University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies


The Major in Religious Studies

Dormition of the Theotokos

To declare a major in Religous Studies, go to 140 Thack and make an appointment with our director of undergraduate studies, Dr. Rachel Kranson, to introduce yourself. Welcome Aboard!

Students who declare a religious studies major beginning Spring Term 2017 must complete the new requirements. Students who have declared a religious studies major no later than Fall Term 2016 may elect to complete the new major requirements below or the old major requirements.

Course Requirements

The major in Religious Studies requires ten courses (30 credits).

Introductory Courses: 6 credits

Students take the following 2 introductory courses:

  • 0105: Religions of the West
  • 0505: Religion in Asia

Students are encouraged to take the introductory courses early in the major.

Survey Course: 3 credits
Students take one of the following courses surveying a religious tradition:

  • 0025: Major Biblical Themes
  • 0405: Witchcraft to Walden Pond: Religion in Early America
  • 0415: Religion in Modern America
  • 0455: Intro to Islamic Civilization
  • 0715: Philosophy of Religion
  • 1120: Origins of Christianity
  • 1130: Varieties of Christianity
  • 1135: Orthodox Christianity
  • 1210: Jews and Judaism-Ancient
  • 1220: Jews and Judaism-Medieval
  • 1250: Jews and Judaism-Modern
  • 1500: Religion in India
  • 1550: East Asian Buddhism
  • 1560: Religion in China
  • 1570: Religion in Japan
Thematic Cluster: 9 credits

Students take 3 courses within the thematic cluster of their choice:

Religion, Medicine, and the Body

  • 1143: Death in the Name of God—Martyrs and Martyrdom
  • 1150: Body and Society in Late Antiquity
  • 1151: Death in the Mediterranean World
  • 1405: Religion and Sexuality
  • 1554: Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures
  • 1558: Buddhism and Psychology
  • 1725: Death and the Healthcare Profession
Spirituality and Rationality

  • 0090: Myth in the Ancient Near East
  • 0735: Wisdom
  • 1100: Israel in the Biblical Age
  • 1140: Dualism in the Ancient World
  • 1142: Construction of Evil
  • 1145: Greco-Roman Religions
  • 1222: Jewish Mysticism
  • 1540: Saints East and West
  • 1545: Mysticism East and East
  • 1552: East Asian Meditative Traditions
  • 1610: Myth, Symbol, Ritual
  • 1760: Religion and Rationality
  • 1771: Science and Religion
  • 1762: Guide to the Perplexed
Religion, Culture, and Creative Expression

  • 0435: Religion, Film, and Literature
  • 0525: Religion and Culture in East Asia
  • 1148: Religions of Ancient Egypt
  • 1160: Jerusalem—History and Imagination
  • 1228: Exodus and Passover
  • 1425: Popular Religion in America
  • 1452: Hymns and HipHop—Sounds of Islam
  • 1510: Religion in India—Storytelling as a Religious Form
  • 1520: Buddhism Along the Silk Road
  • 1557: Buddhist Lives
  • 1572: Popular Religion in a Changing Japan

Religion, Identity, and Global Problems

  • 1240: Jews and the City
  • 1241: Gender in Jewish History
  • 1252: History of the Holocaust
  • 1372: Catholicism in the New World
  • 1438: Religion and Politics
  • 1450: Islam, Law and Politics
  • 1519: Religion, Nature, and the Environment
  • 1642: History of Christian-Muslim Relations
  • 1664: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle Ages
  • 1620: Women in Religion
  • 1680: History and Memory in the Jewish Tradition
  • 1681: Zionism, Anti-Zionism, Post-Zionism
Electives: 9 credits
Students elect to take:

  • One 1000-level course of their choosing
  • Two other courses, which may include internship, UTA, URA, or directed study

See Descriptions of Regularly Taught Courses.

Capstone: 3 credits
All students write a senior thesis. The prerequisite for enrolling in the capstone seminar is at least six religious studies courses.

  • 1903: Directed Research Seminar (W course)

All graduating majors come together in their senior year (typically in the Fall Term) as an intellectual community to participate in a special seminar to produce a capstone research paper. The overarching thematic orientation of the capstone seminar changes with the instructor. Students are encouraged to develop research topics in their area of interest within the broader outlines of the annual theme. Students work with the seminar instructor as well as with a religious studies faculty research advisor with expertise in the particular area of research. Students have opportunities to share their work-in-progress with other seminar members throughout the term and to present their research at the conclusion of the seminar.


  • Students need permission from the DUS to enroll in RELGST 1903. Permission can be obtained during the pre-registration advising session with the DUS.
  • Majors who plan to study abroad in the Fall Term of the academic year in which they anticipate graduation should plan to complete six courses in the major by the Fall Term of their junior year. Juniors who will have completed six courses in the major by the Fall Term of their junior year may enroll in RELGST 1903 by petition to the DUS.
Distribution Requirements
The courses students take to fulfill their major requirements must include at least:
  • One course focusing on religion in Asia
  • One course focusing on ancient or classical religion in the Middle East and/or Europe
  • One course focusing on modern or contemporary religion in the Middle East, Europe, or the Americas 

  • The same course may not fulfill more than one distribution requirement.
  • Introductory courses cannot fulfill distribution requirements.
  • No more than 6 credits applied towards the major can be taken NC/S.

Recent Capstone Themes

2015:2016: Religious Expression
2014-2015: Transmission and Transformation
2013-2014: Religious Authority
2012-2013: Sacred Space
2011-2012: Transmission and Transformation
2010-2011: Scriptures, Canons, Classics
Spring 2010: Religion as a Social Construct
Fall 2009: Religious Lives
2008-2009: Revelation and Authority
2007-2008: Pilgrimage
2006-2007: Religion in Diaspora

Related Area Requirement

All Arts and Sciences students must complete a related area requirement. We believe this offers our majors an important opportunity to enhance their understanding of the religious process or an area of concentration through the study of the literature, language, art, or history of a particular culture, or through the study of disciplines or processes that are related to religion, such as social change, mythology, symbolism, and literature.

There are two ways to meet the related area requirement. Students should consult with the director of undergraduate studies for help with formulating their options.

  • Students identify a cluster of four courses (12 credits) that support and reinforce their study of religion. Students may use foreign language study as their related area, but those languages must show some relationship to a primary religion or cultural context within the major.
  • Students complete a second major, a minor, or a certificate program.

Checklist for Religious Studies Majors

Important Regulations for Majors

All courses counted toward the major must be taken for a letter grade and completed with a C grade or above.

At least five courses and the capstone seminar (for a total of six courses) must be completed on the Oakland campus. Students transferring from other colleges or universities need to consult with the director of undergraduate studies about transferring courses and credits to be applied to the major. See Transferring Credits.

Department honors require a grade point average (GPA) of 3.25 or higher in the major and a B+ or above in the capstone seminar.

More on Graduation Requirements and Degree Opportunities

Revised 10/25/16 | Copyright 2007 | Site by UMC WebTeam