to the generosity of Trinity alumnus Tom Chappell, the Theodor Mauch Fund has been established to provide a $1,000 award for the best senior religion thesis as determined by the faculty of the Religion Department. The fund also provides approximately $1,000 for assisting one or more persons in doing research on their senior theses. The recipient of this research grant will be determined by the faculty in the department upon receipt of a grant proposal on the last day prior to the Spring Break in the student's junior year.

There are many study-away opportunities available for the religion major. In addition to the Trinity Rome Program, and Trinity Global Sites in Barcelona and Trinidad, students may opt to go on Trinity-approved programs, such as to Egypt, India, Israel, Thailand, Tibet, and the United Kingdom. Religion majors may also petition the Office of Study Away to go on other programs, so long as they consult their religion advisers about their options.

In addition, students are encouraged to study foreign languages, especially those that would enable them to read primary religious texts, for example, Arabic, Aramaic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Pali, and Sanskrit. Language courses may be counted for the religion major only if the course covers significant textual exegesis of religious literature.