skip to content

Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies


There is no prescribed route or prerequisite to the major; students typically find themselves majoring after taking courses in the department and becoming acquainted with department faculty. Students contemplating the major or joint major are invited to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The undergraduate student services associate in Building 70 can also field questions regarding the declaration procedure within the department.


The curriculum for majors is designed to move students sequentially from foundational courses, through deeper investigations, culminating in integrative research courses. Thus, the introductory sequence is designed to lead to courses which build on this foundation with topics including: particular traditions such as Judaism or Buddhism; comparative studies such as nonviolence in Hinduism and Buddhism, or Muslim and Christian interpretations of scripture; specific topics such as mysticism, gender and religion, or theodicy; and distinctive approaches such as the philosophy of religion or ritual studies. Majors complete their careers with integrative courses that afford opportunity for research and consolidation of the knowledge and skills gained earlier.

A Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies requires 60 units of course work. At least 44 units are to be taken in courses numbered above 100. Ten units out of the 60 may be taken for the grade of C/NC.

  1. At least 8 of the 60 units must be courses at the introductory level. Students may satisfy this requirement by taking either:
    1. IHUM 68A,B. Ultimate Meanings (Winter/Spring sequence), or
    2. one course in each of the following categories: introduction to religious traditions (courses numbered 11-50) and introductory topics in the study of religion (courses numbered 51-99). In consultation with the Undergraduate Director, one Stanford Introductory Seminar in Religious Studies may be applied to this introductory requirement.
  2. At least 29 units are to be taken in intermediate lecture and seminar courses numbered 100-289. Of these, at least two seminars are required from courses numbered above 200. With approval of the Undergraduate Director, language courses related to the student's program of study (such as Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Chinese, or Japanese), but not counted towards the University language requirement, may be counted among these 29 units.
  3. 15 units in integrative courses:
    1. Majors' Seminar: RELIGST 290. Theories of Religion (5 units; Winter Quarter of junior year; fulfills WIM requirement; letter grade only)
    2. Senior Essay or Honors Thesis Research: RELIGST 297 (3-5 units; minimum 5 units; up to 10 units over two quarters; graded 'N' until completion of essay or thesis)
    3. Senior Majors' Colloquium: RELIGST 298 (5 units; Spring Quarter; grading option S/NC)
    4. completion of either a senior essay or honors thesis. See below concerning the difference between these options.
  4. Each student, in consultation with his/her advisor, works out a focus of study centering either on a particular religious tradition or on a theme or problem that cuts across traditions such as ritual, ethics, scripture, or gender.
  5. Students focusing on one religious tradition must take at least 8 units in one or more religious traditions outside their concentration.

A 25-30 page essay on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the advisor upon receipt of a student's proposal by the end of the third quarter prior to expected graduation. The character and content of the essay, which is meant to allow the student to call into play knowledge and skills learned in the course of the major, may take several forms. For example, a student may return to a subject studied earlier but now pursued in more depth or from a new perspective, research a recent or new topic of interest in the field, or offer a carefully framed critical assessment of what has been learned in the major based on review of influential sources, theories, and methods of studying religion. The senior essay is read and graded by the student's advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty.


A 40-80 page research paper on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the advisor upon receipt of a proposal in the fourth quarter prior to expected graduation. The paper, supported by mastery of primary and secondary scholarship, advances a well-reasoned, supportable thesis. Writers of honors theses must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in Religious Studies courses, and at least 3.2 overall, and are expected to have already demonstrated success in writing research papers. The honors thesis is read and graded by the student's advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty. Theses earning a grade of 'B+' or above receive honors.


The following courses in other departments/programs have been approved by the Chair as fulfilling requirement 2 above.

CLASSGEN 18. Greek Mythology

POLISCI 149S. Islam and the West

© Stanford University - Office of the Registrar. Archive of the Stanford Bulletin 2011-12. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints