Undergraduate Program

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Kathryn Lofton
(203) 432-0836

Religious Studies at Yale offers a curriculum of challenging course work that covers the chronological breadth of human thought while focusing on specific geographical, cultural, and philosophical ares of scholarly interest. Many disciplines suggest that they press students to think critically. In the study of religion, such critical thought has often been the inaugurating point of revolutionary engagement, creativity, and violence. It is impossible to study religion without a consciousness of this history. Our faculty encourage students to see when, how, and why communities forge systems of value. To do this, our faculty guide students to examine institutions, practices, texts, and ideas simultaneously: to see how texts influence institutions, how institutions prescribe habits, and how human beings resist and reiterate the given institutions and practices of their specific geographic and chronological contexts. Through the requirements established for our major, students will learn to understand religion as a form of human thought and activity; they will develop a familiarity with religions as social movements, textual traditions, sensory cultures, and arbiters of value; and they will acquire the linguistic, philosophical, and historical acumen necessary for an in-depth research project during their senior year.

The department offers two programs for students majoring in Religious Studies: the standard major (Program I) and a major in which religious studies is combined with another concentration (Program II). Both programs require a core of courses, a seminar, and a two-term senior essay. For a complete description of the requirements in the undergraduate major, consult this page from the Yale College Programs of Study.

Religious Studies course offerings, other than freshman seminars, are arranged in four categories. Group A features general and comparative courses that engage more than one tradition, concept, or text. Group B includes survey courses that provide a broad introduction to a particular religious tradition or scripture in historical context. Group C includes courses on specialized topics in religious studies, both introductory and intermediate. Group D offers advanced courses on specialized topics. Normally, courses in Groups A to C have no prerequisites while courses in Group D often require the permission of the instructor.

All students who major in Religious Studies will be required to author a Senior Essay. Students can find this year’s Senior Essay Guide here.

Course Groupings

  • 001 - 099
    Freshman Seminars
  • 100 - 119
    Group A - General, Comparative, and Thematic Courses
  • 120 - 174
    Broup B - Surveys of Religious Traditions
  • 175 - 399
    Group C - Topics in Religious Studies
  • 400 - 499
    Group D - Advanced Topics in Religious Studies


  • What is the difference between Program I and Program 2?
    Program 1 and Program 2 are both tracks toward fulfillment of the major in Religious Studies. Program 1 is the standard track, consisting of twelve courses in Religious Studies (although with DUS approval two cognate courses from other departments in Yale College may be applied to the major). Program 2 is an alternative, interdisciplinary option that allows you more flexibility in constructing your own curriculum. In Program 2, twelve courses are still required, but the four electives come from outside Religious Studies. These electives are carefully chosen in consultation with the DUS to form a coherent unit and are designed to help build the knowledge or advanced language skills that you will need to write your senior essay.
  • What do I have to do if I want to have a double major?
    You can fulfill the requirements of both Religious Studies and another major using either Program 1 or Program 2. If you choose Program 1, you can count up to two of your four electives toward both majors, as long as you write two separate senior essays. If you choose Program 2, all four of your electives still come from outside Religious Studies, but the subject that you combine with Religious Studies cannot also be your second major. In other words, if you choose Program 2 and declare your Program 2 as Religious Studies and History, your second major cannot be History. Your four electives should come from outside BOTH majors.
  • If I double major do I need to write two senior essays?
    If you complete two majors, you have the option of writing one combined senior essay (at least twice the length of a regular essay), provided that the DUSes in both departments agree. However, if you choose to write a combined essay, you may not count any other courses toward both majors. Alternatively, you may complete a separate senior requirement for each major.
  • Can I count a course taken credit/D/Fail towards my major?
  • What courses count in fulfillment of the comparative religions requirement?
    Courses that deal in some detail with at least three religious traditions or contexts may be counted as fulfilling the comparative religions requirement. The specific course must be approved by the DUS.
  • How do I know what courses are in what group (A,B,C,D)?
    This information may be found in the YCPS (“Blue Book”). Students can also e-mail the DUS at any time for confirmation that a particular course fits a particular requirement.