Why Religious Studies?

Bear Butte, in South Dakota, is a sacred site for over 30 Plains tribes.
Bear Butte, in South Dakota, is a sacred site for over 30 Plains tribes.

Religion is a fundamental part of human experience and meaning. It informs all aspects of human society, from individual and collective identity to personal relationships, from political sympathies to scientific investigation and artistic creativity. The study of religion, as a result, ranges widely across human experience and the various academic disciplines.

The religious studies major brings together perspectives, approaches, questions, and expertise from many disciplines. It provides students with a range of analytical tools as well as in-depth knowledge of particular traditions and time periods.

The Field

Religious studies focuses on the academic study of religion. It aims to understand religion, not to promote or undermine any religious perspective. Religious studies is, by its nature, interdisciplinary. Since the origins of religious studies, the field combined historical analysis of the religion and culture of specific groups with a study of their foundational texts. With the growth of the social sciences, the field later incorporated the approaches of anthropology, sociology, and psychology to study the "lived religion" of specific groups. More recently, the field has embraced various theoretical approaches to the study of religion.

Skill Development

Religious ideas and practices shape behavior throughout the world. Those who have a deep understanding of religion—how its features interact with and depend upon social and cultural contexts—are in a better position to grasp the salient aspects of religiously-based communication and interactions. The religious studies major provides a knowledge base that is essential to understanding contemporary society. It exposes you to the diversity of the human experience, with respect to not only ideas and beliefs but also ritual and community practices and institutional arrangements.

With a religious studies major, you can develop experience in:

  • Textual analysis
  • Direct observation
  • Critical thinking
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Written and oral communication

Learn more about what you can do with a major in religious studies.

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