Academic Programs

A central mission of the Religion Department is to enable students to become critically- informed, independent, and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas, and practices that have decisively shaped human experience.

Major Requirements

The major in Religion is designed to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills and expertise in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Major consists of 11 courses with the following requirements:

  1. Five courses within an area of concentration: Each major is expected to fashion a coherent major program focused around work in one of three designated areas of concentration:
    1. Religious Traditions in Cultural Context. The study of religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop. Critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins, and ideas.
    2. Religion, Literature, and Representation. The study of religion in relation to literary expressions and other forms of representation, such as performance, music, film, and the plastic arts.
    3. Religion, Ethics, and Society. The exploration of larger social issues such as race, gender, and identity as they relate to religion and religious traditions. Examines how moral principles, cultural values, and ethical conduct help to shape human societies.
      The five courses within the area of concentration must include at least one department seminar at the 300 level. Where appropriate and relevant to the major's program, up to two courses for the major may be drawn from outside the field of religion, subject to departmental approval.
  2. Religion 299, Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion.
  3. Religion 398a and 399b, a two-semester senior seminar and thesis program.
  4. Three additional half-year courses drawn from outside the major's area of concentration.
  5. Junior Colloquium: An informal required gathering of the Junior majors once each semester. Students should complete a worksheet in advance in consultation with their major advisor and bring copies of the completed worksheet to the meeting.
  6. At least six of each major's 11 courses must be taken in the Haverford Religion department. Students planning to study abroad should construct their programs in advance with the department. Students seeking religion credit for study abroad courses should write a formal petition to the department upon their return and submit all relevant course materials. Petitioned courses should be included within the student's designated area of concentration.
  7. In some rare cases, students may petition the department for exceptions to the major requirements. Such petitions must be presented to the department for approval in advance.
  8. Final evaluation of the major program will consist of written work, including a thesis, and an oral examination completed in the context of the Senior Seminar, Religion 398a and 399b.
  9. Advising for the major takes place in individual meetings between majors and faculty advisors and in a departmental colloquium held once each semester. At this colloquium, majors will present their proposed programs of study with particular attention to their work in the area of concentration. All majors should fill out and bring the Religion Major Worksheet to the colloquium.


Minor Requirements

The minor in Religion, like the major, is designed to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills and expertise in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Minor consists of 6 courses with the following requirements:

  1. Five courses within an area of concentration, with at least one at the 300 level:
    1. Religious Traditions in Cultural Context. The study of religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop. Critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins, and ideas.
    2. Religion, Literature, and Representation. The study of religion in relation to literary expressions and other forms of representation, such as performance, music, film, and the plastic arts.
    3. Religion, Ethics, and Society. The exploration of larger social issues such as race, gender, and identity as they relate to religion and religious traditions. Examines how moral principles, cultural values, and ethical conduct help to shape human societies.
  2. Religion 299, Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion.
  3. Junior Colloquium: An informal required gathering of the Junior majors once each semester. Students should complete a worksheet in advance in consultation with their major advisor and bring copies of the completed worksheet to the meeting.
  4. All 6 of courses must be taken in the Haverford religion department. In some rare cases, students may petition the department for exceptions to the minor requirements. Such petitions must be presented to the department for approval in advance.

Senior Thesis Research Project

The senior thesis research project in the Department of Religion serves as a capstone experience for our majors. The work of Religion 398a and 399b, the required courses related to the senior research project in Religion, consists of five stages: I) the formulation of a thesis proposal; II) presentation of the proposal; III) presentation of a portion of work in progress; IV) the writing and submission of first and final drafts; V) oral discussion with department faculty. The goals of the senior thesis process are to:

  • Further develop research skills and obtain a mastery of academic citational practices.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to pursue original research questions and to sharpen scholarly interests as one masters a particular field/argument.
  • Enhance written and verbal analysis through participation in the yearlong senior seminar with department faculty and students, weekly meetings with individual advisors, and the final oral presentation of the thesis to the department.
  • Nurture group cohesion as a department, through collaborative participation with fellow majors during the course of Religion 398a and 399b, concretely expressed by way of critical feedback to shared writing.
  • Build student confidence in the ability to see to fruition a rigorous project requiring prolonged periods of thought, writing, revising, and research.

Requirements for Honors

The department awards honors and high honors in religion on the basis of the quality of work in the major and on the completed thesis.


Learning Goals

A central mission of the Religion Department is to enable students to become critically-informed, independent, and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas, and practices that have decisively shaped human experience. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of the sacred texts, images, beliefs, and performances of various religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The Department's programs are designed to help students understand how religions develop and change and how religious texts, symbols, and rituals help constitute communities and cultures. Thus, the major in Religion seeks to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Haverford Religion major is unique in that it provides students with a comprehensive curriculum that includes carefully designed areas of concentrations, specialized coursework, supervised research, a lengthy written research product, and a departmental oral conversation with the entire department as the minimum requirements for fulfilling the major. Through coursework, senior thesis research, and the Tri-College Senior Colloquium with Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr Colleges, the Department seeks to fulfill the following learning goals:

  • Expose students to the central ideas, debates, scholars, methods, historiography, and approaches to the academic study of religion.
  • Analyze key terms and categories in the study of religion, and utilize the diverse vocabularies deployed among a range of scholars in religion and related fields.
  • Develop critical thinking, analytical writing, and sustained engagement in theory and method, together with the critical competence to engage sacred texts, images, ideas and practices.
  • Cultivate the learning environment as an integrative and collaborative process.
  • Expand intellectual opportunities for students to broaden and critically assess their worldviews.
  • Encourage students to supplement their work in religion with elective languages (Arabic, Chinese, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Latin, Sanskrit, Yoruba).
  • Foster interdisciplinary methods and perspectives in the study of religion, while continuing to model this through the curriculum.
  • Prepare students for professional careers, for graduate studies in religion or related fields, and for leadership roles as reflective, critically-aware human beings.

Like other liberal arts majors, the religion major is meant to prepare students for a broad array of vocational possibilities. Religion majors typically find careers in law, public service (including both religious and secular organizations), medicine, business, ministry, and education. Religion majors have also pursued advanced graduate degrees in anthropology, history, political science, biology, Near Eastern studies, and religious studies.


Study Abroad

Students planning to study abroad must construct their programs in advance with the department. Students seeking religion credit for abroad courses must write a formal petition to the department upon their return and submit all relevant course materials. We advise students to petition courses that are within the designated area of concentration.