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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Religious Studies

Why Major in Religious Studies?

Students come to Religious Studies classes for many reasons. Here are just 10 reasons you should consider a major or a minor in Religious Studies:

1. Religion is one of the most powerful forces shaping human experience. Throughout history, religious traditions have been a strong motivating force, fueling efforts towards social justice, peace, and human rights, as well as conflict, violence, and oppression. Although some predicted that religion would fade away in the modern era, the situation is quite the opposite. Today in fact it is more vital than ever to understand the many roles religion has played and continues to play both in society and in individual people's lives.

2. Perspective and understanding. An understanding and appreciation of religious traditions on their own terms, and in their interface with other traditions, is an integral part of the education demanded by the complex, increasingly globalized society we live in. Now more than ever we need people who are aware of their own perspective and how it shapes their perception, who are informed about views other than their own and respectful towards them, and who are able to understand and use different kinds of information.

3. An interdisciplinary field. Because Religious Studies is an inherently multifaceted and multidisciplinary enterprise, it allows students to explore a number of different methods and fields, such as philosophy, anthropology, sociology, history, art, psychology, theology, literature, political science, medicine, women's and gender studies, pop culture... You name it.

4. A well-rounded liberal arts education. Religious Studies courses help to develop your critical thinking abilities, your analytical reading and writing skills, and your capacity for interpretation and comparison--abilities which are essential in every field of study.

5. Prepares you for a wide range of possible careers. Because religion is such a fundamental aspect of human experience and society, studying it offers access to a variety of career options. Students who major in Religious Studies often go on to pursue careers in law, education, government, medicine, social work, counseling, and journalism, as well as ministry.

6. Exploration of global cultures. Whether it is Zen monks, ancient Christian martyrs, Muslim and Jewish women, Hindu saints, or Chinese philosophers, our courses introduce you to people and phenomena from all over the world. Learning about religion provides an opportunity to explore different cultures and develop a more global perspective. Through Maymester programs and study abroad opportunities, students have been able to travel to India, China, Japan, Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere.

7. An opportunity to engage deeply the ultimate questions of life. What is the meaning and purpose of human life, how are faith and reason related, what happens after death, what should guide our ethical choices? Religious Studies will give you the opportunity to ponder some of the possible answers.

8. Intellectual excitement. Because religion is such a complex issue, studying it gives you a chance to stretch your thinking. It can be exhilarating to see the world from an entirely different perspective--for example, by putting yourself in the shoes of a third-century C.E. orthodox Hindu priest. What does that teach you about yourself?

9. A broad range of interesting courses. From Buddhist Meditation to the Psychology of Religion, from Existentialism to Islam, from the New Testament to Money, Power, Greed and Theology, our courses are sure to meet your interests each semester.

10. Exceptional faculty. All of the Religious Studies faculty are committed to excellence in teaching and are actively pursuing research. Stop by for our office hours, talk to us after class, and get to know what we're working on and what keeps us coming back to the study of religion!