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Religious Studies

Degree: BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Religious studies is a uniquely comparative, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary way to study the world’s religions. Students develop a broad knowledge of the world’s religions past and present, along with the opportunity for critical analysis of the role of religion in relation to other social and cultural domains: history, politics, art, literature, science, technology and the media. 

During their studies, students develop strong skills in analytical and critical thinking, written and spoken communication, and an understanding of cultural differences as they attend to the intersections of gender, ethnicity, race and class in relation to religious traditions and practices. 

Students choose one of following two areas of concentration:

Study of religions: The in-depth study of different religious practices and beliefs in specific historical, cultural and geographical contexts. This concentration does not focus on religions in isolation, but on the similarities and differences among different traditions and on the many varying roles of religion in relation to other aspects of culture: history, literature, the arts and social institutions. This focus area emphasizes different disciplinary approaches to the study of religion, including historical, anthropological, psychological, sociological, cognitive and aesthetic. 

Religions and cultures: The study of religions in relation to cultural, social and political institutions, and in relation to categories of identity and difference. This concentration does not focus on religion in isolation, but examines religion through the insights and methods of literary studies, ethnography, historiography, social analysis and cultural comparison. Religion is viewed as a set of beliefs and practices that are inextricably intertwined with race, class, gender and ethnicity, among other categories of affiliation and identification. Students also reflect on the category of religion itself, exploring the interrelations between knowledge and power in our own academic discourse about “religion.” 

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in religious studies within the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Students are often unfamiliar with this field and decide upon the religious studies major after taking a course such as Introduction to Comparative Religion or Comparative Sacred Texts. 

The religious studies undergraduate program is interdisciplinary and calls upon students to actively participate in shaping the major for themselves. Consequently, the major is both academically rigorous and tailored to students’ particular interests. 

The religious studies major requires 36 semester hours in comparative studies and in fields related to the student’s area of concentration, including at least 24 credit hours at the 3000 level and above. Depending upon their interests, students may choose some courses offered by various participating units, including the departments of African American and African studies; classics; history; history of art; philosophy; women’s, gender and sexuality studies; and language and literature departments.

The study of religions concentration includes: 

  • Four core courses to provide introductory and capstone experiences
  • Electives to fulfill both cross-cultural and interdisciplinary distribution requirements (in relation to history, art, literature, and social and political institutions)

The religions and cultures concentration includes: 

  • Two foundation courses to provide introductory and methodological background
  • Interdisciplinary, thematic and comparative courses that emphasize cultural and social theory and relationships between religion and other elements of culture
  • Distribution requirements to provide depth and focus in specific religious traditions

Students majoring in religious studies develop strong skills in analytical and critical thinking and in written and spoken communication. These skills are essential to many positions in both the public and private sector: government; the law; local, national and international service organizations; business and industry; and all levels of education. Religious studies students also develop their understanding of religious and cultural differences, including those of gender, ethnicity, race and class. In an increasingly diverse nation and interconnected world, employers have come to value this important area of expertise. 

Graduates with a degree in religious studies are well prepared to pursue a wide range of academic fields—including religious studies, cultural studies, English, history and American studies—at excellent graduate schools, both public and private. Graduates of the program will also be well-positioned to attend professional schools and pursue degrees in law, medicine, teaching or social work.