Studying
Religion in
Culture


In the broadest terms, the modern study of religion as part of a liberal education involves a comparative appreciation of the various ways different peoples, across space and through time, have developed their religious ideas, values, systems, beliefs, rituals, and traditions in response to fundamental questions of human existence. Among these questions are: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? What are good and evil? What are "right" and "wrong?" What is the nature and origin of the cosmos? What is the nature of ultimate reality? Religious Studies, as with any modern academic discipline, strives for rigorous, systematic, and objective intellectual inquiry into various aspects of religious thought, expression, practice, and experience. The study of religion is both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in nature. It employs the approaches and methods of various disciplines, such as: sociology, philosophy, ethics, history, textual criticism, psychology, and anthropology, in order to understand the role of religion in both human experience and thought. Since comparative analysis is crucial to the modern study of religion, both majors and minors in religious studies are expected to have a general understanding of several religious traditions and an extensive knowledge of at least two traditions. In addition, students should acquire an understanding of the various methods which characterize the modern study of religion. The aim of religious studies as a modern academic discipline is not to cultivate belief in a particular religious tradition, nor even to encourage a religious outlook generally. Although some scholars of religion are themselves deeply religious people, others do not believe in any religion at all. What ties them together is an intellectual curiosity about religion as a central dimension of the human experience, and a desire to understand as objectively as possible the role of religion in individual and collective life.

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