The religion major provides students with a foundation in the study of religious traditions and in the analysis of the complex roles religion has played and continues to play in world cultures.

Eleven courses are required:

Three methodological courses: RELG 101 (What is religion?), RELG
390 (Interpreting Religion), and RELG 490 (The Senior seminar)

Two courses in Western traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)

Two courses in other religious traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American religions)

Three courses focusing on a particular religious tradition, related religious texts, or the cultural dynamics shaped by religion

One elective


Six courses including RELG 101 (What is Religion?) and RELG 390 (Interpreting Religion)

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.

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.


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.

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.


All 100-level courses, regardless of their specific content, provide students with a basic introduction to the academic study of religion. Sophomores and juniors may take a 200-level course as their first course in religion, and seniors are encouraged to begin at this level. 200-level courses are more specific than 100-level courses but are not necessarily more difficult. 300-level courses are discussion-oriented seminars open to students who either have at least one previous course in religion, have junior or senior status, or have the permission of the instructor.

101 What is Religion?
The course introduces students to methods in the study of religion and to major world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The approach in the course is comparative and interdisciplinary.

103 Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament in Context
A critical examination and attempt to understand the literature and the antecedent traditions remembered and formulated by the ancient Israelites in terms of their own views of God. This literature is interpreted in the context of events and cultures of the ancient Near East.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 103.

104 Judaism
A basic course in the history, basic beliefs and practices, and modern manifestations of Judaism as a religion. The course concerns itself with the interactions of Judaism and other world religions, notably Christianity.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 104.

105 Judaism in the Time of Jesus
This course is an introduction to the Hellenistic period of Jewish history, also known as the period of the "second temple". The course will analyze the cultural interaction between Jews and Greeks at this pivotal moment in Jewish history. The course will examine the impact of classical Greek thought and culture on the development of Judaism at its formative stage. We will focus on the phenomenon of sectarian movements and the emergence of rabbinic Judaism and Christianity as two dominant religions of the West.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 105.

107 New Testament in Context
A critical examination and attempt to understand the New Testament as the written traditions which articulated the faith, expectations, and actions of the early Christians as they responded within Jewish and Greek culture to the historical events of their day, and especially as they responded to the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 107.

110 Religion and Modern Culture
Drawing upon popular examples from film, drama, and narrative, as well as critical essays, the course explores both the religious dimensions of modern culture myth, sacred space and time, nature spirituality and the cultural contexts of contemporary theologies gender, race, economics.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and U.S. Diversity graduation requirement.

115 Native American Religions
A survey of some major religious phenomena in the relatively recent histories of selected Native American traditions with emphasis on the tribal religions of North America and the religions of the civilizations of Mexico and Central America.

121 Hinduism
A study of the dominant religion of south Asia that focuses on the contemporary "embodiment" of religion in culture. This course will explore ways in which religion permeates the Hindu cycle of life, shapes choices such as occupation and marriage partner, and infuses Indian arts. It will ask whether the variation in these patterns over time, among regions of India, in city and country, and among different groups, are diverse "Hinduisms" that nevertheless contain a vital unity.

122 Buddhism
A study of Asia's most influential religion that focuses on the contemporary "embodiment" of religion in culture. This course will explore ways in which Buddhists have used visual arts, music, drama, asceticism, devotion, etc., to attain spiritual goals and express enlightenment. It will look at both monastic and popular Buddhism, concentrating on South and Southeast Asia but with some reference to East Asia and the West.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement.

130 Religions of East Asia
An introduction to the formative role of religious consciousness in the development of the cultures of China and Japan.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement.

201 Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is probably the world's most varied and complex religion, combining elements of everything found in late Indian Buddhism-huge monastic universities, esoteric rituals involving seemingly bizarre practices, an enormous pantheon of enlightened beings, demons, and others, devotional cults, sublime art-with wild and wooly indigenous Tibetan shamanism and some aspects of Chinese religions. The course examines the development of Buddhism in Tibet as well as its increasing interest and influence in the West.

