University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Studies in Religion

The department of Studies in Religion is part of the School of Literature, Art and Media.

About the major

In Studies in Religion we train you to analyse the concepts that people and communities privilege in their lives to explain their existence. This analysis includes religions, philosophies, life-justifications, and popular mythologies. To do this we introduce you to a range of methodologies including sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, and history. Together we study the essence of what it means to be human. We will examine how dramatic narratives and powerful inner experiences propel both the individual and social constructions of reality.

The Studies in Religion Major allows you to investigate the ways in which humans have ascribed value to their lives, societies, and other important ideals from family to nation, individuality, and the afterlife. You will get to examine how these values and aspirations have been formalised into communal structures and powerful institutions throughout all of human history. You will also develop a critical awareness of the skills used in the academy to assess the narrative, ethical, legal, and institutional aspects of religion we use to keep our societies functioning and which we call sacred.

In your major you will have a fantastic opportunity to develop your own scholarly interpretations of the contested phenomena of religious experience and practice. Studies in Religion graduates make exciting careers for themselves in teaching, the public service, community relations, the diplomatic corps, international non-government organisations and a wide range of people-focused fields.

Pathways through the major

A major in Studies in Religion requires 36 senior credit points, including at least 6 credit points from 3000 level.

The units of study for the major can be found in the unit of study table for Studies in Religion. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You can find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

You complete 12 junior credit points: RLST1002 A History of God, Deities and Demons and RLST1005 Atheism, Fundamentalism & New Religions. These junior units introduce you to foundational knowledge and to current debates in the discipline.

Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

Senior units of study include senior-intermediate (2000 level) units and senior-advanced (3000 level) units. You must complete at least 6 credit points at 3000 level and entry into these units requires completion of 12 credit points at 2000 level.

Suggested pathways through the Studies in Religion major

There are three significant pathways through the Studies in Religion major.

The first pathway focuses on ancient polytheisms, the emergence of monotheism, and ‘world religions’ such as Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. This pathway concentrates on the student’s mastery of a body of knowledge about religious traditions.

  • RLST 2624 The Birth of Christianity
  • RLST2612 Ancient Gnosticism
  • RLST2631 Celtic and Germanic Mythology
  • RLST2605 Christianity and the Medieval World
  • RLST2603 Classical Hinduism
  • RLST3602 Global Christianity

The second pathway introduces contemporary themes in the study of religion and concentrates on the student’s understanding of what religion, myth and spirituality say about the contemporary world.

  • RLST2620 Religion and Violence: Faith and Blood
  • RLST2625 Creativity, Spirituality and the Arts
  • RLST2628 Religion and Film
  • RLST2635 Religion and Television
  • RLST2626 Witchcraft, Paganism and the New Age
  • RLST2635 Sex, Desire and the Sacred
  • RLST3603 Contemporary Australian Religion

The third pathway directs students to focus on methodological issues, models and theories of religion, and includes religious manifestations of religion that fall outside of both the ‘traditional’ and the ‘contemporary’ models of religion.

  • RLST2613 Philosophy of Religion: East and West
  • RLST2614 Philosophy of Religion: Reason and Belief
  • RLST2629 Confucian Spirituality
  • RLST2617 Australian Aboriginal Religion
  • RLST2636 Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic
  • SCLG2626 Sociology of Religion
  • RLST3601 Rethinking Religion

These pathways are not compulsory. You are able to complete a Studies in Religion major by choosing units from across the three pathways.


Honours is a stimulating and prestigious way to cap off your undergraduate studies, and involves a methodology seminar and the writing of a thesis in which you personally devise and research a project under the supervision of an academic staff member.

Entry to Honours requires the completion of the Studies in Religion major with an average of 70 percent or above including RLST3601 Rethinking Religion.

Refer to the degree resolutions in this handbook and to the Faculty Admissions Policy for Honours:

Contact/further information

Department website:

Undergraduate Coordinator: Dr Christopher Hartney
Phone: +61 2 9351 2367

Honours Coordinator: Associate Professor Jay Johnston
Phone: +61 2 9351 6840