Department of Religious Studies

Why Study Religion?

Religion is universal in human experience.  It has shaped our history, literature, art, culture, politics, ethics, and economics.  Religious ideas and agendas have encouraged peace; they also have fomented conflict.  They address some of our most important questions about the meaning of life, the creation of communities, and our behavior toward others.  They play a central role in our domestic politics and in international relations. Today’s discussions of war and terrorism, medical care, sexual behavior, environmental protection, criminal punishment, economic growth, and social justice all involve religion. Whether we are devout or skeptical, believers or atheists, we need to understand religion.

Despite its centrality in human history and cultures, religion is difficult to characterize and understand.  Religious Studies seeks to figure it out. We explore the history of specific religions and the influence of religion on politics and culture.  We also try to understand what we mean by religion and its relation to politics, to science, and to culture.  Learning about religion allows people to approach the world in an informed and sophisticated way, and it prepares them to be responsible citizens of the complex world in which we live. 

Students majoring in Religious Studies develop:

  • A broad knowledge of different world religions and their geographical and historical contexts
  • An in-depth knowledge of religion within a particular cultural setting or geographical area
  • Methodological and theoretical tools for the study of religion
  • Skills in textual analysis, direct observation, critical thinking, and cross-cultural understanding

What about getting a job?

In a global society in which the knowledge and skills needed to operate in complex religious environments are essential to success, it is hard to imagine a more relevant discipline than Religious Studies.

Students who major in Religious Studies are well-prepared for careers in the State Department and other branches of the government, health professions, the military, social services, journalism, and academia.  Our graduates work as consultants, as government employees, as business owners, members of the clergy, lawyers, and teachers.  They have enrolled in graduate programs in business, medicine, law, history, anthropology, psychology and, of course, religion.