Majoring in Religious Studies

Overview

As a religious studies major, you engage in a rigorous course of study centered on your interests across religious traditions, sects and practices. You will study religion from historical, social, cultural and applied perspectives (e.g. religion and public life, Islam in the U.S., and religion and popular culture); explore major religious traditions including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism; and delve into newer religious movements, such as Mormonism, Rastafarianism and Scientology. Through this interdisciplinary study, you gain the ability to analyze religion and religious phenomena through the key human conditions of race, gender, sexuality and class.

Student and faculty engagement

You have abundant opportunities to work closely with faculty in Religious Studies. Our students have traveled with faculty to Bangladesh, Israel and Jordan, as well as to national conferences. Many religious studies students undertake independent studies with our faculty, exploring topics such as religion and contemporary media, indigenous responses to Christian missions, religion and popular culture, and memory and trauma. Advanced students in the major serve as teaching interns in courses such as “Introduction to Religion,” “Cults and Conversion” and “Religion and Public Life.” Additionally, the Religious Studies Student Advisory Board plans public events throughout the year on topics such as Jerusalem now and then, global expressions of Islam, and religion and food.

Religion in the world

The study of religion moves fluidly between the classroom and the world at large. You can pursue the study of religion in conjunction with international relations, economics, the arts, law and politics. Our department regularly partners with the College’s interdisciplinary centers, including the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE).

What can you do with a majorcertificate in Religious Studies?

Here are some of the positions our graduates have gone on to hold:

  • Director of Development, American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
  • Associate Producer, CBS Broadcasting Inc.
  • Associate Director of Major Gifts, Yale University
  • Associate Minister, First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
  • Reference Librarian, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Director of College Counseling, American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
  • Program Associate, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
  • Graduate Student, London School of Economics
  • Teacher, Chariho Regional High School
  • Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Missouri
  • Elementary School Teacher, Greater Hartford Jewish Community
  • Vice President and Dean of Admission, Harvey Mudd College
  • Policy Adviser, New York State Attorney General
  • National Accounts Manager, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill
  • Senior Communications Associate, Catholics for Choice
  • Senior Editor, DC Comics
  • Graduate Student, Harvard Divinity School
  • Youth Activities Counselor, Disney Cruise Lines
  • Chaplain, U.S. Naval Reserves

Faculty

Roger Brooks, Elie Wiesel Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies, Dean of the Faculty, 2007-2014 Roger Brooks, Elie Wiesel Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies, Dean of the Faculty, 2007-2014

Roger Brooks, Elie Wiesel Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies, Dean of the Faculty, 2007-2014
Judaic studies • Rabbinic law and theology • Liberal arts and higher education

Eugene V.  Gallagher, Rosemary Park Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Founding director, 1996, the Joy Schechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning
Eugene V.  Gallagher, Rosemary Park Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Founding director, 1996, the Joy Schechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning

Eugene V.  Gallagher, Rosemary Park Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Founding director, 1996, the Joy Schechtman Mankoff Center for Teaching & Learning
History of religion • New religious movements • New Testament and early Christianity • Western scriptures and traditions

Garrett Green, Class of '43 Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Garrett Green, Class of '43 Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

Garrett Green, Class of '43 Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies
History of Christian thought • Modern religious thought • The religious imagination • Theological aesthetics • Philosophy of religion

Lindsey B. Harlan, Professor of Religious Studies Lindsey B. Harlan, Professor of Religious Studies

Lindsey B. Harlan, Professor of Religious Studies  (On sabbatical 2014-2015 academic year)
History of religions • Hinduism • Religion and gender • Heroic traditions • Religion in Trinidad

David K. Kim, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Religious Studies Department Chair David K. Kim, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Religious Studies Department Chair

David K. Kim, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Religious Studies Department Chair
Philosophy of religion • Critical theory • Political theory • Modern and contemporary religious thought • Human agency, moral philosophy, and ethics • Religious theory • Asian American studies

Sharon J. Portnoff, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Sharon J. Portnoff, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Sharon J. Portnoff, Associate Professor of Religious Studies  (On sabbatical 2014-2015 academic year)
Modern Jewish thought • Holocaust theology • Dante • Primo Levi • Israel

Sufia Uddin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Sufia Uddin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Sufia Uddin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Islamic studies • Religion in South Asia • Women and religion

Student profile


Nora Britton Nora Britton

Religious studies


Q: What led you to religious studies?
A: I stumbled upon it freshman year when I took "Religion and the Spirit of Politics." It was one of my most challenging, engaging courses. I’ve been able to study a wide range of subject matter, from Dante's Inferno to the Sunni awakening. My professors have a genuine interest in my success, and I've enjoyed their mentorship both inside and outside the classroom.


Q: What type of independent research have you done?
A: Another student and I pursued an independent study with Professor Kim. We examined the ways in which trauma destroys and stimulates world views. I concluded the project with a paper, "On Hearing Trauma" and submitted it to the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. I am a finalist.


Q: What role has CELS, the College's career and internship program, played for you?
A: My CELS counselor helped me identify internship options, edit cover letters and conduct a mock interview. I interned with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and had a terrific summer in New York City.

Selected courses


  • Holy Books: The Western Scriptural Tradition
  • Religion and the Spirit of Politics
  • Global Islamic Studies
  • Religion and Public Life
  • Fundamentalisms
  • Jewish Ethics
  • Cults and Conversions in Modern America
  • The Holocaust and Theology
  • Religious Expressions of Everyday Life
  • Islam in the United States
  • Pilgrimage
  • Memory, Identity, and Religion

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