How have religious traditions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam influenced people’s relation to the world, their social interactions, and their ideas about human dignity, sexuality, peace and social justice? Why do religious images, buildings, clothes, and everyday practices often provoke fierce debates or even violent conflicts? How can we understand that religion doesn’t disappear in modern societies, but seems to be increasingly vibrant and politically influential on a global scale? And how does the transnational character of many religions feature in current social and political challenges such as migration, economic inequalities, or even climate change?

In fact, if I went back to college to day, I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that’s how integrated [religion] is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today.
John Kerry, US Secretary of State 2013-2017 (Obama administration)

Religious Studies at University College Utrecht is a challenging, multidisciplinary and research-oriented track that engages students in scholarly as well as public-political debates. It approaches religious traditions, ideas and practices as transcultural phenomena that are deeply engrained into, e.g., political, economic, and cultural phenomena. The programme combines grounding in the central themes and theories of the study of religion, with the study of many specific religious practices such as praying, dancing, and fasting; the function of images, buildings, and food, and the relation between religion, politics, and secularism.

Since religious studies is by definition an interdisciplinary field, you learn how to study religions from various perspectives, including anthropological, historical, and philosophical approaches, gender studies, and in postcolonial constellations.

Since religion is part and parcel of all cultures in past and present, the Religious Studies track can be combined with many other tracks, such as History, Philosophy, Political Science, Arts, Media Studies, and Cultural Anthropology. There are also Religious Studies alumni from Utrecht University who now work in the financial sector (who specialized on Islamic banking), in law (who benefit from the understanding of diversity and discussions about religious law systems), and other areas of society and academia.

The track follows the classical 1-2-3 structure. Each of the two level-1-courses courses, UCHUMREL12 Introduction to Religious Studies (Spring term) as well as UCHUMREL13 Global Religions: Ideas and Practices (Fall term), leads to all level-2-courses of the Religious Studies track.

The courses UCHUMREL24 Ethics and Religion and UCHUMPHI25 Philosophical Views on Humans and Gods are functional in both the Religious Studies and the Philosophy tracks. Students who want to take one of the advanced courses, but have not taken the introductory course (or, in the case of the level 3-course, one of the level 2-courses) are invited to contact the track coordinator. Under certain conditions, the entry requirements can be waived if students have followed relevant courses from other tracks, and in many cases, students can qualify for participation by doing additional reading. 

In addition, courses in the track can be combined with relevant off-campus courses, such as Sociology of Religion (level 2) or Buddhism in the Modern World (level 3) at UU.

A Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum provides an outstanding basis for further study of religion in its various dimensions. We prepare our students so that they can enter a Master's programme in Religious Studies at leading universities.

The admission requirements of the Master's programme Religions in Contemporary Societies at Utrecht University and many Master's programmes at universities in the United Kingdom and the United States will allow students who have followed the four courses of the Religious Studies track to directly enter the programme. Other relevant courses (including off-campus courses) will strengthen the position of the student in competitive application procedures.

Supporting disciplines for prospective Master's programmes in Religious Studies include amongst others: Anthropology, History, Philosophy and Social Sciences.

Level Fall Spring Summer
1 HUMREL13: Global Religions: Ideas and PracticesX HUMREL12: Introduction to Religious Studies  
2* HUMREL23: Religions in the Public Domain HUMPHI25: Philosophical Views on Humans and GodsX–a  
  HUMREL24: Ethics and ReligionX–a  
3 UCHUMREL34: Religion and Political Secularism INTPOL32: Politics and Religion in the Modern Worldi  

X Cross-listed
a Alternates
i Interdisciplinary
* It is advised to follow the Humanities Lab course.

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