In light of the recent change at Amherst to allow students who choose to convert their current courses to Pass/Fail, the Religion Department announces the following:


The study of Religion is a diversified and multi-faceted discipline which involves the study of both specific religious traditions and the general nature of religion as a phenomenon of human life. It includes cultures of both the East and West, ancient as well as modern, in an inquiry that involves a variety of textual, historical, phenomenological, social scientific, theological and philosophical methodologies.

Major Program

Majors in Religion will be expected to achieve a degree of mastery in three areas of the field as a whole by taking at least eight courses in the Department. First, they will be expected to gain a close knowledge of a particular religious tradition, including both its ancient and modern forms, in its scriptural, ritual, reflective, and institutional dimensions. Alternatively, students may craft a course of study focusing on one methodological or disciplinary interest across traditions, such as comparative philosophy, religious ethics, history, or textual study, but the course of study must be developed in conversation with the advisor and is subject to the approval of the department. A student might also choose to develop a program of language in relation to this part of the program, though this would not ordinarily be required for or count toward the major. Second, all majors will be expected to gain a more general knowledge of some other religious tradition or disciplinary approach quite different from that on which they are concentrating. Ordinarily this requirement will be met by one or two courses. Third, all majors will be expected to gain a general knowledge of the theoretical and methodological resources pertinent to the study of religion in all its forms. It is further expected of Honors majors that their theses will demonstrate an awareness of the theoretical and methodological issues ingredient in the topic being studied.


Early in their studies Religion majors normally take Religion 111, a co-taught course which introduces students to the study of comparative religion through the study of two traditions on a particular theme (which varies year to year). However, students may opt to take two 100-level courses instead of Religion 111, especially if they have entered the major from a different gateway than Religion 111. Students wishing to opt for this alternative must seek permission from their advisor or from the chair of the Religion Department.

Majors in Religion are also required to take Religion 210, "What is Religion Anyway?: Theories and Methods in Religious Studies," and five additional courses in Religion or related studies approved by the department. In meeting this requirement, majors and prospective majors should note that no course in Religion (including Five College courses) or in a related field will be counted toward the major in Religion if it is not approved by the student's departmental advisor as part of a general course of study designed to cover the three areas described above. In other words, a random selection of eight courses in Religion will not necessarily satisfy the course requirement for the major in Religion.

Comprehensive Exam

All majors, including "double majors," are required early in the second semester of the senior year to take a comprehensive examination. This examination is designed to allow the student to deal with each of the three aspects of his or her program as described above, though not in the form of a summary report of what has been learned in each area. Rather, the emphasis will be on students' abilities to use what they have learned in order to think critically about general issues in the field.

The exam topic--a theoretically provocative work on some aspect of religious studies, to be announced later--will be sent to seniors before winter break. A critical review of 2000 words will be due by early February, and a meeting will be scheduled later that month for seniors and department faculty to discuss the topic and the senior essay. Please see the chair of the department if you have questions.

Honors Program

Honors in Religion consists of Religion 111 (or, alternatively, at least two courses at the 100-level); Religion 210; four or five additional courses in religion or related studies approved by the department (to total at least eight courses); satisfactory performance in the comprehensive examination; satisfactory preparation and oral defense of a scholarly essay on a topic approved by the department; and satisfactory fulfillment of the general Honors requirements of the College.

Additionally, a student in the Honors Program in Religion will register for Religion 498 in the fall semester and Religion 499 in the spring semester. 498 is a single course; 499 can be either a single or a double course, although it is ordinarily a double course. Upon completion of the thesis, the grade received will be credited to either two courses (498 and 499) or three courses (498 and 499D).