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Office: Building 70
Mail Code: 94305-2165
Phone: (650) 723-3322
Web Site: Religious Studies

Courses offered by the Department of Religious Studies are listed under the subject code RELIGST on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

Mission of the Department

The Department of Religious Studies brings a variety of disciplinary perspectives to bear on the phenomenon of religion for the purpose of understanding and interpreting the history, literature, thought, social structures, and practices of the religious traditions of the world. Comprised of sixteen regular faculty with particular strengths in the study of American Religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, it enrolls about twenty graduate students (mostly doctoral) and roughly as many undergraduate majors, minors, and combined majors.

Religious Studies works closely with several related programs at Stanford: the Department of Philosophy, with which it offers a combined undergraduate major; the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies; the Taube Center for Jewish Studies; the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies; the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society; the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies; and the Center for South Asia.

While some undergraduates continue their study of religion in a graduate or professional program, most pursue meaningful and successful careers in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and medicine. In this respect, Religious Studies is an ideal interdisciplinary major in the liberal arts. Graduates of the department's doctoral program generally pursue academic careers and are routinely placed in the best universities and colleges in the country and overseas.

Undergraduate Programs in Religious Studies

The department offers a Bachelor of Arts major, minor, and honors program in Religious Studies, and a combined major with the Philosophy Department in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Undergraduate courses in Religious Studies are designed to engage students existentially and to assist them in thinking about intellectual, ethical, and sociopolitical issues in the world's religions. The department's faculty seek to provide tools for understanding the complex encounters among religious ideas, practices, and communities, and the past and present cultures that have shaped and been shaped by religion. Courses therefore expose students to: leading concepts in the field of religious studies such as god(s), sacrifice, ritual, scripture, prophecy, and priesthood; approaches developed over the past century, including the anthropological, historical, psychological, philosophical, and phenomenological, that open religion to closer inspection and analysis; and major questions, themes, developments, features, and figures in the world's religious traditions. The department encourages and supports the acquisition of languages needed for engagement with sacred texts and interpretive traditions as well as study abroad at Stanford's overseas centers where religions can be observed and experienced in their contemporary contexts.

Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies

The departments of Philosophy and Religious Studies jointly nominate for the B.A. in Philosophy and Religious Studies those students who have completed a major in the two disciplines. See a description of this combined major under the program section of this bulletin, the program section of this bulletin, or in the guidelines available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies of either department.

Graduate Programs in Religious Studies

The graduate mission of the department is to provide students with an interdisciplinary setting of study within which to focus on their respective areas of specialization. The department offers an internal M.A. and a Ph.D. degree in Religious Studies. The master's program is restricted to current Stanford students.


Emeriti: (Professors) Carl W. Bielefeldt, Arnold Eisen, Bernard Faure, Hester G. Gelber, Thomas Sheehan

Emerita: (Senior Lecturer) Linda Hess

Chair: Kathryn Gin Lum

Director of Graduate Studies: Anna Bigelow

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Barbara Pitkin

Professors: Kathryn Gin Lum, Paul Harrison, John Kieschnick, Michael Penn, Thomas Sheehan, Lee Yearley

Associate Professors: Anna Bigelow, Elaine Fisher, Charlotte Fonrobert, Lerone Martin, Brent Sockness

Assistant Professors: Rushain Abbasi, James Gentry, Ariel Mayse, Michaela Mross, Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh

Senior Lecturer: Barbara Pitkin

Lecturers: Deena Aranoff, Kirsti Copeland, Julia Cross, Jason Schwartz, Sarah Willburn

Courtesy Professors: Fiona Griffiths, Mark Lewis

Courtesy Associate Professor: Joel Cabrita, Ari Y. Kelman