What is Religious Studies?
The Department of Religious Studies, as an integral part of the humanities, educates students in the scholarly interpretation of religion. Through its study of the religious experiences, stories, symbols, rituals, doctrines, and institutions of human beings in different times and places, the academic study of religion makes an indispensable contribution to cultural and historical literacy.
Religious Studies is interdisciplinary by nature. Courses in the department approach the study of religion from the perspectives of history, textual studies of sacred writings, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and other disciplines. In addition to providing an understanding of the development of the major religious traditions of the world, the study of religion through these approaches equips students to explore the complex relationship of religion to other aspects of culture. Religious Studies probes the role of religion in ethics and law, psychology, gender constructs, literature, film, and a variety of contemporary social and political issues.
The cross-cultural and historical study of religions is an integral part of education for citizenship in a pluralistic society. Respect for religious groups (or those who espouse no religious belief) is difficult to sustain without significant knowledge of those histories, beliefs, and customs of diverse peoples and religious traditions of the world.
What can I do with a Religious Studies degree?
Religious Studies prepares both majors and minors for all careers that require critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to reflect on questions of meaning and value in a pluralistic context. The study of religion is excellent pre-professional preparation, especially when linked with a second major, for such fields as law, teaching, counseling, social work, journalism, film studies, political science, public administration, anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, and English. While some majors go on to graduate work in Religious Studies or related fields, others find themselves prepared for work in public service, international affairs, and not-for-profit endeavors.
Should I consider the study of a foreign language or study abroad programs?
Absolutely. You are invited to apply some classical and modern language preparation to your major program. The University offers various study abroad programs, and students interested in developing focused competence in various areas of Religious Studies are urged to consider a year abroad at one of our partner campuses.
Honors in Religious Studies
Motivated and capable students are invited to pursue honors in Religious Studies. This two-semester, 6-unit research and writing opportunity allows students to prepare an undergraduate thesis for public defense. It is excellent preparation for graduate school or any career in which writing will be important.
The department offers a variety of exciting opportunities for learning beyond the classroom, both domestically and internationally. Internships offer a firsthand view of the role of religion in community life, and provide valuable career development experience.
Center for Applied and Professional Ethics (CAPE)
CAPE provides the University and professional communities with resources for the study of morality and applied social and professional ethics. CAPE also provides public forums where important and controversial issues are discussed and debated. Students who wish to emphasize ethics in their program may wish to enroll in the CAPE internship and pursue a minor in Ethics jointly offered by the Departments of Religious Studies and Philosophy.
Religion and Public Education Resource Center (RPERC)
RPERC’s purpose is to foster greater understanding of the distinction between the practice of religion and the academic study of religion, and to encourage the teaching about religion in the public schools consistent with constitutional principles. The Center is non-partisan.
Further Information is Available on our Website.
Visit our website for introductions to our faculty, the Religious Studies Student Society (RSSS), course syllabi, overseas study, careers, graduate school, and other information. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our program.