The academic study of religion seeks to understand the role that religion plays globally as a vital aspect of human life and culture. And because religion can potentially touch so many aspects of human life, the study of religion has a distinctive multidisciplinary character, drawing upon archaeology, art, anthropology, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. It also has a strong multicultural orientation, exploring a plurality of traditions and a wide range of behaviors and beliefs.
The study of religion, like other humanities majors, provides an extraordinary opportunity to think about the core values of civilizations past and present. It can help one to understand the complex and sometimes volatile relationships between religion and politics, economics, and social structures. An awareness of various past and present features of religious life – seminal events, texts, personalities, ceremonies, rituals, theologies, art and visual representations, material culture - can lead to an informed analysis of contemporary life. Such analysis is important when considering domestic and international issues (such as abortion, evolution, faith-based initiatives, homosexuality, capital punishment, stem-cell research, marriage, civil rights, and school prayer). The study of religion thus helps us to understand the faiths, worldviews, and ways of life of billions of people.
The Department of Religion offers introductory courses in all the major religious traditions, notably Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese Religions, as well as those of Africa. Other courses offer topical analyses of specific aspects of religious traditions - such as gender, race, ethics, sectarianism, or historical eras. Many other courses examine theoretical or comparative aspects of the study of religion, especially as they are manifest in the modern world. The department also provides training in a number of relevant languages (e.g. Biblical Hebrew, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Pali, Aramaic, Syriac) to help students navigate primary religious texts in their original languages.
What Can I Do With a Religion Major?
Not simply a fascinating topic, a major in religion offers intellectual discipline – an opportunity to hone critical thinking and writing skills. In addition, a religion major also offers broad access to many career options. Indeed, the study of religion has wide-ranging value because it has an international component, deals with values, and speaks to contemporary issues. All these make it very meaningful as preparation for a variety of vocational and professional opportunities.
Students choose to major in Religion for many different reasons. Most do not intend to pursue a professional career in ministry or in the academic study of religion, though many do. Religion majors pursue diverse careers, underscoring the notion that a religion major is valuable in its own right, but can also function as excellent preparation for a variety of occupations. In fact, several Tech CEO’s expressed an interest in hiring liberal arts majors. This type of global, critical thinking is precisely what the major in religion offers. It might surprise you who majored in religion!