The department of Religious Studies examines the history and contemporary form of those human activities labeled religious. We consider not only those social forms widely recognized as religions –such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism –but also those that test the boundaries of that category in interesting ways –such as Voodoo, ecological movements, and democracy. Students are encouraged to question the implications of labeling certain social forms or human behaviors religious. Why are some violent conflicts labeled religious, and thereby delegitimized? Why are certain health care preferences labeled religious, and thereby legitimized? Why do laws facilitate the migration of those suffering religious persecution while blocking the migration of those suffering economic or climate hardships? In all these cases, who decides what counts as religious? Such questions are basic to engaged global citizenship because the category of religion shapes the logic and structure of our globalizing world.
Beyond providing general education for engaged global citizenship, the department specializes in two focus areas. ‘Religion and Global Conflict, Security, and Peace’ trains students to think critically about the place of religion in global conflict. ‘Religion and Health’ is open to all students but is especially appropriate for those entering health professions.