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Comparative Religion and Humanities

The field of Comparative Religion (also widely known as Religious Studies) educates students in the scholarly interpretation of religion. Through its study of the religious experiences, stories, symbols, rituals, doctrines, and institutions of human beings in different times and places, the academic study of religion makes an indispensable contribution to cultural and historical literacy. In addition to providing an understanding of the development of the major religious traditions of the world, the study of religion equips students to explore the complex relationship of religion to other aspects of culture. The cross-cultural and historical study of religions is a necessary part of education for citizenship in a pluralistic society. Respect for religious groups or (those who espouse no religious belief—is) difficult to sustain without significant knowledge of the histories, beliefs, and customs of diverse peoples and religious traditions of the world.

Humanities is devoted to the appreciation and analysis of cultural traditions from an interdisciplinary perspective. Through the study of philosophy, religion, history, literature and languages, architecture, art, film, music, and theatre, students receive a foundational education in the important achievements of individuals and world cultures. Those who study the Humanities believe that human knowledge is best studied comparatively, rather than from the perspective of a single nation or culture. The field incorporates multiple traditions from all over the world and balances a study of both western cultures and non-European cultures of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

What can I do with a B.A. in Religious Studies or Humanities?

The B.A. in Religious Studies prepares students for careers that require critical thinking, analytical skills, skill in oral and written communication, and the ability to reflect on questions of meaning and value in a pluralistic context. The study of religion is excellent pre-professional preparation for such fields as law, teaching, counseling, social work, journalism, film studies, political science, public administration, anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, and English. While some majors go on to graduate work in the academic study of religion, others find themselves prepared for work in public service, international affairs, and not-for-profit endeavors, all of which increasingly demand multi-religious competencies.

A degree in Humanities provides a classic liberal arts education and prepares students for careers that require critical thinking, sensitivity, imagination, skill in oral and written communication, and the adaptability that comes from a broad cultural and intellectual background. Our majors have pursued careers in public and private administration, teaching, journalism, performance, and museum work, among other fields. The Program in Humanities is also excellent preparation for law school and graduate study in Classical Civilization, Renaissance and Medieval Studies, Film Studies, Art History, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, and Modern Jewish and Israel Studies, particularly when combined with a relevant minor.

Foreign language and study abroad programs

The University offers various study abroad programs, and students interested in developing focused competence in various areas of Religious Studies are urged to consider a semester or year abroad at one of our partner campuses.

Humanities majors are required to gain fourth-semester knowledge of German, French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish, or to gain second-semester ability in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Many students link language study to a study abroad program. Overseas study and experiences solidify a student's appreciation of another culture, reinforce earlier language study, and provide students with friendships, contacts, and other career-oriented resources that will last a lifetime. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the study programs offered by the University in more than 15 countries and at 35 different universities. Such courses of study can last for as little as three weeks or for a full academic year.

Honors in Religious Studies and Humanities

Motivated and capable students are invited to apply to complete an honors thesis or project in Religious Studies or Humanities. This two-semester, 6-unit research and writing opportunity is excellent preparation for graduate school or any career in which writing will be important.

Internship Program

The department offers a variety of exciting opportunities for learning beyond the classroom, both domestically and internationally. Internships offer a firsthand view of the role of religion in community life, and provide valuable career development experience.

The Center for the Public Understanding of Religion (CPUR)

CPUR was founded in 2012 to promote reasoned dialogue about religion and society and to help create a religiously literate public. CPUR provides a forum to explore topics such as the growth of religion on the internet, the role of religion in democratic discourse, and the place of religion in healthcare, corrections, and the military; it also promotes an educational agenda focused on teaching about religion in the public schools.

Further Information is Available on our Website

Visit the Comparative Religion and Humanities website for introductions to our faculty, the Comparative Religion and Humanities Student Society (CRHSS), course syllabi, overseas study, careers, graduate school, and other information. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our program.

Catalog Cycle:19