This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

The mission of the Religious Studies Program at VCU is to advance understanding of the nature, history and diversity of religious traditions.

Religious studies is guided by the idea that studying humanity's diverse and developing religious traditions is vital to understanding what it means to be human and how to live wisely as members of the world community. Students explore the artistic, ethical, literary, psychological and social dimensions of religions, as well as the relationship between religious ideas, institutions, and practices and matters of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, health, social justice, human rights and nature.

Religious studies emphasizes excellence in written, oral and visual interpretation and communication, critical thinking, informed dialogue, and global citizenship. Combining classroom- and community-based learning through study-abroad programs, internships and community service, religious studies empowers students to engage intellectually and practically with diverse communities and work to build a peaceful, generous and affirming society.

Student learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know how to do the following:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of diverse religious traditions
  • Utilize the vocabulary, concepts and research methods of the academic study of religion
  • Analyze the influence of religions on ethics, society and culture
  • Make clear, well-organized and substantive written and oral presentations

Experiential learning and study abroad

Each student completing a degree program within the School of World Studies is required to complete a World ePass as part of their experiential learning requirement; students are also encouraged to participate in a study abroad program. For more information on the ePass portfolio and study abroad opportunities, students may visit the overview page for the School of World Studies.

Special requirements

The Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies requires a minimum of 120 credits, with at least 30 credits in religious studies courses or in courses listed as acceptable for religious studies credit. Up to six of the 30 credits may be taken in language studies relevant to one's area of research interest and with the appropriate approval through the School of World Studies Advising Office. Other courses occasionally may be substituted should the needs and background of an individual student warrant substitutions. Religious studies majors are encouraged to consider a second major or minor that complements their study of religions (e.g. English, international studies), as well as study-abroad opportunities to enrich their studies.

Degree requirements Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Course Title Hours
General education
Select 30 credits of general education courses in consultation with an adviser.30
Major requirements
• Major core requirements
RELS 338Eastern Religions3
RELS 339Western Religions3
RELS 340/INTL 341Global Ethics and the World's Religions3
RELS 490Senior Capstone Seminar3
• Major electives
RELS electives: Select an additional four courses from the list below, with at least six credits at the 400 level.12
Select two religion, society and culture electives from the list below.6
Ancillary requirements
HUMS 202Choices in a Consumer Society1
RELS 108Human Spirituality (satisfies general education BOK for humanities/fine arts and AOI for diversities in the human experience)3
WRLD 4950
• Experiential fine arts 11-3
• Experiential learning0-3
Select one of the following:
Major-specific service-learning course
Study abroad program
Internship (FRLG 493, INTL 493, RELS 493, WRLD 493 or other preapproved internship opportunities)
• Foreign language through the 102 level (by course or placement)0-6
Open electives
Select any course.47-58
Total Hours120

Course offered by the School of the Arts

The minimum number of credit hours required for this degree is 120.


Course Title Hours
Religion, society and culture
RELS 250Death: Myth and Reality3
RELS 310Mediterranean Religions3
RELS/PSYC 333Psychology and Religious Experience3
RELS 334Religion in Contemporary America3
RELS 336Religions in Latin America3
RELS 337Contemporary Cults and New Religious Movements3
RELS/SOCY 360Sociology of Religion3
RELS 361The Bible as Literature3
RELS/GSWS 371Women in Islam3
RELS 414Incarceration and Spirituality: _____3
RELS 422Religion and Film3
RELS 450/INTL 449Religion, Globalization and Social Justice3
RELS/AFAM/INTL 451Religion, Racism and Social Justice3
RELS/GSWS/INTL 453Western Religions, Women and Social Justice3
RELS electives
RELS 280Introduction to Catholic Studies3
RELS 291Topics in Religious Studies1-3
RELS 300What is Religion?3
RELS 301Introduction to the Hebrew Bible3
RELS 302Introduction to the New Testament3
RELS 305Hebrew Prophets3
RELS 306Judaism3
RELS/AFAM/INTL 307Black Religion3
RELS 315/HIST 301The Ancient Near East3
RELS/INTL 317Islam3
RELS 318/HIST 333History of the Jewish People I3
RELS 319/HIST 334History of the Jewish People II3
RELS 320Taoism3
RELS 321Buddhism3
RELS/PHIL 322Tibetan Buddhism3
RELS 324Indian Religious Traditions3
RELS/PHIL 326Existentialism3
RELS 327/HIST 335History of Christianity I3
RELS 335The American Jewish Experience3
RELS 338Eastern Religions3
RELS 339Western Religions3
RELS 350/INTL 360World Religions' Classics3
RELS 354Religion and Film: _____3
RELS 362Shakespeare and Religion3
RELS 365Archaeology and Religion: _____6
RELS 380Global Catholic Thought3
RELS 391Topics in Religious Studies3
RELS 398Directed Study Abroad1-8
RELS/LFSC 401Faith and Life Sciences3
RELS 407Modern Jewish Thought3
RELS/INTL 409Modern Islamic Thought and Global Trends3
RELS/PHIL/INTL 412Zen Buddhism3
RELS/ANTH/INTL 425Religion, Magic and Witchcraft3
RELS/PHIL 430Philosophy of Religion3
RELS/PHIL 440Mysticism3
RELS/INTL 441Islamic Mysticism: the Sufis3
RELS 458Religion and Ecojustice3
RELS 491Topics in Religious Studies3
RELS 492Independent Study1-3
RELS 493Religious Studies Internship1-3
HIST 311High and Later Middle Ages3
HIST 335/RELS 327History of Christianity I3
HIST 336History of Christianity II3

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
RELS 108 Human Spirituality (satisfies general education BOK for humanities/fine arts and AOI for diversities in the human experience) 3
UNIV 101 Introduction to the University 1
UNIV 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I (satisfies general education UNIV foundations) 3
Experiential fine arts 1-3
Foreign language 101 3
General education course (select quantitative foundations) 3-4
 Term Hours: 14-17
Spring semester
HUMS 202 Choices in a Consumer Society 1
RELS 338
Eastern Religions
or Western Religions
UNIV 112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II (satisfies general education UNIV foundations) 3
Foreign language 102 3
General education course 3
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 16
Sophomore year
Fall semester
RELS 339
Western Religions
or Eastern Religions
UNIV 200 Advanced Focused Inquiry: Literacies, Research and Communication (satisfies general education UNIV foundations) 3
General education course 3
General education course 3
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
RELS 340 Global Ethics and the World's Religions 3
General education course 3
General education course 3
Open elective 3
Religion, society and culture elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Junior year
Fall semester
RELS elective 3
Open electives 9
Religion, society and culture elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
On-campus or study abroad semester  
RELS elective 3
Open electives 12
 Term Hours: 15
Summer semester
Study abroad (recommended); credits completed during study abroad will decrease open electives needed in subsequent semesters 0-6
 Term Hours: 0-6
Senior year
Fall semester
RELS 493
Religious Studies Internship (or other experiential learning opportunity if not already met)
or Senior Capstone Seminar
RELS elective (400-level) 3
Open electives 11-12
World ePass completion  
 Term Hours: 15-18
Spring semester
RELS 490
Senior Capstone Seminar (if not taken in the fall)
or Religious Studies Internship
WRLD 495 World ePass Portfolio 0
RELS elective (400-level) 3
Open electives 9
 Term Hours: 15
 Total Hours: 120-132

The minimum number of credit hours required for this degree is 120.