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Department of Religious Studies


women dressed in white folding a white cloth

Study

What force in all human history has done the most to bring out the best in people, to help in building up human communities, to bring about peace? What force in all human history has done the most to bring out the worst in people, to destroy human communities, and to bring about war? Religion may be the answer to both of those questions.

It’s like the famous beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Religion can be the occasion for expressing one's highest ideals, but also for expressing the worst of one's instincts.

Meanwhile, between the lofty and low, religious practices bring order and meaning to the movements of ordinary people's daily lives. Our faculty and students explore religion across the world, in many different contexts.

 

Major Exploration

As a religious studies major, you will explore the many roles religion has played and continues to play both in society and in individual people's lives. Whether it is Zen monks, ancient Christian martyrs, Muslim and Jewish women, Hindu saints or Chinese philosophers, our courses introduce you to people and phenomena from all over the world. Learning about religion provides an opportunity to explore different cultures and develop a more global perspective.

Religious studies courses help to develop your critical-thinking abilities, your analytical reading and writing skills and your capacity for interpretation and comparison, abilities that are essential in every field of study. Through Maymester programs and study abroad opportunities, students have been able to travel to India, China, Japan, Greece, Turkey and elsewhere.

Typical courses for religious studies majors include:

  • Introduction to Religious Studies
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Introduction to Islam
  • African-American Religious Experience
  • Faith, Doubt and God
  • Literature and Film of the Holocaust
  • Religions of South Asia
  • Origins of Western Morality
  • Jewish Messianism

 

Intensive Track

Students may choose the general major or may pursue an intensive track, which includes a senior thesis [pdf]. With the intensive major, you'll also take one additional course at the 300 or 400 level. With advisor approval, you may substitute a course from another department, including languages (beyond the general requirements), classics, philosophy, history and anthropology, that directly relates to your research.

Students who fulfill the requirements for an intensive major and graduate with a minimum GPA of 3.75 in major courses and 3.5 overall will be awarded their degree "With Distinction in Religious Studies" upon graduation.

 

Minor

A minor in religious studies is a valuable way to enhance your major, whatever it is. A total of 18 credit hours in Religious Studies courses is required for the Religious Studies Minor degree.

 

Your Future in Religious Studies

Graduates with a BA in Religious Studies may want to pursue masters and doctoral degrees at USC in areas related to Religious Studies such as: Anthropology, Philosophy, History, English, Psychology, etc. Some may consider getting a Master of Divinity or Doctor of Divinity in theology or pastoral ministry, at other instututions. Religious Studies graduates also have gone on to professional schools, including both law and business schools.

The foundation of the Religious Studies degree prepares the graduate with a greater comprehension of the globally interactive and complex ways human religious thought and practice intersect with many other fields of study.