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Major Requirements



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) gaining a understanding in the theories, methods, and/or comparative approaches used in Religion, (d) and bringing to fruition in a senior thesis or integrative capstone paper 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


Eleven courses with a grade of C or better are required for the major.

Concentrations/Tracks: The traditions available for study on a regular basis are: African and Caribbean Religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Students interested in other specific religious traditions should see the departmental chair. The following courses are examples of courses meeting the category requirements:

  • African and Caribbean Religions: RELG 184, 281**, 285, 288

  • Buddhism: RELG 151, 254, 256**, 258, 353

  • Christianity: RELG 110**, 211, 212, 223, 226, 231, 312, 324

  • Hinduism: RELG 151, 253, 259

  • Islam: RELG 181**, 253, 280, 282, 283, 284, 286

  • Judaism: RELG 109**, 121, 211, 214, 229, 307, 308

  • Comparative, Method, and Theory: RELG 209, 248, 265, 267, 275, 309
** To concentrate in a tradition, students must take this course.

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.

Core courses:

Among the 11 courses required for the major, the student must include:

  • RELG 101. Introduction to Religion

  • Three courses in a primary religious tradition

  • Two courses in a secondary religious tradition

  • One course in Comparative, Methodological, and Theoretical issues

  • Four elective courses*
  • Of the above, at least one must be a 300-level departmental seminar
  • Of the above, those students who are not writing a senior thesis must designate one of their 200 or 300 level courses as their capstone course. In this course, students will write a 15-20 page integrative paper.
* Honors students must use one of their electives to take a 400-level senior thesis course.


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

Senior thesis research grant: 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.

Study away: 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 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.

Honors: Students who wish to qualify for honors in Religion must write a senior thesis instead of taking a capstone course and writing an integrative paper. Honors will be awarded to those whose thesis is granted “with distinction” and who have a minimum grade average of A-.