Religion is that dimension of human culture in which questions of ultimate meaning are asked and answered. In a world of many cultures, peoples, and historical traditions, the answers to religious questions vary widely. The academic study of religion proceeds from the assumption that it is possible to understand a world view that one does not share; indeed, that it is imperative to do so. For how is it possible to understand human history, culture, and politics without grasping the ultimate commitments that guide people’s lives? The academic study of religion does not seek to indoctrinate students in any particular religion, nor does it seek to dissuade students from their commitment to one particular tradition. Rather, the study of religion seeks to provide students with the tools to understand humanity’s quest for ultimate meaning and the myths, symbols and stories, the doctrines and ethical convictions, the experiences, rituals, and communities in which such meanings have found expression.
Our program in the academic study of religion provides the flexibility for students to explore thematic areas of interest across multiple religious traditions, providing both breadth of knowledge of the global significance of religion as well as depth in a single area. The religion faculty believes that knowledge of foundations (period of origin, scriptures) and of historical developments are equally important. We offer courses that provide historical overviews of origins and developments in a tradition or region, such as Introduction to Judaism, Introduction to Islam, and South Asian Religions I and II. There are also thematically driven comparative courses such as Conceptions of Ultimate Reality, Evil and Suffering, and Religion and the Senses, as well as thematic courses in a single tradition, such as Buddhist Ethics, Feminist and Liberation Theologies, Modern Jewish Thought, and Hearing Islam.
A major or minor in religion provides an excellent way to structure an undergraduate liberal arts education, and is suitable preparation for careers or further study in many areas. Or, in order to accomplish the goal of religious literacy as a component of your liberal arts education, we offer a range of courses in religion open to all students without prerequisites.