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The Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies

Total Course Requirements for the Bachelor's Degree: 120 units

See Bachelor's Degree Requirements in the University Catalog for complete details on general degree requirements. A minimum of 40 units, including those required for the major, must be upper division.

A suggested Major Academic Plan (MAP) has been prepared to help students meet all graduation requirements within four years. You can view MAPs on the Degree MAPs page in the University Catalog or you can request a plan from your major advisor.

General Education Pathway Requirements: 48 units

See General Education in the University Catalog and the Class Schedule for the most current information on General Education Pathway Requirements and course offerings.

Diversity Course Requirements: 6 units

See Diversity Requirements in the University Catalog. Most courses taken to satisfy these requirements may also apply to General Education .

Literacy Requirement:

See Mathematics and Writing Requirements in the University Catalog. Writing proficiency in the major is a graduation requirement and may be demonstrated through satisfactory completion of a course in your major which has been designated as the Writing Proficiency (WP) course for the semester in which you take the course. Students who earn below a C- are required to repeat the course and earn a C- or higher to receive WP credit. See the Class Schedule for the designated WP courses for each semester. You must pass ENGL 130I or JOUR 130I (or equivalent) with a C- or higher before you may register for a WP course.

Course Requirements for the Major: 37 units

Completion of the following courses, or their approved transfer equivalents, is required of all candidates for this degree.

Major Core Program: 16 units

6 courses required:

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
An analysis of the religions of the West: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. (008129)
An introduction to the religions of the East: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (008128)
What is religion? How do we recognize it? Are there functions religions characteristically serve or questions they characteristically ask? Are there characteristic answers? Are there secular religions? How do various cultures approach the category of "religion"? This course explores diverse religious beliefs and practices in light of classic and contemporary analyses from several disciplinary fields. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. (008130)
An introduction to the tools used in doing research, writing papers, and preparing presentations in religious studies. Topics include sources of information using the library's electronic tools to gather information, assessing internet resources, citation formats, copyright laws, and ethical standards in research and writing. 1 hour lecture. (008198)
An introduction to the variety of religious expressions in the history of the United States. The course explores the impact of religion on American society and examines how religion has shaped and been shaped by American ideals, values, and institutions. Topics include the interplay of European and indigenous religious traditions, religious freedom, the historical roots of religious trends such as pluralism and fundamentalism, and the contributions of ethnic minorities to the contemparary religious landscape. 3 hours discussion. (000405)
Prerequisites: RELS 100 or RELS 110 or faculty permission.
A study of the history, theories, and methods of religious studies as a scholarly and academic discipline, with emphasis on the biographical and historical contexts of significant contributors to the discipline and their classic works. Topics include secular vs. religious approaches to the study of religion and the contrast between religious insiders' and outsiders' perspectives; alternative theories of the origins and functions of religion; and debates over whether religion is a positive or a negative influence in the lives of inindividuals and social groups. 3 hours seminar. (008191)

Writing Proficiency Course: 3 units

1 course selected from:

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
Prerequisites: ENGL 130 or JOUR 130 (or equivalent) with a grade of C- or higher; concurrent enrollment or prior completion of RELS 281 and RELS 480.
Readings and research on selected topics in religious studies. Content varies. 3 hours seminar. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 6.0 units. This is an approved Writing Proficiency course; a grade of C- or better certifies writing proficiency for majors. (008200)
Prerequisites: ENGL 130 or JOUR 130 (or equivalent) with a grade of C- or higher, faculty permission.
This course is an independent study offered for 1.0-3.0 units. You must register directly with a supervising faculty member. Individually directed projects in religious studies. 9 hours supervision. This is an approved Writing Proficiency course; a grade of C- or better certifies writing proficiency for majors. (008209)
SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
Prerequisites: ENGL 130 or JOUR 130 (or equivalent) with a grade of C- or higher, RELS 480 (may be taken concurrently).
To provide students accepted for "Honors in the Major" an opportunity to prepare and write a research paper on topics germane to their interests developed during the first three years of work in religious studies. Research and writing will be done under supervision of a staff advisor for a total of 6 units in two semesters. 9 hours supervision. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 6.0 units. This is an approved Writing Proficiency course; a grade of C- or better certifies writing proficiency for majors. (008212)

