BA in Religion

The Department of Religion offers a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and critical approach to religion that explores the variety of religious experiences and expressions. In addition to courses that introduce the various religious traditions of the world and their histories, the department provides opportunities to explore the nature of religion; the powers and limits of interpreting religion; patterns of religious behavior; the effects of religion on society; and philosophical reflections on religion. Students majoring in Religion gain a basic knowledge of the major world religions, their histories and texts, and an advanced knowledge of at least one religious tradition, as well as a critical understanding of major theoretical approaches to the study of religion. The resulting “religious literacy,” understanding of religious motivations, and broad capability in critical thinking that graduating majors in Religion take into the world prepare them for careers in international work, social services, media, law, government, and education and set them apart as noteworthy applicants for business and related fields.

The department offers three categories of courses with increasing degrees of focus:

  • Introductory courses (at the 100-level) give students one-semester overviews of religions of the world (currently divided into “East” [RN 103] and “West” [RN 104]) or of ways to think about religion in culture and human experience.
  • Courses in particular religious traditions offer students the opportunity to learn about the history, literature, and politics of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Japanese religions, Sufism, Shamanism, earliest Christianity, Zen Buddhism, mystical Judaism, and others. These are at the 200- and 300-level. Those at the 300-level involve smaller classes and more in-depth discussions.
  •  Courses in themes, approaches, and ideas in the study of religion introduce the subject in relationship to experiences like sacred space or death; issues like Evil, gender, tolerance, and violence; materials like film or the works of great writers like Dante, Maimonides, or Rumi; or particular interpretations, like anthropology or psychology. These courses also tend to be at the 200-level or above.

Courses at the 100- and 200-level welcome freshmen, and, while 300- and 400-level classes sometimes recommend a prior course, ambitious freshmen and sophomores are usually welcome, especially after taking an introductory course. It is always worthwhile to seek out the professor.


Students majoring in Religion are required to complete 10 four-credit courses, which they are encouraged to choose with the help of their departmental advisor:

  1. two 100-level RN courses
    Majors are strongly encouraged to fulfill the 100-level requirement with CAS RN 103 and 104. Alternatively, they may take one course in “Religious Traditions” (CAS RN 103 or 104) and one in “Comparative Themes” (CAS RN 100, 101, 102, 106, 111, 121, or 122).
  2. CAS RN 200 Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion, ideally taken in the sophomore year or, if the major is declared later, as soon as possible thereafter
  3. two additional 200-level RN courses
  4. two 300-level RN courses
  5. one course at the 400 level or above
  6. two additional courses at the 300 level or above

Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all courses for the major.

Core Curriculum and Related Courses

Students entering Boston University in September 2015 and after who have successfully completed both CAS CC 101 (Core Humanities I: The Ancient World) and CC 102 (Core Humanities II: Antiquity and the Medieval World) may substitute these for one of the two required 100-level RN courses. Note that this policy applies only to CAS Core Humanities classes.

Students who declared a Religion major prior to September 2015 and have successfully completed CAS CC 101 or CC 102 or both may substitute one or both of these courses for the required 100-level religion course(s). Students may, with the approval of their advisors, count toward the major a maximum of two related courses taken in other departments. Students who have completed CAS CC 101 and CC 102 and have applied those courses toward a required 100-level religion courses will normally be allowed to count only one additional course from other departments toward the major. If students who declared a Religion major prior to September 2015 are counting both CAS CC 101 and CC 102 toward the 100-level religion course requirement, they are normally not allowed to count any additional courses from other departments toward the major.

Joint and Related Programs with Other Departments