Religious Studies

Religious Studies

Courses & Curriculum

Religion plays an important role in human life and history. A liberal education would be seriously incomplete if it did not provide some of the intellectual tools necessary for dealing with this important dimension of human life.

The department expresses the religious dimension of the college’s founding in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition. Its orientation is to serve the community that shares the values of that tradition.

A major in religious studies and theology provides a broad intellectual context for those who wish to study religion in greater depth. In its courses the department offers a scientific and theological study and appreciation of Roman Catholicism, other confessional Christian churches, Jewish religious thought, and other religions. This approach involves the ecumenical and comparative study of religions and a positive approach to the varieties of non-religion, such as atheism. The department provides the opportunity for a critical appraisal of religious faith through the study of primary source materials — scriptural, historical and theological — and the use of interdisciplinary methodologies, such as anthropology, sociology and psychology.

Religious Studies and Theology Curriculum

1. Core Curriculum Requirements:
View the Core Curriculum requirements. All students complete these requirements as part of their overall Canisius education.

2. Major course requirements: (10 courses)

RST 200 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible  3 credits
RST 201 Introduction to the New Testament  3 credits
Course in a non-Christian contemporary religion 3 credits
RST 400 Religious Studies and Theology Seminar 3 credits
RST 489 Project for Majors 3 credits
Religious Studies electives: (5 courses)
 RST 101 may not be included. See listing below.
15 credits

3.  Free electives:
Free electives are courses in addition to the Core Curriculum and major requirements sufficient to reach a minimum of 120 credit hours for graduation. Students may graduate with more but not less than 120 credit hours.


The Department has no required foreign language course(s) for its majors, but it strongly encourages all majors, if they are considering seminary or graduate study in theology or religion, to take a foreign language that is especially relevant to a student’s interest in the discipline, such as Biblical Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or a modern foreign language. These courses could be offered on demand in response to sufficient student interest. They are not listed below in the regularly offered courses.

Dual Majors

Religious Studies and Theology majors have also majored in Communications, Education, History, Philosophy, and Psychology


The Religious Studies and Theology Department offers a minor in the general area of religious studies for those seeking an overview of the field, as well as minor tracks in three specialty areas within the discipline.

Religious Studies Minor

Track 1: Religious Studies and Theology  
Biblical studies (RST 200 or 201)  3 credits
Survey of Eastern Religions (RST 220) 3 credits
Christian tradition(s): one course(e.g., RST 325, 340) 3 credits
Religious Studies and Theology electives:
3 upper-level (200 or above) courses
9 credits 
Total  (6 courses) 18 credits
Track 2: Christian History, Thought, and Ethics   
Christian history:
one course (e.g., RST 325, 326, 327, 329, 330)
3 credits
RST 340 Moral Issues Today 3 credits
Religious Studies electives:
four upper-level (200 or above) courses
12 credits 
Total (6 courses) 18 credits
Track 3: Religions of the World    
RST 220 Introduction to Eastern Religions 3 credits
Religious Studies electives:
five upper-level (200 or above) courses
15 credits 
Total  (6 courses) 18 credits

Interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Studies

The Religious Studies and Theology department is the administrative center for an Interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Studies. This minor has six required courses: RST 231, CTH 400 and four other courses. These are taken in each of four areas: Catholic Theology and Life; Catholic History and Politics; Catholic Social Thought and Philosophy; and Catholic Culture: Literature, Art, Music and Science. For further information, see Catholic Studies in the “Special Programs” section of this catalog.

Introductory Level

RST 101 Introduction to Religious Studies and Theology    3 credits
An academic introduction to the nature and role of religion in human life and society, including the Jesuit and Catholic traditions as well as other world religions. (Foundation) Fall, Spring

Intermediate Level

200 level courses generally introduce a student to a religion or a particular method of study of religion; 300 level courses generally explore a particular topic or aspect of religion in greater depth. 

All courses listed have RST 101 as a prerequisite.

RST 200 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible          3 credits
Introduction to the literature of the Old Testament within its ancient Near Eastern setting. Particular attention paid to historical, literary, cultural and theological questions. (Field 1, Global Awareness) 

RST 201 Introduction to the New Testament          3 credits
Introduction to the literature and background of the New Testament. (Field 1)

RST 219 History of Eastern Orthodox Christianity           3 credits
Historical study of Eastern Christian Churches. (Field 1, Global Awareness)

RST 220 Introduction to Eastern Religions          3 credits
History, meaning and practice of living religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Field 1, Global Awareness)

RST 221 Native American Religions           3 credits
The nature of indigenous religions in Native American societies and the effect of cultural change through contact with other cultures. (Field 1, Diversity)

RST 222 African Religions           3 credits
Thematic study of religion in tribal societies. Primary emphasis on African, American Indian and Pacific Island traditions. (Field 1, Global Awareness)

RST 224 Islam: Tradition and Revival     3 credits
From pre-Islamic Arabia to Muslim reform in the modern world. Islamic cult, institutions and faith. Islam in Africa, Asia and the Middle East today. (Field 1, Global Awareness)

RST 230 Catholic Belief Today           3 credits
Scripture and tradition. The Trinity, incarnation, grace, sacramental life, worship. The Church as community and structure. (Field 1) 

PSY 230 Psychology of Religion          3 credits
A broad, inclusive treatment of religious experience addressing not just Judeo-Christian religiosity but comprehensive ideas of religion and spirituality that cut across religious traditions. (Field 1)

RST 231 Introduction to Catholic Studies          3 credits
Major movements and personalities in Catholic theology, history, culture and spirituality. The Catholic worldview and its relation to modern society. (Field 1) 

