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Religion (RELG)

Chair: C. Vecsey

The Department of Religion offers a program of study of major religious traditions and introduces students to the enduring questions of human life. The program challenges students to examine the nature and expression of religiousness, and to think critically about rituals, practices, and theories of religion. Making reflective use of the full variety of liberal arts methods, the study of religion is necessarily interdisciplinary; it engages related issues in philosophy, ethics, society, spirituality, science, gender, sexuality, arts, and politics. The department offers a variety of courses regarding diverse African, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American traditions and scriptures. Recognizing the multiple ways in which religion is embedded within human history and cultures, the department also offers focused courses on issues of historic and contemporary importance, such as religion and the environment, women, genocide, health and healing, and the relations among global peoples of faith. Our courses offer training in a unique combination of skills, including close textual analysis, direct observation, critical thinking, and cross-cultural understanding. RELG courses have no prerequisites (unless stated otherwise); so students may choose where to begin in the department's offerings.

A major or minor in religion may also serve as a natural complement to other majors. Students in the arts and humanities, for instance, will find that the study of religious texts and worlds affords them greater insight into much literature and visual art. Some students may seek to make stronger interdisciplinary connections. In consultation with an adviser, students may elect to create a track through the religion major or minor that brings their work in religion into dialogue with their work in other departments or programs. Possible tracks include:

Religion, Politics, and Law

The department offers courses that examine the intersection of religion and politics in today’s world and historically, explore the legal frameworks of a variety of religious traditions, and ask students to think about the role of ethics and morality in public life. Students interested in history, international relations, peace and conflict studies, or political science will find that a minor or second major in religion allows them a better understanding of many of the longstanding ideological conflicts that have shaped the contemporary world.

Religion and Health

Students interested in the natural sciences who intend to enter the fields of medicine and health sciences will find that courses in religion equip them to evaluate the moral complexity of current scientific advances. A host of religion courses probe questions that are central to medicine and health: questions of body and soul, psychic states and mindfulness, sex and sexuality, life, and death. These are treated in a variety of religious traditions, offering the pre-med student a comparative approach to health and healing.

The success of our graduates indicates that a major in religion provides excellent preparation for a number of careers, including education, government, journalism, finance, law, social work, and professional service in non-profit organizations and religious institutions.