The academic study of religion

The department specializes in the academic study of religion and has no sectarian affiliation.  The faculty approach their subject matter from the global and cross-cultural perspectives of the academic study of religion.

We explore systems of belief across cultures. We employ many disciplinary perspectives and approaches, such as historical, comparative, phenomenological, anthropological, philological (textual), sociological, and psychological. 

We consider, for example, what exactly is meant by the term "religion," a word rooted in European traditions that does not necessarily have counterparts in non-European languages. A "religion" is often thought of as a large-scale "ism" -- Buddhism, Judaism, or Hinduism, for example -- but these terms are actually just labels given to very complex phenomena.  

The study of religion looks beyond the labels, being aware that many cultures have no word for "religion" at all. Instead, there are various teachings and paths, each of which might inform one's approach to life. We also consider the belief systems of small-scale societies, which are just as complex as those of traditions with a broader geographic scope.

We consider many things that might at first glance not seem "religious" at all: how people create sacred spaces in the fields of dreams of baseball diamonds, in the green cathedrals of national parks, in the paradises of vacation destinations, and in the infinities of cyberspace. We examine the role of religion in the lives of individuals and communities in the past and present, including religious practices, ethical questions, and overall worldviews in various cultures and societies.