The Department of Religion and Judaic Studies offers courses in religious traditions, theories, and methods in the study of religion, sacred texts, and religion and modern cultures, including courses with a sustainability/environmental focus. Students also have opportunities to study religion abroad in the Dickinson Program in India and our two partner programs in Israel.

Courses that explore these areas include those that examine:

  • The traditions of Asia and the West (particularly Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).
  • Theories and methodologies in the study of religion, including comparative, sociological, and psychological approaches.
  • The historical and literary analysis of sacred texts, including the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • Religion and contemporary issues, such as gender, violence/nonviolence, secularism, spirituality, and sustainability.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

Any introductory 100 level course is appropriate for the entry level students and for prospective majors.  All religion couses satisfy Division 1A distribution requirements; many satisfy additional requirements (CC, AD, Sustainability, WID) or contribute to other programs (Health Studies, Environmental Studies, Food Studies).

100 level courses are broad based, introductory courses intended for all students (class size limit 35). These courses focus on the historical and cultural contexts of traditions or cultural issues. They also introduce students to methodological approaches used in the study of religion, especially comparative analysis.  Any 100 level course can be a gateway to the major.  The class size is 35.

200 level courses are topics courses; the focus is on analysis of texts, themes or questions in the academic study of religion.  Depending on the topic, the courses are also appropriate for first year students and students without previous courses in the departmewnt..  Many are interdisciplinary courses. Class size is 25.  Methodologies--interdisciplinary, textual, cultural. lecture and discussion.

300 level courses are seminars with an emphasis on writing and discussion. The emphasis is on constructive application of theories and methods to relevant topics.  In depth, prerequisites, WR, Two courses required for the major (RELG 390-490).

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Religion.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Humanities (Division I A):
Any course offered by the department.

Comparative Civilization:
Any courses concerned with Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, East Asian religions, or Spiritual Dimensions of Healing.

U.S. Diversity:
Courses such as Religion and Modern Culture and Jews and Judaism in the U.S.

Writing in the Discipline (WID):
Religion 390: Interpreting Religion, required for the major AND MINOR.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The Religion major may be completed in a variety of ways. While there are several core courses that develop foundational knowledge in key areas, the flexible curriculum gives you the freedom to focus on the area of study you find most compelling.

The following suggested program is just one example of how a student with a special interest in Asian religion might fulfill the major requirements over four years.

First Year
RELG 101
RELG 121

Sophomore Year
RELG 110
RELG 122
RELG 201
RELG 208

Junior Year
RELG 107
RELG 228
RELG 243
RELG 247

Senior Year
RELG 248
RELG 311
RELG 390
RELG 490

For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact a Religion faculty member.


Majors in Religion have the option of pursuing departmental honors in their senior year by writing an honors thesis of between 60 and 100 pages demonstrating their ability to engage in sustained advanced research and scholarly endeavor. The thesis project will extend over two semesters. Only the best projects will be granted honors, but any student who completes the project will receive the credit for two semesters of work, i.e., two credits. Students will work with one advisor but may receive guidance from other members of the department and when appropriate a designated outside reader.

Those wishing to write an honors thesis should register for RELG 550 for the fall semester, and find a research advisor. No later than the third Monday of the semester, the student must submit a formal proposal, outlining the project. Within a week, the department faculty will meet to discuss the proposal and assess its feasibility. Once the proposal is approved, the student and his/her adviser will decide on a schedule of research and writing. The student is expected to adhere to all deadlines set by the advisor.

In the spring semester the student once again must register for RELG 550. The first draft of the thesis must be submitted by spring break. Copies will be given to all department faculty and when appropriate a designated outside reader. Within two weeks after spring break, members of the department will meet with the student to make comments on the draft. The final draft must be submitted before the end of spring semester classes. A defense date will be set for sometime during the exam period.

Independent study and independent research

According to their special interests, students often develop and pursue Independent Study projects with members of the faculty. Among the projects recently undertaken have been Liberation Theology in Latin America, Abraham and Monotheism, The Hindu Temple, Martin Luther King, Jr., C. S. Lewis, Hopi Kachinas, Tibetan Views on Death, Spirituality and Activism, Women and Religion, and Philosophical Theology.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Students have regularly taken Junior Year Abroad programs in Scotland, England, Germany, France and Israel. The college also participates in the CIEE Program in Hyderabad, India.

Additional Remarks

Senior Thesis: Seniors complete a capstone writing project as part of RELG 490, the Senior Seminar. A student interested in pursuing departmental honors may choose to do a year-long independent project under the direction of a member of the faculty