World Traditions: 6 units

1 course selected from:

Western Traditions:

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
This course considers the disputes over the interpretation of the Bible in Western culture. Did Moses and the prophets write the Hebrew Bible? Was the Bible intended as scripture, myth, or history? Why were books left out of the Bible? What are the differences between Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Protestant approaches to the Bible? In adition to examining books of the Bible in their original context, this course considers the Bible's role in ancient and contemporary disputes over the Sabbath, heaven and hell, the resurrection, the law, circumcision, divorce, the Trinity, salvation, slavery, polygamy, abortion, homosexuality, and feminism. 3 hours lecture. (008131)
This course is also offered as HIST 261 , MEST 261 .
Introduces students to the history, faith, practice, and cultures of Islam, starting with the Late Antique Near Eastern milieu from which it emerged and tracing its development and geographic spread around the world to the present day. 3 hours seminar. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (004515)
This course is also offered as MJIS 204I .
This course surveys the texts, practices, and beliefs of Judaism, examines the development of the Jewish tradition in response to interactions with a variety of host cultures, and investigates how the Jewish experience complicates our understanding of what it means to be a minority. 3 hours discussion.This is an approved Writing Intensive course. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved US Diversity course. (005860)
This course is also offered as MJIS 205 .
This course traces the history of Jewish and Muslim engagement with the West, explores the diversity of Jewish and Muslim groups in contemporary Europe and the United States, and investigates how Western interactions with Jews and Muslims have defined and challenged European and American identities. 3 hours discussion. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved US Diversity course. (020675)
An introduction to the basic features of the Christian worldview through an anlysis of its historical, ritual, doctrinal, ethical, and social-institutional dimensions. Special attention will be given to the diverse expressions of Christianity in different times and places and to its impact on human history, society, and culture. 3 hours lecture. (008145)
An introduction to Greek mythology and its ancient Near Eastern parallels. The course focuses on the analysis of ancient Greek art and literature (including epic, hymns, lyric poetry, tragedy, and historiography). Topics explored include dying and rising gods, athletics and warfare, hospitality and gift exchange, initiation rituals and the afterlife, and the sex and gender roles of men and women. In addition, students consider Roman, Jewish, and Christian approaches to Greek myth and explore the impact of myth on modern art and film. 3 hours discussion. (008135)
This course is also offered as MEST 302 .
This course introduces students to the sacred scripture and prophet of Islam. Students study the biography of Muhammad (570-632) and the text of the Qur'an by situating it within the context of Muhammad's life and career. By the end of the course, students are able to appreicate how devout Muslims view Muhammad and the Qur'an, as well as ask critical questions raised by modern scholars of religion. 3 hours lecture. (020263)
This course is also offered as MJIS 303 .
An introduction to the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament of Christianity and the Tanakh of Judaism) in English translation. Readings from the Pentateuch, the prophetic books, and the hagiographa. The course emphasizes the analysis of the biblical books in their ancient Near Eastern contexts, the documentary hypotheses, Israelite history and religion, the formation of the biblical canon, and early Jewish and Christian scriptural interpretation. 3 hours lecture. (005858)
This course is also offered as MJIS 305 .
An introduction to the thought, texts, and culture of Rabbinic Judaism in the first through sixth centuries. Students become familiar with the historical and cultural background of classical Rabbinic society, from its origins in the Pharisaic movement in Palestine (Eretz Israel) to its pinnacle in the academies of Sassanid Babylonia. This course explores the oral-literary tradition that produced the Talmud and Midrash while allowing students to experience the dialectical style of study associated with Rabbinic culture. 3 hours lecture. (020503)
This course covers the books of the Christian New Testament in the context of ancient Judaism and the world of the ancient Mediterranean. Who wrote the gospels and the epistles? Is there anti-Jewish prejudice in the New Testament? This class explores how Jesus was depicted, inquires whether the new Testament promotes or opposes Gnosticism, explains why the Christian apocrypha are not accepted as scripture, and also considers the relationship between the early Christian movement and ancient Greek mystery religions, the Dead Sea Scroll sect, Hellenistic Judaism, and/or Enoch traditions. 3 hours seminar. (008141)

