Why Study Religion at New College?

As a student studying Religion at New College, you will work closely with your faculty advisor to devise a plan of study that matches your interests and goals. You will also learn to be self aware as you explore questions that engage both religious faith and practice. Our students tell us this freedom to drive their own education energizes their studies. As one New College Religion professor said, “I love teaching religion because we help our students engage this complex, important and often neglected area of academic thought.”

Religion area of concentration

“One of the most interesting challenges we face in global diplomacy today is the need to fully understand and engage the great impact that a wide range of religious traditions have on foreign affairs. I often say that if I headed back to college today, I would major in comparative religions rather than political science. That is because religious actors and institutions are playing an influential role in every region of the world and on nearly every issue central to U.S. foreign policy.” — John Kerry, Secretary of State (2013-17)

The main goals of the religion program at New College are as follows: to encourage critical thinking about religious traditions, ideals, rituals, and practices; to develop empathetic insight into the fundamental ideas and values of other peoples, times, and places, which are key to any effective communication with those outside one’s own culture and time; and to foster critical self-consciousness about the values and commitments of one’s own age and society and thus learn about the historically developed content of one’s own culture as well as that of others.

In light of the pivotal role religion has played in shaping selves, societies, and cultures from ancient times to the present, the program provides the beginning student with an understanding of the complexity of religious phenomena and offers the advanced student a variety of methods appropriate to such study.

View Religion Academic Learning Compact

View Religion courses offered in last 5 years


Area of Concentration Requirements

Prospective majors in religion should consult with faculty to construct an individualized plan of study. In order to declare an AOC, the student will have to take a minimum of eight courses, while in order to have Religion as a joint AOC the student will need a minimum of six. Religion AOC students are expected to take courses that explore the following:

  • An introduction to the study of religion to engage the central ideas of the discipline;
  • A course exploring the sacred scriptures of a religious tradition;
  • A class that explores the interconnections between religion and society;
  • Coverage of the history and development of a primary religious tradition; and study of a secondary religious tradition.

Interdisciplinary majors, or senior projects linking religion to other areas of inquiry, are particularly encouraged.

Through a combination of introductory courses, advanced seminars, and courses offered in cooperation with other disciplines, the Religion program works towards the goals of nurturing critical thinking, effective communication skills, and content knowledge. For advanced students, the present faculty in religion offers intensive work in philosophical issues in religious thought, method in the study of religion, religious texts, and religious ethics. Strong attention is given to historical study, analysis of the relationship between religion and society, and in-depth study of key thinkers and traditional problems in religion. Faculty in allied fields and visiting faculty provide additional opportunities to pursue diverse traditions and approaches.

Senior Thesis: In the sixth academic semester, the student must present a thesis proposal to the faculty in Religion once again fostering the student’s ability to communicate the coherence of the chosen topic. This proposal may serve as the basis for an oral examination by the faculty to determine the viability of the project. With the approval of the thesis committee, the student will submit the Thesis Prospectus and write a thesis under the direction of one of the faculty in Religion. The thesis project and baccalaureate exam will further develop the student’s critical thinking skills, communication skills, and display the specific content knowledge germane to the chosen topic.

Joint Disciplinary AOC Requirements

Declaring a Religion AOC/Joint AOC: During the first module of a student’s fifth academic semester, the student will consult with a member of the faculty in Religion to determine what work in the concentration has been done and what remains. This meeting will emphasize the student’s skills at communicating the coherence of the student’s program of study. With the agreement of a second faculty member in Religion to the proposed plan of study, the student will submit an Area of Concentration form in Religion.


Recent Theses

  • The Remaining Hours: A Contemporary Midrash, and its Analysis
  • Housing an Unspeakable Memory: Abstracted Manifestations of the Void of Jewish Life within the Jewish Museum of Berlin
  • Dancing Out of Bounds: The Disruptive Image of the Tavern Dancer in the Babylonian Talmud.
    From the Craddle to Nirvana: Caregiver Parenting Styles in Childhood and Dispositional Mindfulness in Adulthood
  • Catholic Empire: Austria-Hungary and the Nationalities Question
  • A Tillichian Analysis of Hip Hop as an Instrument for Communal Courage and Religious Expression
  • Collective Action: The Social Dimension of Buddhist Karma Doctrine
  • Something About Nothing: An Analysis of the Interplay Between Nothingness, Suffering, and Suicide in the Works of Emil Cioran
  • Pursuing Harmony with Life’s Flux: The Pragmatic Value of Experience for Modern Life in William James
  • Varieties of Religious Experience and Aldous Huxley’s island
  • Feminist Methodologies and Qumran Ideologies: Rhetorical Criticism of 1QS, The Community Rule Scroll

Careers of Religion Graduates

Associate Professor of Religion
Florida State University

Law partner in public finance
Orrick, New York City

Tidewell Hospice & Palliative Care.

Staff Attorney, community legal service
Community Law Center, Baltimore, Maryland

SAMPLE PATHWAYS to complete AOC Requirements

These pathways show how you could complete the AOC requirements within four years at New College or within two years after earning an associate’s degree. Please consult with your academic adviser to determine the most appropriate courses for your area of concentration.

A Sample Four-Year Pathway for Religion

YearFall Term January / ISPSpring Term
Year 1Introduction Study of ReligionISPIslamic Movements
LAC 2General College Elective
LAC 3General College Elective
General College ElectiveLAC 4
Year 2Introduction to Buddhism ISPTibetan Buddhism
General College ElectiveVarieties of Judaism Modern World
General College ElectiveGeneral College Elective
Year 3Varieties of Religious ExperienceISPJapanese Religions
Buddhist Scriptures General College Elective
General College ElectiveGeneral College Elective
Year 4Religion AOC Seminar
Thesis Tutorial
General College Elective
General College Elective

A Sample Two-Year Pathway for Religion

YearFall Term January / ISPSpring Term
Year 3Introduction Study of ReligionISPBuddhist Scriptures
General College ElectiveGeneral College Elective
Introduction to BuddhismJudaism and Ecology
General College ElectiveGeneral College Elective
Year 4Religion AOC SeminarISPGeneral College Elective
Tibetan BuddhismThesis tutorial; baccalaureate exam
Islamic ScripturesGeneral College Elective
Thesis Tutorial