Religion Studies Department

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Programs of Study

The Major in Religion Studies

Students majoring in Religion Studies will be expected to develop broad expertise, reflecting the geographical and typological diversity that characterizes the religions of the world. The advising process will direct students to distribute courses among the department's offerings to include at least three areas of study, distinguished by religious tradition or geography.

Religious Traditions:

  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Buddhism

Geographical Areas:

  • India/South Asia
  • China
  • Japan

*Additional traditions and geographical areas can be included, both as departmental courses incorporate them and by independent study.

Course Offerings are distributed among the following categories:

100-199: Themes and Motifs in the Study of Religion
These are 100-level courses that introduce students to the academic study of religion by tracing patterns and themes across religious traditions. Courses are comparative, employing a wide range of media, and applying worldview analysis to contextualize varieties of belief and practice.

REL 201: Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
This course is required of all Religion Studies majors and introduces a variety of approaches to the academic study of religion. This course will circulate among members of the department.

202-299: Religions of the World
These are religion-specific courses that concentrate on an in-depth introduction to particular religious traditions or clusters of religions that have occurred in particular geographic locations.

300-349: Religious Expressions (Texts, Rituals/Practices, Fine and Performing Arts)
Religions have historically expressed themselves in a variety of formats, including texts, the arts, and ritual practice. In the history of religions, fine and performing arts, as well as rituals and practices, carry equal weight with texts. The departmental curriculum provides opportunities for students to explore diverse forms of religious expression. Courses focus on religious traditions or geographical areas.

350-399: Religion, Person, and Society (Gender, Politics, Religious Thought, Historical Moments, Psychology)
This is a series of advanced thematic courses which examine specific theoretical, historical, geographical, political, and philosophical contexts for specific religious beliefs and practices. Courses may focus on religious traditions or geographical areas, or may emphasize theoretical approaches that apply across traditions.

400-499: Advanced Seminars in the Study of Religion
These courses provide a capstone experience for our majors and other advanced students. Faculty and students work together to explore a research topic in depth. One seminar per semester will be offered.

4XX Honors Thesis in Religion Studies (Instructor permission required)

A major in Religion Studies consists of nine courses, distributed as follows:

No more than one (1) 100-level course may be counted toward the major.
REL 201: Theory and Method in the Study of Religion

At least two (2) 200-level courses in addition to REL 201
At least two (2) 300-level courses
At least one (1) 400-level course

The Minor in Religion Studies

A minor in Religion Studies consists of six courses, including:

At least two (2) 200-level courses
At least two (2) 300/400-level courses

Jewish Studies Major

Jewish studies majors must complete a minimum of nine courses.  All majors must take two semesters of Hebrew, or complete Hebrew 204. Students may be exempted from this requirement on the basis of demonstrated proficiency.

Jewish Studies Minor

The interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Minor gives students a basic grounding in the history, literature, thought and primary language of Jewish civilization. The minor in Jewish studies adds breadth to any major and is useful for students seeking to enter the workplace right after college, as well as those who intend to apply to graduate programs such as medicine, law or business. In conjunction with a major in political science, history, or religion, the minor in Jewish studies can also help prepare students for graduate programs in Middle Eastern studies, Jewish history or Jewish studies. Required courses are flexible in order to tailor the minor to the student's needs.

The Asian Traditions Minor

The Asian Traditions Minor offers students the opportunity to explore the rich cultural and religious heritage of South and East Asia and its influence on contemporary affairs. Asian countries play an increasingly important role in global concerns, and it is crucial to forge connections with as much expertise and understanding as possible. The information and understanding gained through this course of study will benefit students in whatever field of endeavor they choose to pursue.

Program in Religious Education

Students interested in a career in Religious Education should consult with their advisor in the Department of Religion Studies to design an individualized set of courses in sociology, psychology and education, which would supplement the basic requirements of a religion major.

Semester in Washington, DC

Muhlenberg cooperates with several other colleges in the Lutheran College Washington Consortium to offer a semester in Washington. The semester is designed for juniors and seniors with a variety of academic majors and is organized around the theme, "Ethical Issues and Public Affairs." In addition to seminars drawing upon the special resources available in Washington, there are hundreds of internship possibilities in government, social service agencies, religious groups, medicine, public interest organizations, business, and the arts. Internships related to religion may be counted towards the "religion and culture" area for a major in religion.