Majors and Minors: The Course Program

Students in a classroom
To study religion is to open a portal onto the best and the worst that we humans are capable of creating. Contrary to predictions, religion has not "gone away" because it taps into one of the most basic truths about being human: man does not live on bread alone.

Normally, the student who applies for a major or minor in religion will have completed (or be in the process of completing) two courses in the discipline with an honor grade.

The Major

Majors successfully complete 8 credits in religion, including the required Senior Symposium (Religion Café) in the fall of the senior year, to meet departmental and College graduation requirements. Successful completion of the symposium will be the culminating requirement for the course major. For all religion majors, the symposium will be a 1-credit seminar and will include a term essay assignment.

Students may choose to write a thesis. Those seniors who desire to complete a one-credit thesis or a two-credit thesis as part of the major will need to obtain permission from a faculty adviser in consultation with the department. For majors, this exercise will not substitute for the Senior Symposium.

The Minor

Minors complete 5 credits in the Religion Department and are not required to take the Senior Symposium.

Courses & Curriculum

Up to three courses cross-listed but not housed within the Religion Department will count toward the major. Only one such cross-listed course will count toward the minor. Up to two non-Swarthmore courses (i.e., courses taken abroad or domestically) may count toward the major; only one such course is permissible for the minor. The department will accept two courses in language (Arabic, Hebrew, or other proposed research languages) toward the major or minor.

For many students, courses numbered RELG 001-013 serve as points of entry for advanced work in the department and sometimes as prerequisites for higher-level courses, though this is not always the case. Students come to the study of religion through various courses at various levels, and the department encourages this flexibility and diversity of entry points by having no introductory course requirements, nor are there required distribution courses. The major in religion is planned in consultation with faculty members in the department, the individual student's adviser, along with other relevant faculty, who encourage curricular breadth (close work in more than one religious tradition) and methodological diversity in the proposed program. Such breadth and diversity in the program is encouraged at the beginning in the major's sophomore paper statement.

The curriculum in the Religion Department is strongly comparative, thematic, and interdisciplinary, so it is relatively easy for students to propose programs that are cross-cultural and transdisciplinary in scope. Religion majors are encouraged to include study abroad in their program, planned in collaboration with the department. Often a student's independent study projects done while studying abroad is expanded into a 1 or 2-credit honors or course thesis upon return to Swarthmore.

Admission to the Course Major

The Religion Department considers two areas when evaluating applications: overall grade-point average and quality of prior work in religion courses. Applicants are sometimes deferred for a term, so the department can better evaluate an application for the major. A student's demonstrated ability to do at least B/B- work in religion is required for admission to the major in course.