1 course selected from:

Asian Traditions:

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
This course provides an introduction to the religions and cultures of India and the surrounding region known as South Asia. The main traditions that are examined are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism, all of which have deeply influenced the wider culture and each other throughout their evolution over the centuries in India. Students become acquainted with their doctrinal, philosophical, devotional, ritual, and social features. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (008181)
An exploration of the religious dimension of Chinese culture, focusing on the Confucian, Buddhist, and Chinese Buddhist traditions (with particular attention to Chan/Zen) and their relations with each other. 3 hours seminar. (021194)
A discussion of the roots and transformation of the Buddhist teachings in India, China, Japan, and Tibet. Special emphasis will be given to major trends and problems in contemporary Buddhism. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (021199)

Religion, Society, and Culture: 6 units

6 units selected from:

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
This course is also offered as MCGS 224 .
This course covers the religions that inform America's ethnic minorities, and the historical, cultural, and social experiences and values of Native American, Hispanic-American, Arab-American, African-American, and Asian-American minority groups. 3 hours seminar. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved US Diversity course. (021198)
An introduction to ways that religious and secular world views and ethics influence attitudes, behaviors, and policies toward the environment, society, and economy. The course considers alternative views of self and society, the relationship between human beings and the natural world, and issues of lifestyle, justice, and sustainability. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. (021200)
A study of the religious, ethical, spiritual, psychological, and socio-cultural dimensions of dying, death, and afterlife. Reading and discussion of issues surrounding dying (dying as one's last career, patient-centered approaches, spirit/body relationships); death (definitions, religious meanings, ritual practices); and afterlife (religious conceptions, relation to the human quest for meaning). 3 hours seminar.This is an approved Writing Intensive course. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (004443)
This course explores mythology and fiction through an analysis of the fantasy and science fiction works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Do Judaism and Christianity have a mythology comparable to that of other cultures? What do the works of Lewis and Tolkien tell us about our own time and the issues our civilization faces? Topics include the nature and origin of evil, the seductions of technolgoy and control, the place of earth in the cosmos, the purpose and origin of humankind and the universe, and the nature of God in the face of evil. 3 hours discussion. (008156)
This course is also offered as WMST 275I .
Analysis of the images, roles, and experiences of women in world religions in historical and contemporary contexts. 3 hours discussion.This is an approved Writing Intensive course. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (021201)
This course is also offered as MJIS 304 .
An exploration of the forces influencing, and the important events in, the emergence of Judaism in America. Attention is given to issues of community identity and the interaction of Judaism with the larger culture in the context of society and politics in America. 3 hours discussion. (005859)
This course is also offered as AIST 325 .
A description and analysis of selected American Indian religions and philosophies of American Indian peoples of North America. The course will emphasize the Indians' spiritual relationship with nature as depicted in ceremonies, music, literature, and oral traditions. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved US Diversity course. (000384)
An introduction to current ethical issues facing individuals, institutions, and society. Students attend regularly scheduled CAPE forums, symposia, and seminars and do appropriate reading and writing in conjunction with sessions. 1 hour lecture. Formerly PHIL 331. (007236)
An introduction to major religions of the contemporary world (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Chinese religions) with particular emphasis on their relationship to pressing global issues, including economics and poverty, environmental issues, war and peace, and human rights. Explores a number of religious traditions that are closely identified with specific ethnic groups in this country. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (008190)
What is the proper attitude toward wealth and poverty? Do the rich have an obligation to help the poor? How should we balance a commitment to human equality and to individual liberty? How are we to determine whether a society's distribution of wealth and power is just or unjust? What methods constitute legitimate means of achieving social change? This course explores alternative religious perspectives on these and other ethical questions that arise in connection with contemporary social, political, and economic life. 3 hours lecture. (008167)
