University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies

Undergraduate

The Major in Religious Studies

Dormition of the Theotokos

To declare a major in religious studies, go to the Student Records Office in 140 Thackerary, then make an appointment to meet our director of undergraduate studies. Welcome aboard!

Course Requirements

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

Important: The same course may not fulfill more than one distribution requirement. Requirements may be taken in any order. Students are encouraged to take the introductory courses early in the major.

Introductory Courses

Two courses (6 credits)

All students take two overview courses:

  • 0105 Religions of the West
  • 0505 Religion in Asia
Methods Courses

Two courses (6 credits)

All students select one course from each of the following two lists. These courses substantively treat major disciplinary approaches to the study of religion: historical, philosophical, ethnographic, social scientific, and literary.

One course in which the historical approach to religion is emphasized:

  • 0090 Myth in the Ancient Near East
  • 0405 Religion in Early America
  • 0415 Religion in Modern America
  • 0455 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
  • 1120 Origins of Christianity
  • 1130 Varieties of Early Christianity
  • 1160 Jerusalem—History And Imagination
  • 1220 Medieval Jewish Civilization
  • 1240 Jews and the City
  • 1241 Gender in Jewish History
  • 1250 Modern Jewry
  • 1252 History of the Holocaust
  • 1266 Israel: State and Society
  • 1372 Catholicism in the New World
  • 1427 Religion and Law
  • 1500 Religion in India
  • 1550 East Asian Buddhism
  • 1552 Chan/Zen Buddhism
  • 1560 Chinese Religious Traditions
  • 1570 Japanese Religious Traditions
  • 1680 Readings in Jewish Historiography

One course in which the philosophical, ethnographic, social scientific, or literary approach to religion is emphasized:

  • 0025 Major Biblical Themes
  • 0115 Bible as Literature
  • 0215 Ethics in the Jewish Tradition
  • 0305 Classics of Christian Thought
  • 0315 Ethics in the Christian Tradition
  • 0435 Religious Themes in American Literature
  • 0525 Religion and Culture in East Asia
  • 0705 Approaches to the Study of Religion
  • 0715 Philosophy of Religion
  • 0735 Wisdom
  • 1554 Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures
  • 1557 Buddhist Lives
  • 1558 Buddhism and Psychology
  • 1562 Confucianism—Basic Texts
  • 1572 Popular Religion in a Changing Japan
  • 1610 Myth, Symbol, and Ritual
  • 1620 Women and Religion
  • 1630 Ritual Process
  • 1645 Jesus and Judaism
  • 1650 Approaches to Antisemitism
  • 1675 Reading the Hebrew Bible
  • 1730 Problems in the Philosophy of Religion
  • 1760 Religion and Rationality
  • 1762 Guide to the Perplexed
Area Courses

Three courses (9 credits)

Students select one course from each of the following three lists. These courses substantially treat three major area subfields: religion in the East, the premodern West, and the modern/contemporary West.

One course at the 1000 level on religion in the East:

  • 1500 Religion in India 1
  • 1516 Temple, Icon, and Deity in India
  • 1520 Buddhist Civilization
  • 1530 Topics in Buddhist Civilization
  • 1540 Saints East and West
  • 1545 Mysticism East and East
  • 1500 Religion in India II—Storytelling as a Religious Form
  • 1550 East Asian Buddhism
  • 1552 Chan/Zen Buddhism
  • 1554 Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures
  • 1557 Buddhist Lives
  • 1558 Buddhism and Psychology
  • 1560 Chinese Religious Traditions
  • 1562 Confucianism—Basic Texts
  • 1570 Japanese Religious Traditions
  • 1572 Popular Religion in a Changing Japan

One course at the 1000 level on religion in the premodern West:

  • 1100 Israel in the Biblical Age
  • 1110 Special Topics—Ancient
  • 1112 Bible as Literature 2
  • 1120 Origins of Christianity
  • 1130 Varieties of Early Christianity
  • 1132 Paul
  • 1135 Orthodox Christianity
  • 1140 Dualism in the Ancient World
  • 1142 Construction of Evil
  • 1143 Death in the Name of God—Martyrs and Martyrdom
  • 1145 Greco-Roman Religions
  • 1148 Religions of Ancient Egypt
  • 1150 Body and Society in Late Antiquity
  • 1151 Death in the Mediterranean World
  • 1160 Jerusalem—History And Imagination
  • 1210 Jews and Judiasm—Ancient
  • 1220 Jews and Judaism—Medieval
  • 1222 Jewish Mysticism
  • 1225 Jewish Culture in Medieval Spain
  • 1400 Religion and Culture in America
  • 1454 Islamic Thought
  • 1540 Saints East and West
  • 1545 Mysticism East and East
  • 1624 Women and Judaism
  • 1640 Jews in the Islamic World
  • 1642 Christian-Muslim Relations
  • 1644 Jewish-Christian Relations
  • 1645 Jesus and Judaism
  • 1675 Reading the Hebrew Bible
  • 1680 Readings in Jewish Historiography

One course at the 1000 level on religion in the modern or contemporary West:

  • 1240 Jews and the City
  • 1241 Gender and Jewish History
  • 1250 Jews and Judaism—Modern
  • 1252 History of the Holocaust
  • 1254 After the Holocaust
  • 1256 Modern Israel
  • 1257 Russian Jewry
  • 1266 Israel—State and Society
  • 1370 Religion in the Modern Western World
  • 1372 Catholicism in the New World
  • 1400 Religion and Culture in America
  • 1415 Race and Religion in America—Mormonism and the Nation of Islam
  • 1410 Religion in American Thought
  • 1412 Migration in American Religion
  • 1425 Popular Religion in America
  • 1427: Religion and Law
  • 1760 Religion and Rationality
Elective Courses

Two courses (6 credits)

Students select two additional religious studies courses, at least one of which must be at the 1000 level. See Descriptions of Regularly Taught Courses.

Students may use electives to form a clear area of specialization preparatory to graduate study or in line with their interests, or they may use electives to create a broader program in which they study as many traditions, ideologies, geographic areas, and themes as possible. Students are encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies to plan the best arrangement of courses for their long-term academic goals.

Capstone Seminar

One course (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 another faculty member 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 to their peers at the conclusion of the seminar.

Important: Students need a permission number to enroll in RELGST 1903. This permission number must be received from the DUS and can be obtained during the pre-registration advising session with the DUS.

Important: 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 and petition the director of undergraduate studies to take RELGST 1903 in 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.

Important: In some years, RELGST 1903 is offered both in the fall and spring terms. Please check with the DUS prior to planning a semester abroad to determine whether or not you will be able to take RELGST 1903 in either the spring term of your junior or senior year.

Important: Students who plan to apply to graduate school in the same year that they graduate and who will need a writing sample as part of the application packet are advised to take RELGST 1903 no later than the fall term of their senior year.

Recent Capstone Themes

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 10/27/14 | Copyright 2007 | Site by UMC WebTeam