Religious studies is an academic discipline that looks at religious phenomena worldwide from a variety of angles in order to understand the many roles that religion plays in human life. To this end, students of religion learn to use a variety of theoretical analyses and methods. These include historical methods to understand how religions develop in time; critical literary methods to understand religious ideas; aesthetic methods to understand religious art and material culture; social-scientific methods to understand the relationship between religion, society and culture. Religious studies can also engage a variety of professional disciplines in analysis of how religion functions in economic, educational or political contexts, healthcare and scientific research, to name some examples.
Some ways of studying religion emphasize understanding religions on their own terms, other ways use comparative methods to discern differences and similarities between religions. Students of religion also study ways that people use religious resources to make meaning outside the boundaries of religious institutions and identities. Above all, the field of religious studies requires a willingness to explore different ways of interpreting human life and diligent effort to develop understanding of how religious ideas, symbols, rituals and spaces serve as resources for people in a variety of contexts as they make sense of and live out their lives in the world. Thus, religious studies provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally and personally in a complex, multi-dimensional world.
Because religious studies is an interdisciplinary program drawing upon many departments, some courses may have prerequisites in their home departments that must be fulfilled even though the prerequisites themselves have no bearing on progress within the religious studies major. Students are responsible for ensuring that they have met all the prerequisites to enter a course before they enroll in it. The current list of courses can be found in the Religious Studies course list page in the Guide.
Students who wish to declare their intention to major or earn a certificate in religious studies must meet with the undergraduate advisor during regular office hours or by making an appointment. Students are encouraged to do this early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning, or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
Dr. Corrie Norman is the undergraduate advisor and Honors in the Major advisor. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University General Education Requirements
All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.
|General Education|| |
* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.
College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.
Bachelor of Arts degree requirements
|Mathematics||Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.|
|Foreign Language|| |
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||108 credits|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||60 intermediate or advanced credits|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one (1) major|
|Total Credits||120 credits|
|UW-Madison Experience||30 credits in residence, overall |
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
|Minimum GPAs||2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison |
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison
Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above. Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:
- Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
- Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
- Music (Bachelor of Music)
- Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)
30 credits in Religious Studies course work, to include:
|2 courses from:||6|
|Religion in Global Perspective|
|Exploring Religion in Sickness and Health|
|Exploring Religion and Sexuality|
|9 credits from:||9|
|America and Religions|
|Women, Gender and Religion|
|Introduction to Buddhism|
|The Crusades: Christianity and Islam|
|Sects and Cults|
|The Medieval Church|
|Medieval Social and Intellectual History, 1200-1450|
|Eastern Christianity/Russian Orthodoxy in a Global Context|
|Christianity and the Almighty Dollar|
|Classical Rabbinic Literature in Translation|
|Science, Medicine and Religion|
|Prophets of the Bible|
|Early Christian Literature: Matthew-Revelation|
|King David in History and Tradition|
|In Translation: Mythology of Scandinavia|
|Anthropology of Religion|
|Jewish Literature of the Greco-Roman Period|
|Introduction to Taoism|
|Islam, Science & Technology, and the Environment|
|Literatures of Muslim Societies|
|Early Christian Literature: Pauline Christianity|
|Introduction to Confucianism|
|Jainism: Religion of Non-Violence|
|The Bible in the Middle Ages|
|Islam: Religion and Culture|
|Great Cities of Islam|
|The Rhetoric of Religion|
|Jewish Cultural History (in English)|
|Islam in Iran|
|Topics in Religious Studies - Humanities|
|Topics in Religious Studies - Social Studies|
|Thought of Gandhi|
|Topics in Religious Studies-US Ethnic Studies|
|African American Religions|
|A Survey of Tibetan Buddhism|
|Religion and Politics|
|Jewish Philosophy from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century|
|Western Christianity from Augustine to Darwin|
|Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asian History|
|Islamic History From the Origin of Islam to the Ottoman Empire|
|Francis of Assisi: Literature and the Arts|
|Introduction to Sufism (Islamic Mysticism)|
|Classical Rabbinic Texts|
|Religious Thought in Modern Europe|
|Christian Literature: The Gospels|
|Art and Religious Practice in Medieval Japan|
|Advanced Topics in Religious Studies|
|Philosophy of Religion|
|Special Topics in Philosophy of Religion|
|The Enlightenment and Its Critics|
|Religion and Public Education|
|Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean|
|Intellectual and Religious History of European Jewry, 1648-1939|
|Religion, Colonialism & Modernity in Southeast Asia|
|Social Structures of Muslim Societies|
|Proseminar: Studies in Religions of Asia|
|Yoga: Methods and Goals|
|Meditation in Indian Buddhism and Hinduism|
|Gods and Goddesses of South Asia|
|Social Structure of India|
|Proseminar in Buddhist Thought|
|The Anthropology of Shamanism and Occult Experience|
|Religion in Critical Perspective|
|Senior Capstone Research and Colloquium|
|Credits to achieve 30 in the major:||11|
Residence and quality of work
2.000 GPA in all RELIG ST and major courses
2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits for the major, taken in residence1
15 credits in RELIG ST or the major, taken on campus
Courses counting as upper level in the major include: RELIG ST/HISTORY 208, RELIG ST/HISTORY 209, RELIG ST/HISTORY 212, RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH/LITTRANS 227, RELIG ST/ILS 234, RELIG ST/E ASIAN/LCA 235, RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH/LITTRANS 237, RELIG ST/LITTRANS/MEDIEVAL 253, RELIG ST/LITTRANS 257, RELIG ST/PHILOS 261, RELIG ST/ENVIR ST 270 and all courses numbered RELIG ST 300–699, except RELIG ST/CLASSICS/HEBR-BIB/JEWISH/LITTRANS 332.
Honors in the Major
Students may declare Honors in the Religious Studies Major in consultation with the Religious Studies undergraduate advisor.
Honors in the Religious Studies Major: Requirements
To earn Honors in the Major in Religious Studies, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and these additional requirements:
- Minimum 3.300 University GPA
- Minimum 3.500 GPA in all RELIG ST and major courses
- 19 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better, to include:
University Degree Requirements
|Total Degree||To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.|
|Residency||Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.|
|Quality of Work||Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.|
1. Proficiency in close reading, interpretation, and written and oral analysis.
2. Proficiency in accessing, appraising, and utilizing a variety of resources and methods for research across disciplinary lines.
3. Proficiency in categorizing, analyzing and comparing diverse systems of value and belief in a variety of contexts.
4. Global and local religious literacy; identifying, evaluating, and interpreting the interrelationships and impact of religious worldviews and communities in Wisconsin, the United States and globally.
5. Ability to conduct and present sustained research on primary sources using methodologies/analysis of religious studies culminating in the senior capstone project.
Dr. Corrie Norman is the undergraduate advisor and Honors in the Major advisor. Contact her by email at email@example.com to meet with her. Students are encouraged to meet with Dr. Norman early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
Religious studies engages a variety of professional disciplines and provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally in a complex, multi-dimensional world.
Religious studies sponsors workshops and other career exploration vehicles, often in collaboration with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, to aid students in articulating the value of religious studies for their career preparation. Student-developed capstone projects in religious studies often make specific connections to experiential learning and career preparation in a range of fields. Talk with Dr. Norman about possibilities for combining internships and other forms of preprofessional training with the major and certificate.
L&S career resources
SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).
SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career.
- Set up a career advising appointment
- INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative (1 credit, targeted to first- and second-year students)—for more information, see Inter-LS 210: Career Development, Taking Initiative
- Learn how we’re transforming career preparation: L&S Career Initiative
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