What role does religion play in contemporary debates about ethics and morality in modern pluralistic societies? Topics may include abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, war and peace, environmental destruction, sex, and world hunger and poverty, as well as the conflicts between secular and religious world views. 3 hours lecture. (008158)
This course explores how Christians, Buddhists, and Marxists have sought to answer questions about the nature and goals of human life and about the methods of individual and social transformation. Attention will be given to the diversity of ethical perspectives in the traditions on such topics as the human good, the ideal society, political and economic life, war and peace, the family, the meaning of freedom, and the nature of salvation. 3 hours discussion. (008165)
This course introduces students to the ways in which historic and contemporary religious communities interpret catastrophes and how religious worlds explain and provide humans with tools to cope with catastrophes and with making meaning out of suffering and death. Focus is on visions of the end of the world (apocalypticism, environmental destruction), interpreting the meaning of disasters (natural, human-induced), and personal and global annihilation (epidemics, nuclear destruction). 3 hours lecture.This is an approved Writing Intensive course. This is an approved General Education course. (008166)
An introduction to the major world religions and an analysis of legal, intellectual, and educational issues that arise in connection with the study of religions in American public schools. 3 hours lecture. (008168)
An examination of the representation of religious concerns and meaning in modern film. Utilizing resources developed in religious traditions and in the field of religious studies, the course examines themes central to the human condition such as selfhood, religious conviction, despair, redemption, and race and ethnicity. 3 hours lecture. (008149)
A cross-cultural study of the ways religious world views, institutions, and rituals shape views of human sexuality. Topics inlcude sacred sexuality; religious asceticism; the regulation of reproductive sexuality; religious perspectives on homosexuality; the role of religion in constructing gender identity and the special ritual role of "third" genders in some cultural communities; and critiques of religious perspective on sexuality from feminist and queer communities. 3 hours lecture. (020224)
This course is also offered as SOCI 327 .
This course explores the impact of religion on the individual and society, and surveys the major developments in the field. This includes interactive relationships between religion and other social institutions, and debates on controversial issues. 3 hours lecture. (008184)
See description under RELS 491. 3 hours seminar. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 6.0 units. (008160)
Prerequisites: RELS 375 or WMST 375.
This course is also offered as WMST 475 .
A study of the development of feminist theology in Christian, Jewish, and other religious traditions over the past 30 years. Examines feminist theological analysis of religious symbols, texts, rituals, beliefs, and practices in the U.S. and international contexts. 3 hours seminar. (008199)

Note: A maximum of 3 units of any modern foreign language study at the third-semester college level or beyond, or any 3 units of college-level ancient or classical language study, will be credited toward the 6-unit requirement for this category.

Electives: 6 units

6 units selected from:

Choose 6 units from any Religious Studies (RELS) courses listed above or from the following electives.

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
This course examines Muslim cultures in the daily, national and global contexts in which Islam is practiced. Students read ethnography, fiction, history, and poetry in order to appreciate, respect and understand contemporary Islamic cultures. 3 hours lecture.This is an approved Writing Intensive course. This is an approved General Education Capstone course. This is an approved Global Cultures course. (021354)
This course is also offered as RELS 241 .
In this course we investigate the long and complicated relationship between science and religion by examining both the conflict and co-operation between theologians, philosophers, and scientists in the Western and Eastern worlds throughout history and into the modern age. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. (007201)
Special topics offered for 1.0-3.0 units. 3 hours lecture. (008134)
This course is also offered as PHIL 204 .
In this course we investigate the long and complicated relationship between science and religion by examining both the conflict and co-operation between theologians, philosophers, and scientists in the Western and Eastern worlds throughout history and into the modern age. 3 hours lecture. This is an approved General Education course. (007201)
Special topics offered for 1.0-3.0 units. 3 hours seminar. (008196)
Prerequisites: Faculty permission.
Enrollment will be determined by permission of the Department of Religious Studies. 3 hours supervision. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 15.0 units. Credit/no credit grading. (008208)
Special topics offered for 1.0-3.0 units. 3 hours lecture. (008210)

Supervision Courses

All supervision courses require faculty permission.

