2017-2018 University Catalogue 
    Jun 15, 2024  
2017-2018 University Catalogue [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Professors Frank, Hucks, Kepnes, Martin, Sindima, Vecsey (Chair)
Associate Professors Cushing
Assistant Professors Jassal, Reinbold, Spevack, Sullivan
Visiting Professor Ejizu
Visiting Assistant Professors Eisenstat, Topal
Senior Lecturer Stahlberg

The Department of Religion at Colgate offers a program of study that challenges students to explore the role of religion across cultures and historical periods, and to think critically about the nature and expression of religiousness. Religion courses offer training in a unique combination of skills, including close textual analysis, direct observation, critical thinking, and cross-cultural understanding.

The department offers a variety of courses regarding diverse African, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American traditions and scriptures. In addition to courses focused on particular traditions, the department also offers courses on the relationship between religion and issues of historic and contemporary importance, such as the environment, terrorism, medicine, gender, and the law.

The study of religion is necessarily interdisciplinary, making reflective use of the full variety of liberal arts methods. In addition, it engages related issues in philosophy, ethics, society, spirituality, science, gender, sexuality, arts, and politics. Thus, a major or minor in religion may serve as a natural complement to other majors. Students in the arts and humanities, for instance, will find that the study of religious texts and worlds affords them greater insight into literature and visual art. Some students may seek to make stronger interdisciplinary connections. In consultation with an adviser, students may elect to create a track through the religion major or minor that brings their work in religion into dialogue with their work in other departments or programs. Possible tracks include:

Religion, Politics, and Law

The department offers courses that examine the intersection of religion and politics, past and present, explore the legal frameworks of a variety of religious traditions, and ask students to think about the role of ethics and morality in public life. Students interested in history, international relations, peace and conflict studies, or political science will find that a minor or second major in religion allows them a better understanding of many of the longstanding ideological conflicts that have shaped the contemporary world.

Religion and Health

Students interested in the natural sciences who intend to enter the fields of medicine and health sciences will find that courses in religion equip them to evaluate the moral complexity of current scientific advances. A host of religion courses probe questions that are central to medicine and health: questions of body and soul, psychic states and mindfulness, sex and sexuality, life and death. These are treated in a variety of religious traditions, offering the pre-med student a comparative approach to health and healing.

The success of our graduates indicates that a major in religion provides excellent preparation for a number of careers, including education, government, journalism, finance, law, social work, and professional service in non-profit organizations and religious institutions.


The M. Holmes Hartshorne Memorial Awards for Excellence — established as an award for students who, in the judgment of the department, have performed exceptional work in philosophy and/or religion.

The M. Holmes Hartshorne Memorial Award for Postgraduate Study in Philosophy and/or Religion — established as an award for a graduating senior, for achievement in the study of philosophy and/or religion and, depending on financial need, to assist the recipient with postgraduate study in philosophy, religion, or philosophy and religion at a recognized graduate or divinity school.

The Raphael Lemkin Prize — established to honor the memory of Raphael Lemkin (1901–1959), survivor of the Holocaust and professor on international law, who first coined the word “genocide” and who inspired the United Nations’ Convention on Genocide. Awarded for the best essay dealing with an issue, principle, or concept related to Dr. Lemkin’s concerns and reflecting his ideals, as determined by the chair of the department and/or the chair’s appointed committee of three faculty members. All prize participants must read the biography of Raphael Lemkin provided to them by the department.

The Robinson Essay Prize — established in honor of Joseph Robinson and awarded on the basis of an essay written for a 200- or 300-level course in the department during the previous spring or fall semesters.

Advanced Placement

Advanced Placement cannot be presumed since examinations in this area are not given

Transfer Credit

Transfer credit for graduation requirements may be awarded by the registrar. Transfer of credit toward major or minor requirements requires prior written permission from both the registrar and the department. Normally no more than two transfer credits may count toward major or minor requirements. Seminar credit is not transferable.


All candidates for honors in religion and those majors in philosophy and religion who wish to write on a religious theme are required to take an advanced course in religion in the fall of the senior year. At the end of the course, the faculty member may recommend that a student’s paper be reworked into an honors thesis.

In the spring of the senior year, candidates for honors normally take an independent study (RELG 490 ) with their honors adviser. The honors thesis — a substantial piece of research, analysis, or critique — is turned in to the adviser several weeks before the end of the term. If the adviser decides that the thesis can stand for honors, the honors candidate meets during exam week with his or her adviser and two other faculty readers and fields questions: the honors defense. Ideally the question and answer session becomes a forum for intellectual exchange between the student writer and the faculty readers. A student is awarded honors on the basis of both the quality of the written thesis and the conduct of the honors defense. No student can be awarded honors, however, who does not have at least a GPA of 3.40 in his or her major.

Study Groups

During the spring semester the Department of Religion, in conjunction with the Department of Philosophy, offers a study group at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland’s first university, founded in 1413. Other than the director’s course, which is taught by a Colgate faculty member, students take courses of their choice from among those offered by the University of St. Andrews, at which they are enrolled for the semester. The department has also organized extended study in Israel. For more information see Off-Campus Study  and Extended Study .


Majors and Minors



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