Religion explores 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 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, (c) gaining an understanding in the theories, methods, and/or comparative approaches used in Religious Studies, and (d) 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 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 website.


The religious studies department’s learning goals can be found HERE.


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

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

  • Buddhism: RELG 151, 256**, 260
  • Christianity: RELG 110**, 211, 212, 223, 226, 231, 312, 324
  • Hinduism: RELG 151, 259
  • Indigenous Religions: RELG 184, 204, 205, 281**
  • Islam: RELG 181**, 220, 280, 282, 284, 286
  • Judaism: RELG 109**, 211, 213, 214, 307, 308

** To concentrate in a tradition, students must take this course.

No course may count for more than one concentration. Students may request tutorials or independent studies to fulfill the concentration requirement. Normally the department accepts up to three courses from outside the department as counting toward the religious studies 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 Religious Studies
  • Three courses in a primary religious concentration
  • Two courses in a secondary religious concentration
  • One course in comparative approaches, methodology, and theory
    • Current options are RELG 203, 233, 248, 265, 275, 304, 306, 316, 325
  • Four elective courses
    • (One of these must be a senior capstone course.)

Senior capstone course options:

  1. A 300 level course taken in the department during the senior year for which the student writes, and presents in colloquia, a 15-20 page integrative paper. This option does not allow for the possibility of honors.
  2. A senior thesis course, at the 400 level, in which a student writes, and presents in colloquia, a thesis of 10,000 words (see guidelines). This option allows for the possibility of honors.


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 religious studies 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 religious studies thesis as determined by the faculty of the religious studies 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 religious studies major. In addition to the Trinity Rome Program, students may opt to go on Trinity-approved programs, such as to India, Israel, Thailand, Tibet, and the United Kingdom. Religious studies majors may also petition the Office of Study Away to go on other programs, so long as they consult their departmental advisers about their options.

Honors: Students qualify for honors in religious studies by earning a Distinction on their senior thesis, and by maintaining a grade point average of A- or higher.