206 Jews and Judaism in the United States
Traces the history of Jewish immigration to America and how the American experience has produced and nurtured new forms of Judaism, notably Reform and Conservative. The course concentrates on the last hundred years of American history and includes such topics as anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and Israel.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 206. This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and U.S. Diversity graduation requirement.

208 Religion in the United States
The course chronicles the relationship between religious ideas and cultural context from the founding of the first colonies through the rise of the Religious Right and New Age movements. Our journey will be guided by several key metaphors that have characterized the religious ethos of America: America as "The Promised Land"; America as the "land of opportunity", as the "melting pot." We will use primary sources, including fiction, poetry, and film.

210 Religions of Africa
The course examines the variety of religious experiences, traditions, and representations of religion in African cultures. These include indigenous religions, Islam, Christianity and syncretistic traditions. We will examine the various roles that religion plays in responding to current crises facing African cultures, including HIV/AIDS pandemic, political conflicts, and issues related to gender (e.g., girls' education, shifting perspectives on masculinity and femininity) that have been shaped by religious attitudes. Students will use novels, memoir and film to supplement scholarly readings.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

211 Religion and Fantasy
An exploration of the religious and mythological dimensions of traditional and modern fantasy literature. Our explorations will be guided by three interdependent themes: the nature of the divine, the nature of the human, and the nature of the moral life.

212 History of Christianity: From Margin to Center
The course traces the emergence of Christianity from its beginnings as a minority sect in the first century to the height of its influence in the 14th century. Special attention will be given to cultural and aesthetic influences on the emerging Church.

214 History of Christianity: Reform and Modernity
The course concentrates on the emergence of the Protestant tradition in the 16th century and the Catholic response. Considers the impact of the Enlightenment on both Protestant and Catholic self-understanding.

215 Jewish Environmental Ethics
Since the 1960's many writers on environmental issues have blamed our contemporary environmental crises in part on a so-called "Judeo-Christian" worldview, rooted in the Hebrew Bible. Such writers assert that the biblical heritage shared by these two religious traditions advocates an unhealthy relationship between humanity and nature, one in which human beings are destined to conquer the earth and master it. In this course we will explore Jewish perspectives on nature and the natural world through close readings of biblical and other classical Jewish theology, history and ritual practice, we will also examine the ways in which this motif is re-conceptualized in modern secular contexts (ie, Zionism, and the kibbutz movement). We will conclude by studying contemporary varieties of Jewish environmental advocacy. In addition to texts focused specifically on Judeo-Christian traditions, the syllabus will include other classic works of Environmental ethics foundational to the field of Environmental studies.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 215 and ENST 215.

219 History of the Jews
Willing or not, Jews have participated in world history since the dawn of civilization in the Middle East, ca. 3000 b.c.e. This course surveys the part Jews have played, concentrating on the interplay between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement.This course is cross-listed as JDST 219.

226 Contemplative Practices in Asia
Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism have ancient and rich traditions of spiritual practices. This course will examine methods of mind training and the philosophy that undergirds them.
Prerequisite: 121, 122, or permission of instructor.

227 Spiritual Dimensions of Healing
The effect of the mind on the body, long a principle of systems of healing around the globe, is again being recognized in modern medicine. This course will be concerned with "integrative medicine" and related topics, such as ancient systems of healing, shamanism in contemporary cultures, the relationship between religious faith and recovery from illness, the appropriation of traditional healing methods by medical professionals and New Age alternative healing practitioners, yoga, meditation and health, the Holistic Medicine movement in the West, and the Positive Psychology movement in the West.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

228 Religion: Conflict, Violence and Peacemaking
This course will examine the nexus of conflict/violence and religious belief in an attempt to understand the confusing array of contemporary conflicts in which multiple sides claim divine authority for their actions.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

230 Buddhism in China & Japan
A study of the many phenomena of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism: historical development, socio-cultural context, personalities, texts, practices, thought, and aesthetics.

