2017-2018 Undergraduate Course Catalog 
    Jan 18, 2021  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Religion, BA


Philip P. Arnold
501 Hall of Languages

Director of Undergraduate Studies:

Marcia C. Robinson
505 Hall of Languages


Ahmed E. Abdel-Meguid, Philip P. Arnold, Zachary J. Braiterman, Virginia Burrus, Gareth J. Fisher, Ken Frieden, Ann Grodzins Gold, Biko M. Gray, M. Gail Hamner, Tazim R. Kassam, R. Gustav Niebuhr, William A. Robert, Marcia C. Robinson, Joanne Punzo-Waghorne, Ernest E. Wallwork, James W. Watts

Knowledge of religion is critical in today’s world. The academic study of religion at Syracuse University offers students the opportunity to explore religion in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary context. Students who take courses in religion learn to interpret the dynamics of religious convictions, actions, and expressions.

Religious traditions and practices engage such questions as: What kind of life is most worth living? How do we understand the nature of the world? How do we relate to ourselves and to others?

Students study religious life and thought from the perspectives of arts, ethics, gender, history, literature, mythology, philosophy, political theory, psychology, scriptural studies, social sciences, and theology.

The academic study of religion is a critical undertaking and an often transforming experience introducing students to unfamiliar aspects of their own world, and to the religious realities of our global situation.

The Department of Religion has articulated three goals that shape its teaching and its expectations of what students in its courses and programs may expect to gain from this study:

  1. to understand better the nature and diversity of religious expressions in the contemporary world and in history, and their power in peoples’ personal and collective lives;
  2. to think more deeply and critically about religious experience and its modes of expression and forms of interpretation;
  3. to recognize and appreciate the difficulties and possibilities in a disciplined study of religion; and to become aware of a diversity of approaches and methods within that study.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Examine the degree of religious diversity in the world both historically and in the world today

2. Appreciation for the crucial role that religion has played in the course of human history

3. Critically and imaginatively analyze the role of religion in human expression, thought, and social institutions both historically and in the present day

4. Explain a particular religious tradition and/or problem within the study of religion

5. Recognize the difficulties inherent in undertaking a coherent, disciplined study of religion, and to be aware of the diversity of perspectives within that study

6.  Communicate effectively in writing

7. Communicate effectively orally

Major Requirements

The major requires 30 credits of appropriate work.  Up to 6 credits may be earned in individualized work within the Department of Religion (e.g., independent study, honors thesis) and up to 6 credits may be earned in advisor-approved courses outside the Department of Religion.  At least 18 credits must be taken at the 300-level or above.

Because of the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of the study of religion, students should select at least one primary and one secondary area of concentration in consultation with the  Director of Undergraduate Studies.  Students must take at least 9 credits in their primary area of concentration and at least 6 credits in their area of secondary concentration. 

Students may design their own concentration or concentrations in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or choose from the concentrations listed below.


Additional Information

Students who qualify may earn a BA degree in Religion “with distinction.” Qualifications and requirements for this special honor include:

• completion of the Religion major with a 3.5 GPA in program courses and a cumulative 3.4 GPA by the end of the senior year;

• study of at least one foreign language through the 201 (intermediate) level; and

• preparation for (REL 498  , 3 credits) and writing and defense of a senior thesis.

Students intending to pursue graduate study in religion are recommended to take at least one of their areas of concentration in Jewish Thought and Experience, Christian Thought and Experience, Islamic Thought and Experience, Asian Religious Thought and Experience, or Religion in the American Experience.

In certain cases, students may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to count courses listed under one concentration for a different concentration.  However, under no circumstances can students use the same course to count for two or more concentrations (i.e., students may not “double-count”).

Selected Topics courses (REL 100, 200, 300 or 400) and individual semesters of REL 320  (“Themes in the Study of Religion”) may count toward fulfilling requirements for one of the areas of concentration at the determination of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Graduate-level courses (numbered 600 and above), taken by undergraduate students at the permission of the instructor, may also count toward fulfilling requirements for one of the areas of concentration above at the determination of the course instructor. 

Both individualized work and outside courses may be approved to count for a student’s concentration requirements and/or the major requirement overall with the permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.