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 are encouraged to spend a semester studying abroad to broaden their understanding of cultural diversity. Exceptional students have the opportunity to pursue honors in the major through independent work on a senior thesis.

Religion majors 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 and for admission to medical and other professional schools.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of multiple religious traditions, including their history, ideas, rituals, and vocabulary.
  • Demonstrate ability to interpret critically religious texts, ritual practices, and other forms of religious expression.
  • Demonstrate and apply understanding of major theoretical models for the study of religion to religious events, phenomena, ideas, and texts.
  • Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of at least one religious tradition.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Religion will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; and most of the requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

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. Majors are encouraged to take courses that acquaint them both with comparative themes and with individual religious traditions:

  1. Two 100-level RN courses.
  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. Five RN courses at the 300 level or higher, one of which must be at the 400 level or above.

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

Students who have completed CAS CC 101, CAS CC 102, or CAS CC 201 may substitute one of these courses for one of the required 100-level RN courses.

Students who have completed CGS HU 103 may substitute it for one of the required 100-level RN courses.

Students may, with the approval of their major advisor in the Department of Religion, count toward the major two courses taken outside the Department of Religion. Students who have substituted a CAS Core course or a CGS course toward the 100-level requirement are permitted to count only one additional course offered by departments other than Religion toward 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 may, with the approval of their advisors, count toward the major a maximum of two related courses taken in other departments.

Honors in Religion

To graduate with honors in Religion, students pursue independent research culminating in a senior honors thesis. Honors students enroll in a graded two-semester sequence of independent thesis research and writing (CAS RN 401/402, eight total credits) under the supervision of an advising faculty member. CAS RN 401 and 402 do not replace the departmental requirement for majors of a course at the 400 level or higher.

The attainment of honors requires the writing of an exceptional, high-quality essay, and its defense in front of the faculty advisor and two other faculty readers (the “defense committee”). The evaluation of the honors thesis will be done by the defense committee, which has the option to grant no honors, honors, or high honors. Completion of a thesis does not automatically entitle the student to honors.

Criteria for admission into the Departmental Honors program in Religion

  1. A minimum GPA of 3.5 overall and a GPA of 3.5 in Religion courses.
  2. Completion of foundational coursework relevant to the proposed thesis topic.
  3. Consent of a faculty advisor to oversee the thesis. Only in exceptional cases will a faculty member agree to supervise a student who has not taken advanced coursework with them.
  4. Submission of an application during the junior year (no later than that spring); under exceptional circumstances (travel overseas during spring of the junior year, intention to graduate early), earlier application may be appropriate. In no case may a student apply for admission to honors before spring of the sophomore year.

For more information on departmental honors in Religion, see the Religion Department website.

For information on CAS support for undergraduate research travel, see CAS Honors Research Travel Awards.