Religion, Study of
As an academic field, the study of religion focuses on a set of problems, questions, and frames for intellectual attention about how human beings inhabit their social and cultural worlds in relation to what they conceive as more-than-human powers. World religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, provide a rich set of data through which to explore such issues. But religion is bigger than that, for as an emergent phenomenon, religion appertains to the fullness of the human world. Religion emerges from literature, history, social organization, imagination, emotions, culture, and even the physical body itself.
For this reason, the hallmark of UC San Diego’s Program for the Study of Religion is its interdisciplinary and interdepartmental structure. There is no discipline in the humanities or social sciences that does not provide its own rigorous and edifying window onto the phenomena of religion. Faculty from anthropology, communication, ethnic studies, history, Judaic studies, literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and visual arts provide students with the opportunity to examine religious artifacts, practices, performances, texts, institutions, and communities within a particular cultural and historical context and in the context of comparable manifestations within the general history of religions.
Because academic approaches to religion are so diverse, the program is committed to giving its students the widest practicable latitude to develop their own program of learning within the field. A concentration in the Study of Religion aims at fostering a student’s understanding of religion as one of the primary expressions of the human condition and as a historically powerful force in the shaping of human cultures, and it aims to foster an understanding of multiple religious traditions. It seeks to develop a student’s appreciation of the difficulties and possibilities inherent in undertaking a critical, disciplined, cross-cultural study of religion. The program judges its success by whether its students gain a contextual understanding of the religious phenomena they investigate, and whether they are able to usefully interrogate their source materials in order to develop analytical skills in the practice of interpretation, oral discussion, and writing.
Since the program endorses an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the study of religion, lower-division preparation should be wide and varied. Lower-division courses in which religion figures prominently (e.g., Introduction to Religion, The Making of the Modern World, or the Revelle College Humanities Program), as well as courses that focus on textual and contextual analysis and employ the analytical tools and conceptual categories of the human sciences, would all be useful in preparing the student for a major in the Study of Religion. The program strongly encourages foreign language study. The ability to read the languages of original sources and of modern scholarship is highly recommended, especially for students planning to attend graduate school in religion.
The major in the Study of Religion consists of twelve upper-division courses, achieving a balance between courses that focus on a single religious tradition or issue and those that explore various traditions and methodologies. These courses should include the following:
- Three required courses in the Study of Religion, (1) RELI 110A or B and (2) RELI 111 or 112 or 113 and (3) RELI 189, or one other seminar approved by the program director.
- Nine courses from the approved course list to be selected in consultation with the program director. Students should see the program coordinator for further details.
Students may choose to pursue the Study of Religion as their second major. In such cases, it may be possible for up to two courses to overlap with the other major. Students should consult the program coordinator for further information.
Honors in the Study of Religion
The program for the Study of Religion offers an Honors Program for students who demonstrate excellence in the major. The minimum eligibility requirements for the Honors Program are stated below. In most cases students are completing their last two quarters (winter and spring) when they enroll in the Honors Program.
Minimum Eligibility Requirements
- RELI 110A or 110B completed prior to honors project
- Junior or senior standing (completion of at least 90 units)
- GPA of 3.3 overall and a 3.5 in the major to enter or remain in the Honors Program
- Eight units of RELI 196H taken over two quarters (typically winter and spring)
- Research paper (at least twenty pages; most students write between thirty and fifty pages)
Students interested in the Honors Program should consult with the program coordinator for a detailed list of requirements and an application. Participation in the Honors Program is contingent upon the prior approval of the Honors Thesis research topic by the director. Honors proposals are due at the program office by the tenth week of the quarter (usually fall quarter of the senior year) prior to being enrolled. Final approval must take place before the first day of the quarter in which the student plans to enroll in RELI 196H.
The Honors student’s faculty director must certify by the end of the first term that the student is making timely progress toward the completion of his or her project.
The notations Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction will be determined on the following basis: major GPA, the grade for the research paper, and the grade for the public presentation.
The minor in the Study of Religion consists of seven courses, of which five must be upper division. These seven courses must include two required courses in the Study of Religion as delineated under the major:
- RELI 110A or 110B, and
- RELI 111 or 112 or 113.
Some students may apply two lower-division college requirements to the minor (e.g., Revelle students may apply HUM 1 and HUM 2, and ERC students may apply MMW 2 and MMW 3).
All students are assigned a faculty adviser and are encouraged to meet with their adviser at least once a quarter to develop their course of study. Additional advising information may be obtained from the program coordinator, Literature Building, First Floor, Room 139.
Students are encouraged to investigate the University of California Education Abroad Program (EAP) and other options for foreign study through the Opportunities Abroad Program (OAP). By petition, credits earned through EAP/OAP can fulfill major and minor requirements. More information about studying abroad can be obtained in the Education Abroad section of the catalog.
Career Opportunities and Preparation for Graduate Study
Among its many aims, the major in the Study of Religion is designed to develop fundamental skills in critical thinking, comparative analysis, research, and written expression. As such, the BA degree is appropriate for careers in education, government, business, and non-profit agencies. It is also an excellent preparation for graduate study in a variety of fields and disciplines.
Students interested in earning a California teaching credential from UC San Diego should contact the Teacher Education Program for further information.
Students are encouraged to consult the program director for further information about career opportunities and graduate study. Information is also available on the program’s website.