Religious Studies

Religious Studies

Pencils with Religious Symbols Printed on ThemThe program in Religious Studies develops in students critical understanding of the forms of religious phenomena in their cultural and historical contexts and a sensitivity to different value systems. The program provides students with an introduction to the major religious traditions and to religion in the modern world. Because religion infuses human cultures in visible and invisible ways, Religious Studies places special emphasis on relating the religious dimension of human life to the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. See our mission statement.



Why Religious Studies?

Japanese Memorial Torii GateMany students take one or two Religious Studies Courses as part of their General Education program. For example, you might take a course introducing one of the many important religions of the world–Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism–or in Biblical Studies, or religion and contemporary life. These are courses that allow you to chew on life’s great questions–to spend time reflecting on what you really think so you can grow as a human being.

Students often can’t stop after taking just a course or two. More power to you! We offer a cool Religious Studies major, as well as a minor, and a certificate program. A major in Religious Studies develops an informed understanding of the varied forms religion takes in human history and society. Students learn specifics of human religious behavior in context and use different lenses, ranging from close attention to texts to examination of broad movements in the past and present, to examine religion. We especially emphasize using the tools of the humanities and social sciences to understand religions. Such understanding includes a sensitivity to different cultures, world views and value systems. As Max Muller once said: “If you know one religion you know none.” You need to know another religion to see your own religion (or non-religion) in a fuller light.

And here’s another reason: If you know nothing about Islam how can you understand the news of the world? If you know nothing about American Evangelicalism, how can you understand American politics? If you know nothing about Confucianism, how can you understand the values that animate East Asia and the Pacific Rim?

Since there are not many STEM jobs actually out there, why not study something you like? “A 2014 study by the National Science Board found that of 19.5 million holders of degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, only 5.4 million were working in those fields, and a good question is what they do instead. The Center for Economic Policy and Research, tracing graduates from 2010 through 2014, discovered that 28 percent of engineers and 38 percent of computer scientists were either unemployed or holding jobs that did not need their training.” Andrew Hacker, “The Frenzy about High-Tech Talent,” The New York Review of Books (July 9, 2015 issue).

What Do You Do with a Degree in Religious Studies?

LGBTQ Coexist LogoAlmost anything! Religious Studies is one of the four best majors to help you score high on the L.S.A.T. (Law School Admissions Test). Our students go on to other advanced degrees, become religious professionals, secondary and higher education teachers, librarians, educational entrepreneurs, managers or aid-workers in NGOs, writers or performance artists, business managers, and the like. William Bao Bean, an American venture capitalist in Asia, tells us that he only supports the ventures of Humanities majors because they have the critical and innovative mindset to be successful.

Religious Studies emphasizes skills in thinking, reading and communication. A major or minor in Religious Studies enables you to relate to the religious diversity of our own society and the world. Careers that require skills like these four are at the center of our life in this new millennium. For example, Admiral Bobby R. Inman, former head of the NSA, has said this about the U.S. foreign policy establishment: “what you need are observers with language ability, with understanding of religions, [and] cultures of the countries they’re observing.”