235 New American Religious Diversity
Until relatively recently, religious diversity in the U.S. meant Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. With changing immigration patterns since the latter half of the 20th century, religious diversity in the American context has to take into account other world religious traditions, such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and others. Furthermore, new immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America have brought their own distinctive Christian practices, whether joining existing American congregations or forming ethnically distinct congregations. This course will examine the experience of these emergent religious communities within the nexus of social and cultural processes-examining the dynamic interplay of religion and communities in the context of immigration and defining a place within the American experience.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and U.S. Diversity graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

241 Topics in Art, Literature and Religion
(e.g., Religion and Psychology; Faith and Identity; American Jewish Fiction; Jesus in Theology, Art, and Literature; Religion and Film)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

242 Jerusalem, Layer by Layer
This course will examine the centrality of Jerusalem in the evolution of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The development and interaction of these religions will be situated within the sweep of the city's history, from the period of the ancient Israelite monarchy to the present. Through the study of monumental structures, archaeological remains, and textual records, Jerusalem's story will be uncovered layer by layer, with special attention given to the social and political dynamics which have shaped its monotheistic communities through the centuries.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement.

243 Dead Sea Scrolls
The discovery of a cache of ancient scrolls in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea led to a revolution in the study of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins. This course will focus on these texts, situating them in the context of the history of Judaism from the Hellenistic period through the first century C.E. What do they reveal about beliefs and institutions of the Essenes, the enigmatic community which produced them? What was life like at Qumran, the Essene community's center? How did the sect start, how did it differ from mainstream Judaism, and what was its vision of the future? What possible connections existed between the Essene community and the emergence of Christianity? How have the Dead Sea scrolls contributed to the study of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament?
This course is cross-listed as JDST 243.

245 Hidden Scriptures
Besides the books included in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament, a number of texts were excluded for various reasons. Their circulation and reading were discouraged, but they survived nonetheless. This course examines these texts, placing them in their historical context and using them as a "lens" through which we can better understand Judaism in the Hellenistic and Roman period and Christianity in some of its primitive (often "heretical") expressions.
This course is cross-listed as JDST 245.

246 The Way of the Shaman
The shaman, a figure in some form or another in nearly every culture past and present, is a healer of the body and soul who is the protector of the psychic integrity of the people he or she serves. Through initiation, the shaman is a human bridge to the supernatural. The course will use the methods of psychology and anthropology to analyze examples ranging from Siberia to Tibet to the Great Plains.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

247 Saints and Demons
This course will examine the complex relationship of Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, from the dawn of Islam through the 20th century, drawing upon religious studies, cultural historical and ethnographic perspectives. We will examine sources from the "high" traditions of both religious community, and spend the bulk of the semester closely examining "popular" traditions--such as saint veneration and spirit possession--which will challenge the idea that Jewish and Muslim ritual and practice are wholly separate and distinct.
This course is cross-listed as MEST 250 and JDST 247. This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

248 Religion and Non-Violence
Although religion in our world today is often associated with violence, this course examines the lives and work of important religious figures who advocated non-violence for social change. What are the ethical debates about non-violence as a response to injustice? We will read works by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Tutu, Dorothy Day, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years.

250 Topics in Religion and Culture
(e.g., Goddess and Devotee; Women & Religion; Sexuality and Spirituality; Women's Ways of Believing)

259 Islam
An introduction to Islamic beliefs and practices in their classical forms: rituals, law, mysticism, and other topics. The course will consider aspects of Islamic cultures and societies in medieval and modern times.
This course is cross-listed as HIST 259 and MEST 259. This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) or Social Sciences (Division II) distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement.

260 Topics in Religious Traditions
(e.g., Islam; Shamanism; Apocrypha)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

270 Middle Eastern Christianity: Its Rich Past, Its Uncertain Future
Since its inception Christianity has existed in the Middle East. There it expanded even before it attained legal status in the early fourth century. There it experienced both consolidation and division as a result of the ecumenical councils. There it has been interacting with Islam for fourteen centuries. There it has encountered the various forms of Western Christianity that encroached on its territory. And there it is struggling to survive despite continual emigration, cultural marginalization, and increasing persecution. In this course we will trace the evolution of the Christian communities in the Middle East (Assyrian, pre-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant), analyze contemporary challenges to their survival, and examine their diasporic displacement, especially to western Europe and North America.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 270. This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement.

304 Religion, Love and Sex
Sexuality: the power of the sacred within us, or the curse of original sin? Romantic love: an illusion created by hormones and imagination, or a path to union with the divine? Love and sex are basic facts of life with which religions have always had a deep and complex relationship. This course will use a multi-disciplinary and comparative religions approach to understand the history, science, and theology of love, sex, and religion.
This course fulfills the Humanities (Division I A) distribution requirement. Offered every two years.

309 Christian Spiritualities
This course will situate the development of various Christian spiritualities against the backdrop of Christian history, from apostolic Christianity to the present day. Even though emphasis will be given to analysis of key texts, consideration will also be given to the ways in which Christian spiritualities have found expression in liturgy, art, music, cinema, and social movements. We will also consider how various Christian spiritualities continue to shape the lives of people in the United States, especially in south central Pennsylvania.
Prerequisites: 107 or 212 or 214, or permission of instructor. This course fulfills the DIV I.a. distribution requirement. Offered every two years.

310 Topics in the Study of Myth
(e.g., Comparative Mythology; Myths of Creation)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

311 Buddhism and the Environment
Although protection of the environment is not a Buddhist goal per se, it is involved in the quest for enlightenment. The course will apply the Buddhist perspective to questions about the relations between humans and the rest of nature, to specific environmental problems, to the tradeoffs between human good and protection of other species, and to consumption and consumerism.
Prerequisites: 122 or ENST 111, or permission of instructor. This course fulfills the DIV I.a. distribution requirement and Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement. Offered every two years

312 Topics in the History of Christianity
(e.g., Contemporary Roman Catholic Thought; Medieval Mysticism; Christianity in Crisis; Augustine of Hippo; Eastern Orthodoxy)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

313 Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Even though it is the second largest denomination in world Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy is a religious tradition virtually unknown in the West. This course will explore Eastern Orthodoxy as a historical, conceptual, and experiential system. That is, it will trace the development of the Orthodox Church from its inception until the present decade, examine a number of writings representative of its theological perspective, and consider how its spirituality and liturgical life foster a distinctive type of religious experience among its adherents.
Prerequisites: 107 or 212, or permission of instructor. This course fulfills the DIV I.a. distribution requirement. Offered every three years.

314 Topics in Religious Ethics
(e.g., Bonhoeffer, Peace and War; God and Evil; Religion and Ecology; Contemporary Christian Ethics)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

316 Topics in Judaic Studies
(e.g., Twentieth Century Jewish Thought; Principles and Topics in Jewish Law)
This course is cross-listed as JDST 316. Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

318 Topics in Religion & Culture
(e.g., Religion and Science; Encounters with Death; Liberation Theologies)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.

320 Topics in Indian Religions
(e.g., Hindu Theology; Buddhist Tantra; Enlightenment in Comparative Perspective)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic

330 Topics in East Asian Religions
(e.g., Zen; Confucianism and Taoism; Chinese Folk Religions)
Prerequisite dependent upon topic

390 Interpreting Religion
An advanced introduction to some fundamental issues of theory and method in the academic study of religion. Selected religious phenomena will be examined using the perspectives such as those of the history of religions, psychology, sociology, anthropology, philology, philosophy, and theology. Emphasis will be placed upon methods of research and styles of writing in the study of religion.
This course fulfills the WID graduation requirement.

490 Senior Seminar
Advanced investigation of methods and critical perspectives for the study of religion with a focus to be determined by the instructor. Writing enriched.
Prerequisite: 390 or permission of the instructor.