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Religious Studies

All known civilizations, cultures and nations have been deeply affected by religion. Religions have variously shaped peoples’ ideas of what is real and important about themselves and the world; created institutions such as temples, schools, synagogues and churches; produced literature in which they have recalled their history, instructed their followers and poured out their devotion; organized rites and rituals for the ordering of both the continuities and the changes of individual and communal life; crowned kings and queens and inspired revolutions. The study of religion, then, is one of the most comprehensive ways of understanding humankind and human visions of reality.


photo of Cayley Stephenson

Cayley Stephenson

B.A. Honours Religious Studies & Sociology, McMaster University2013

Case Manager for a Hamilton Supported Independent Living Program

“Being part of our clients’ lives is rewarding in itself. I know that having them in my life keeps me grounded and gives me happiness. Social Sciences made me realize that being “critical” is not a bad thing when done in an anti-oppressive, academic and holistic manner: Without critical thought, the world would never change for the better.”

Focus of Study

Religion, Philosophy and Politics
Courses examine the complex relationships between philosophy, politics and religion.

Region and Culture
Cross-cultural study of religious phenomena including cults in North America; health, healing and religion; death and dying.

Western Religious Traditions
Courses cover Christian thought from all historical periods, Jewish history and philosophy, and Islam; the encounter between religious thought and modernity.

Asian Religious Traditions
Both religious traditions and the religion and culture of the geographic area.

Biblical Studies
Courses focus on the Judaeo-Christian scriptures and the history of early Judaism and early Christianity.

Religious Studies Degree Options

All Social Sciences students start off in Level I. At the end of first-year, students who meet the requirements outlined below can pursue one of the following degree options in Religious Studies:

  • Honours B.A.
    Level I Grade Point Average of at least 5.0 (C) including a grade of at least C in three units of Level I Religious Studies.

  • Combined Honours B.A. in Religious Studies & Another Subject
    Level I Grade Point Average of at least 5.0 (C) including a grade of at least C in three units of Level I Religious Studies. Satisfaction of the admission requirements for the Honours program in the other B.A. subject.

  • B.A.
    Level I Grade Point Average of at least 3.5 including a grade of at least C- in three units of Level I Religious Studies.


The Department of Religious Studies also offers the following Minors that can be taken alongside another degree program:

  • Minor in Religious Studies
  • Minor in Religion & Diversity
  • Minor Japanese Studies
  • Interdisciplinary Minor in Jewish Studies
  • Interdisciplinary Minor in Muslim Studies

Religious Studies Program Details

Build Your Skills

Faculty in Religious Studies at McMaster are engaged in research on:

  • Japanese religions
  • Technology and ethics
  • Buddhist monastic law
  • Buddhism, alcohol and tea in Medieval China
  • Anthropology of pilgrimage, focusing on an unofficial Catholic pilgrimage shrine in Brittany
  • The emerging dialogue between theology and the new physics and biology the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls


As a Religious Studies major, you bring valuable skills to your workplace. Good interpreters of ideas and information are in high demand, and in today’s global society, a basic knowledge about other cultures and religious perspectives is indispensable. Religious Studies graduates have an advantage in that they are trained to deal with the problems of colliding belief systems. Our students develop:

  • Analytical, critical and strategic thinking skills
  • Ability to work with complex ideas
  • Research and information-gathering skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • Organizational ability
  • Well-developed interpretation and communication skills
  • Ability to ‘understand both sides’ and negotiate and resolve conflict
  • Cross-cultural inquiry and comparative evaluation

Our graduates have been successful at finding interesting and rewarding careers in a range of fields in both the public and private sectors

Examples of career paths include:

  • Career Counselling
  • Civil Service
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Government Agencies
  • Human Rights
  • International Aid Advising
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Public Service
  • Publishing/Editing
  • Social Services
  • Mediation
  • Human Resource Management

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