Undergraduate Program

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Professor Seth Perry
Room 249 1879 Hall (258-6008)

Undergraduate Administrator: Michelle Medici
Room 145 1879 Hall (258-5172)

Schedule an appointment with Professor Seth Perry

The Study of Religion: An Overview

Princeton University has long been committed to the idea that religion, like politics or art, is an important sphere of life and merits systematic attention within the curriculum. The primary responsibility for instruction in this area has, for nearly eighty years, been entrusted to the Department of Religion, which belongs to the Division of the Humanities. Our charge is to do our best to examine religious life, the diverse forms it has taken in different cultures and historical periods, and the questions it poses for theoretical, ethical, and political reflection. As a humanities department, rather than a seminary or theological school, we appeal to the same standards of historical and philosophical scholarship found in neighboring disciplines.

The Department of Religion aims for our students to gain content knowledge with respect to religious traditions, practice, history, ethics, and philosophy, across time periods and cultural settings. In addition, we intend for our students to develop an understanding of the history of the academic study of religion and its crucial methodologies and purview. Beyond the inherent value of these mutually-constitutive sets of goals, we want the development of this content knowledge and facility with religious studies as a field to cultivate methodological tools that students will take with them into other parts of their academic lives and their eventual careers: an abiding intellectual curiosity; self-motivation and initiative in research; a habit of close reading and critical empathy in the assessment of both secondary and primary sources; facility with questions of race, gender, and class; and the ability to make clear, cogent, and successful arguments both in writing and in discussion.

The interdisciplinary nature of the Department and of its faculty – whose backgrounds and research interests in the study of religion include history, anthropology, philosophy, literature, politics and ethics – means that we tend to attract majors who are a diverse group. Despite a range of interests and approaches, the Department has a strong sense of community and collegiality that is actively fostered by faculty, staff and students, both undergraduate and graduate.