A maximum of 3 units of the supervision courses may be counted toward the major, though it is not necessary to take any. Additional units must be requested by petition. (If RELS 497 is taken to fulfill the writing proficiency requirement, a maximum of 6 units of supervision courses will be counted toward the major.)

SUBJ NUM Title Sustainable Units Semester Offered Course Flags
Prerequisites: Faculty permission.
This course is a special topic offered for 1.0-3.0 units. You must register directly with a supervising faculty member. 3 hours supervision. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 3.0 units. (008192)
Prerequisites: ENGL 130 or JOUR 130 (or equivalent) with a grade of C- or higher, faculty permission.
This course is an independent study offered for 1.0-3.0 units. You must register directly with a supervising faculty member. Individually directed projects in religious studies. 9 hours supervision. This is an approved Writing Proficiency course; a grade of C- or better certifies writing proficiency for majors. (008209)
Prerequisites: ENGL 130 or JOUR 130 (or equivalent) with a grade of C- or higher, RELS 480 (may be taken concurrently).
To provide students accepted for "Honors in the Major" an opportunity to prepare and write a research paper on topics germane to their interests developed during the first three years of work in religious studies. Research and writing will be done under supervision of a staff advisor for a total of 6 units in two semesters. 9 hours supervision. You may take this course more than once for a maximum of 6.0 units. This is an approved Writing Proficiency course; a grade of C- or better certifies writing proficiency for majors. (008212)

Electives Requirement:

To complete the total units required for the bachelor's degree, select additional elective courses from the total University offerings. You should consult with an advisor regarding the selection of courses which will provide breadth to your University experience and possibly apply to a supportive second major or minor.

Grading Requirement:

All courses taken to fulfill major course requirements must be taken for a letter grade except those courses specified by the department as Credit/No Credit grading only.

Advising Requirement:

Advising is mandatory for all majors in this degree program. Consult your undergraduate advisor for specific information.

Honors in the Major:

Honors in the Major is a program of independent work in your major. It requires 6 units of honors course work completed over two semesters.

The Honors in the Major program allows you to work closely with a faculty mentor in your area of interest on an original performance or research project. This year-long collaboration allows you to work in your field at a professional level and culminates in a public presentation of your work. Students sometimes take their projects beyond the University for submission in professional journals, presentation at conferences, or academic competition. Such experience is valuable for graduate school and professional life. Your honors work will be recognized at your graduation, on your permanent transcripts, and on your diploma. It is often accompanied by letters of commendation from your mentor in the department or the department chair.

Some common features of Honors in the Major program are:

  1. You must take 6 units of Honors in the Major course work. All 6 units are honors classes (marked by a suffix of H), and at least 3 of these units are independent study (399H, 499H, 599H) as specified by your department. You must complete each class with a minimum grade of B.
  2. You must have completed 9 units of upper-division course work or 21 overall units in your major before you can be admitted to Honors in the Major. Check the requirements for your major carefully, as there may be specific courses that must be included in these units.
  3. Your cumulative GPA should be at least 3.5 or within the top 5% of majors in your department.
  4. Your GPA in your major should be at least 3.5 or within the top 5% of majors in your department.
  5. Most students apply for or are invited to participate in Honors in the Major during the second semester of their junior year. Then they complete the 6 units of course work over the two semesters of their senior year.
  6. Your honors work culminates with a public presentation of your honors project.

While Honors in the Major is part of the Honors Program, each department administers its own program. Please contact your major department or major advisor to apply.

Catalog Cycle:13