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Academic Program

The study of religion is a humanistic discipline that focuses on religion as one important element in culture. Historical, literary, anthropological, and theological methods of study offer a critical approach to understanding religion and its expressions in myths, symbols, and ideas, as well as in religious communities, rituals, and moral actions.

Because this study often considers fundamental human questions that are asked by every generation, it is closely linked with other academic disciplines that study the nature and character of human life.

Majoring in the field of religious studies provides a focus for integrated study in the humanities. Majors are expected to consult with members of the department in designing their program. The study of religion often embraces work in other fields, and majors are encouraged to coordinate courses in other fields with their work in religious studies. More information on the religious studies curriculum is available on the website (bates.edu/Religion).

Major Requirements. The religious studies major consists of eleven courses (twelve for honors candidates), one of which must be taken in another academic department/program. These courses must comprise:

1) Two courses in theoretical and/or comparative studies of religion. The courses that satisfy this requirement include all 100-level religious studies courses (preferably taken before the senior year), and the following:
REL 206. Religious Experiences and the Study of Religion.
RE/WS 207. Eve, Adam, and the Serpent.
CM/RE 218. Greek and Roman Myths.
AN/RE 225. Gods, Heroes, Magic, and Mysteries: Religion in Ancient Greece.
PL/RE 260. Philosophy of Religion.
AN/RE 265. Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion.

2) Two courses from two of the following areas (for a total of four courses; courses taken that are listed in more than one area cannot be counted twice):

Area A (Judaism/Islam):
CM/RE 235. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.
CM/RE 238. Jews and Judaism in Antiquity.
REL 264. The Islamic Tradition.
AN/RE 266. Islam and Muslims in Diaspora.
REL 269. Muslim Worlds: A Literary and Cinematic Exploration.
REL 274. The Qur'an.

Area B (Christianity):
REL 236. Introduction to the New Testament.
CM/RE 240. History of Christianity: Conflict, Self-Definition, and Dominance.
REL 242. History of Christian Thought II: The Emergence of Modernity.
REL 243. Religion and Modern Critics.
REL 247. City upon the Hill.

Area C (Religion and Modern Society):
FYS 152. Religion and Civil Rights.
PHIL 112. Contemporary Moral Disputes.
REL 216. American Religious History, 1550-1840.
REL 217. American Religious History, 1840-Present.
INDS 228. Caring for Creation: Physics, Religion, and the Environment.
REL 247. City upon the Hill.
REL 255. African American Religious Traditions.
REL 270. Religion and American Visual Culture.
RE/WS s20. Feminist Visionary Ethics.
ES/RE s25. Food and the Sacred.
REL s27. Field Studies in Religion: Cult and Community.

Area D (Religion in South and East Asia):
AS/RE 208. Religions in China.
AS/RE 209. Religions in Japan.
AV/RE 244. Visual Narratives in South and Southeast Asia.
AS/RE 249. The Hindu Tradition.
AS/RE 250. The Buddhist Tradition.
AS/RE 251. Religions of Tibet.
AN/RE 263. Buddhism and the Social Order.
FYS 289. The Life of the Buddha.

3) Two 300-level seminars.

4) A course from outside the religious studies curriculum that is associated either with a course listed in requirement 1) above (theoretical and/or comparative studies of religion) or with one of the areas chosen under requirement 2). A list of examples of such courses (in African American studies, anthropology, art and visual culture, Asian studies, classical and medieval studies, English, environmental studies, history, philosophy, politics, and women and gender studies) may be obtained from the department's website. Other courses in the curriculum are acceptable with the approval of a student's major advisor. Alternatively, this requirement may be met through two semesters of study at the college level of a relevant foreign language.

5) REL 450. Senior Research Seminar.

6) REL 457 or 458 (thesis) or both REL 457 and 458 (honors thesis).

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.

Minor. The minor in religious studies consists of six courses which must normally be specified prior to the start of a student's senior year. These courses are to be selected according to the following guidelines and in consultation with a member of the department faculty who is chosen or appointed as the student's departmental minor advisor: a) one course from requirement 1) above (theoretical and/or comparative studies of religion); b) at least one 300-level seminar; c) four other courses in religious studies.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may be elected for only one course applied toward the minor.


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