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Religious Studies

Emeriti: (Professors) Arnold Eisen, Bernard Faure, René Girard, Edwin M. Good, Robert C. Gregg, Van Harvey, David S. Nivison

Chair: Hester G. Gelber

Professors: Carl W. Bielefeldt, Shahzad Bashir (on leave), Hester G. Gelber, Paul Harrison, Thomas Sheehan, Steven Weitzman, Lee Yearley

Associate Professors: Charlotte Fonrobert, Brent Sockness

Assistant Professor: Behnam Sadeghi (on leave)

Senior Lecturers: Linda Hess, Barbara Pitkin

Lecturers: Kirsti Copeland, Ozgen Felek, Irene Lin, Azim Nanji, Yuhan S.-D. Vevaina

Visiting Professors: Devin DeWeese, Zvi Lederman

Visiting Associate Professor: Jinhua Chen

Affiliated Faculty: Vincent Barletta (Iberian and Latin American Cultures), Jean-Pierre Dupuy (French and Italian)

Department Offices: Building 70

Mail Code: 94305-2165

Phone: (650) 723-3322

Web Site:

Courses offered by the Department of Religious Studies are listed under the subject code RELIGST on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.


The field of Religious Studies brings a variety of disciplinary perspectives to bear on the phenomena of religion for the purpose of understanding and interpreting the history, literature, thought, social structures, and practices of the religious traditions of the world. Comprised of a dozen regular faculty with particular strengths in the study of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, it enrolls about thirty graduate students (mostly doctoral) and roughly as many undergraduate majors, minors, and joint majors.

Religious Studies works closely with several related programs at Stanford: the Department of Philosophy, with which it offers a joint undergraduate major; the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies; the Taube Center for Jewish Studies; the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies; the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society; and the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

While some undergraduates continue their study of religion in a graduate or professional program, most pursue meaningful and successful careers in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and medicine. In this respect, Religious Studies is an ideal interdisciplinary major in the liberal arts. Graduates of the department's doctoral program generally pursue academic careers and are routinely placed in the best universities and colleges in the country.


The department expects undergraduate majors in the program to be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are used in evaluating students and the department's undergraduate program. Students are expected to demonstrate:

  1. understanding of the subject matter of and methods used in the study of religion.
  2. skill in reading and interpreting religious texts critically.
  3. ability to conduct and present research within the discipline.

Undergraduate Programs in Religious Studies

The department offers a Bachelor of Arts major, minor, and honors program in Religious Studies, and a joint major with the Philosophy Department in Religious Studies and Philosophy. Undergraduate courses in Religious Studies are designed to engage students existentially and to assist them in thinking about intellectual, ethical, and sociopolitical issues in the world's religions. The department's faculty seek to provide tools for understanding the complex encounters among religious ideas, practices, and communities, and the past and present cultures that have shaped and been shaped by religion. Courses therefore expose students to: leading concepts in the field of religious studies such as god(s), sacrifice, ritual, scripture, prophecy, and priesthood; approaches developed over the past century, including the anthropological, historical, psychological, philosophical, and phenomenological, that open religion to closer inspection and analysis; and major questions, themes, developments, features, and figures in the world's religious traditions. The department encourages and supports the acquisition of languages needed for engagement with sacred texts and interpretive traditions as well as study abroad at Stanford's overseas centers where religions can be observed and experienced in the culture of their origin.

Graduate Programs in Religious Studies

The graduate mission of the department is to provide students with an interdisciplinary setting of study within which to focus on their respective areas of specialization. The department offers an M.A. and a Ph.D. degree in Religious Studies.

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