About Religious Studies

…if I headed back to college today, I would major in comparative religions rather than political science." - John Kerry, “Religion and Diplomacy


Religion is a major source of inspiration, meaning, and controversy in human societies. Fast-moving forces of globalization, migration, and technology continue to bring diverse communities into closer proximity, often creating new religious communities in the process. The Religious Studies Program at Washington University gives students the opportunity to learn about diverse religions as well as to study past and current events with a critical but open mind.


One does not have to be religious in order to study religion! Religious Studies covers subjects as diverse as U.S. politics, Beyoncé, the Middle East, atheism, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and Buddhist philosophies. The diversity of topics that can be covered in Religious Studies is huge and must be studied in all their interdisciplinary complexity. As such, courses offered by our program are taught by faculty in a variety of disciplines and areas, including: The Danforth Center on Religion and Politics; Anthropology; Classics; East Asian Languages and Cultures; English; History; Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies; and Political Science.


A major in Religious Studies will help you understand and appreciate the complex ways in which religious traditions inform human thought and behavior. A double major or a minor will also enhance a broad range of studies from politics and law to business and medicine. So whether you are interested in preparing for the advanced academic study of religion, seeking to complement another area of study, or simply feel the need to acquire a greater knowledge of religions, a major or minor in Religious Studies is excellent preparation for living and working in a pluralistic society and global culture.

Upcoming Events

September 8, 2017 to January 8, 2018

Renaissance and Baroque Prints: Investigating the Collection

Kemper Art Museum, Barney A. Ebsworth Gallery

The rise of printmaking in Europe in the early 15th c. facilitated major transformations in visual culture. Serialized images began to circulate on an unprecedented scale, extending beyond the confines of palaces or churches to reach new audiences of artists, collectors, and connoisseurs. This exhibit surveys the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s substantial holdings of prints from the late 15th to 18th centuries. Highlights include work by major innovators of the medium of printmaking such as Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn as well as Daniel Hopfer, Marcantonio Raimondi, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

October 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

Inaugural Robert Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions

Barbara R. Ambros, Professor in East Asian Religions, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Women's Building Formal Lounge

The department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Religious Studies program announce the Inaugural Robert Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions. 

Named after the late Professor Emeritus Robert E. Morrell, this annual series commemorates his life work by bringing distinguished scholars of Asian religions to campus.  Dr. Robert Morrell taught Japanese literature and Buddhism, and was the first to teach courses on Buddhism at Washington University.  For more on his life see his obituary.

Stay tuned for details on this lecture...

October 20, 2017 - 10:30am to 12:30pm

Coffee Hour

Busch Hall, room 109
Religious Studies invites you to our monthly coffee hour! Stop by Busch 109 any time between 10:30 and 12:30 for coffee/tea from our Keurig, a yummy snack, and to visit with faculty and students. No RSVPs needed. Stay as long (or as short) as your schedule allows.