RST 234 Christians (En)Countering Injustice          3 credits
Investigates Christian views of Justice through an examination of biblical and theological concepts of justice and injustice along with analysis of local and global examples of injustice and possible responses to those situations. (Field 1, Justice)

RST 235 Religion and Politics           3 credits
Interaction of religion and politics in the United States and other cultures.
(Field 1, Justice, Oral Communication)

RST 236 Theology and European Film          3 credits
Analysis of a selection of foreign films to understand the artists’ positions regarding the nature of humanity, of God and of other theological themes.
(Field 1)

RST 237 Images of Jesus in Film and Art          3 credits
Development of artistic representations of Jesus and other Biblical persons along with Christian concepts and themes.  Selection of European and American films as well as pertinent art from Western Christianity. (Field 1)

RST 240 Development of Jewish Religious Thought & Practice        3 credits
Jewish religious thought from biblical times to the present: Hebraism and Judaism in pre-Christian times, Jesus and Jewish thought and modern trends in Judaism. (Field 1, Diversity) 

RST 242: Introduction to the Spirituality of Business        3 credits       
Everybody is involved in business in the modern world: as employers, employees, investors, and customers. By far, the vast majority of our everyday decisions are made in a commercial context. Spirituality is based on a vision of ultimate reality and meaning. It provides practical wisdom about how to choose good and avoid evil, and how to bear patiently with wrongs and wrongdoers. This course will offer some suggestions about how Christianity offers a way to make wise decisions and develop the virtues necessary for happiness in this world.  (Field 1, Ethics) 

HIS 302 Sex Sinners and Spiders: Jonathan Edwards' Life in the Colonial Atlantic World         3 credits
Investigates the story of the colonial Atlantic world through the life and experiences of one of America’s founding fathers, such as the philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, focusing on the early modern European context of which most colonists were heirs, the founding of the New England colonies in the 17th century, the transformation of these colonies in the expanding Atlantic world of the 18th. century, and legacies in the age of the American Revolution and the early 19th century. (Writing Intensive attribute) (Field 1)

HIS 306 History of Religion in America              3 credits
See HIS 306 for course description.  (Field 1)

CLS 308 Pagans and Christians           3 credits
See CLS 308 for course description.  (Field 1)

CLS 309 Greek and Roman Religion               3 credits
See CLS 309 for course description.  (Field 1)

RST 314 New Testament in Literature and Art          3 credits
New Testament themes and personalities analyzed from a scriptural perspective and compared with expressions in the arts. Relationship of religion and art; scriptural roots of Christian art. [Also accepted for Art History major and minor credit.] (Field 1, Global Awareness)

RST 325 Early Christianity           3 credits
Historical study of the development of Christianity from its first century roots to its rise as the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. (Field 1)

RST 327 Modern Global Christianity            3 credits
Historical study of the life, thought and worship of Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, from the Reformation to the present. (Field 1)

RST 328 Jesuits: History, Spirituality, Culture          3 credits
Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. History of Jesuits. (Field 1)

RST 329 Religions in North America to 1865          3 credits
Historical study of the development of religions in North America from the Spanish, French, and English settlements in the 17th century to the Civil War era. (Field 1)

RST 340 Moral Issues Today           3 credits
An inquiry into religious and secular approaches to morality and the issues raised by specific moral problems. (Field 1, Ethics)

RST 341  Catholic Social Ethics: Theological Perspectives           3 credits
Study of the principles of Catholic Social Teachings articulated in papal and Episcopal documents with contemporary applications. (Field 1, Justice, Advanced Writing Intensive)

RST 342 Theological Ethics and Environmental Justice           3 credits
Investigation of the models of theological ethics and the ways in which ethics informs human interaction with the environment. (Field 1, Ethics)

RST 343 Religion and the Challenge of Science          3 credits
Traces the emergence of science as independent from and a challenge to the religious world view. (Field 1, Ethics)

RST 345 Bio-Moral Problems           3 credits
Considers a number of problem areas such as genetic intervention, medical experimentation, behavior control, organ transplants and resource allocation and death and dying. (Field 1, Ethics)

RST 353 Seven Signs of Love            3 credits
The presence of God in the midst of the human community, as symbolized by the sacraments. Their history, interpretation and anthropology. (Field 1, Justice)

RST 355 The Problem of Suffering           3 credits
Suffering confronts each individual in illness, broken relation-ships, failures, drug abuse and death. The course addresses how God is active even in suffering. (Field 1)

RST 360 Magic, Science and Religion           3 credits
Scholarly approaches used to understand how diverse peoples of the world conceive, make use of and tap into the realm of the extra human. Focus on “exotic” societies and peoples, exploration of the meanings of magic, science and religion in the more familiar contemporary Unites States and Europe.
(Field 1, Global Awareness)

Advanced Level

400 level courses are reserved for majors, minors, or special permission of the instructor and require RST 101 as a prerequisite.
RST 400 Religious Studies and Theology Seminar          3 credits
A seminar for RST majors and minors, focusing on the history of theory and method in the academic study of religion.

RST 489 Projects for Majors           3 credits
Concentrated investigation of a topic of particular interest to the student, under supervision of faculty advisor. Prerequisite: Departmental approval. 

RST 496 Internship           3 credits
Combination of teaching or religious work with special readings and theological reflection, under the guidance of department faculty. Prerequisite: Consent of chair.  

RST 499 Independent Study           3 credits
Independent studies allow in-depth study of a specific topic and are most often reserved for seniors who cannot otherwise fulfill a graduation requirement. Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor, department chair and associate dean.