Academics

Why would someone decide to major in religion at a state university?

The academic study of religion (known as religious studies or comparative religion) has been an established major at many public universities since the 1960s. In the post-World War II era, it became clear to scholars that religion needed to be studied academically because of its powerful influence on the lives of so many millions of people. This conviction has been reinforced by the growing cultural and religious diversity of American society. In fact, religion is too important not to be studied, for it affects international relations, U.S. politics and ethical controversies.

In our increasingly multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, an understanding of the religious beliefs and practices of the children we teach, the clients we advise or the people with whom we work is very important.

Diverse and Talented Faculty—Our faculty have a wide range of backgrounds and training which enables the department to offer in-depth courses in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Native American Spirituality. All have written books or scholarly articles in their respective areas, and several are consulted by government, the media or business leaders for their views on how religion influences society.

Availability of Faculty—Because our faculty members are student–centered and the department is small, we are able to provide in-depth advisement and frequent opportunities for faculty-student interaction.

Flexible Offerings—The department offers a wide range of courses in the late afternoon (4-6:45) and evening (7-9:45) that enable the working student to finish degree requirements in a timely manner.

What sorts of courses do Religious Studies majors take?

As the name of the department implies, we stress a comparative approach to the study of religion. Students must take some coursework in all of the world’s major religious traditions and must do so with an awareness of the interactions among the world’s religions, e.g., how Judaism influenced Christianity or Hinduism influenced Buddhism. Besides courses in the various religions, our majors take courses that examine the intersection of religion with other spheres of life, such as politics or the media, or that analyze religion from the perspective of philosophy or the social sciences.    

What can I do with a degree in religion?

As with such fields as philosophy, history or English literature, the religion degree offers a broad training in the liberal arts as a preparation for eventual careers in such fields as law, education, counseling, and social work. Of course, it is an ideal background for graduate study in religion/religious studies for those who wish to teach at the university level. The religion major is also an excellent background for seminary studies leading to a career in the religious ministry. Even without further study, it opens up possibilities for teaching in parochial schools and church, synagogue, mosque or temple religious education programs.