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RELST-BA - Religious Studies (BA)

Religious Studies Undergraduate Matriculated BA - Bachelor of Arts

Program Overview

Undergraduate courses in Religious Studies are designed to engage students existentially and 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 essential 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.

The curriculum for majors is designed to lead students through a course of study that begins with laying foundations, then moves on to building expertise, and finally culminates in a capstone experience. The foundational courses aim to introduce students to the academic study of religion by exploring a particular religious tradition, issue, or methodology. Students build expertise in more advanced courses offering an in-depth investigation of specific topics, such as mysticism, gender, or violence/nonviolence; of particular texts, historical periods, or figures of a given religious tradition; or distinct approaches to the study of religion, such as the philosophy of religion, ritual studies, or ethnography. Students consolidate the knowledge and skills acquired in the major through the WIM course and an integrative capstone experience consisting of either a senior essay or an honors thesis completed in conjunction with two supporting capstone courses.

The Religious Studies major requires a minimum of 60 units for completion.

Preparing for the Major

Students contemplating the major, the minor, or the Philosophy and Religious Studies major are invited to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The Undergraduate Student Services Officer in Building 70 can also field questions regarding the declaration procedure within the department.