Religious studies explores the religious dimensions of human experience around the world, as expressed in literary, historical, artistic, ritual and symbolic forms. It focuses on how everyday human thought and activities become part of a system of spiritual meaning and moral formation.
Religious studies at Albright focus on the interpretation of diverse religious cultures across the globe, from ancient times to modern. The department offers specialized courses in biblical studies, Christianity, Asian religions, American religions, native American traditions, religion and popular culture, Latin American religions, Judaism, Islam and religious perspectives on women and ecology.
The goal of all religious studies courses is to equip students with the skills for understanding and appreciating the faiths and cultures of other people, as well as their own, and for identifying and interpreting for themselves the ultimate questions that face human beings.
Because religious studies is interdisciplinary in nature, the department encourages combined majors and individualized programs of study. Other departments in the College (notably history, philosophy, literature, the arts and the social sciences) contribute a great deal to the understanding of religious meaning, expression and behavior.
Major in Religious Studies
The religious studies major requires thirteen courses, at least ten courses in religious studies beyond the general studies requirement. Majors are also permitted to take three related courses (beyond general studies) in the areas of philosophy, history, literature, the arts or the social sciences. Although there are no "core" courses, majors are expected to take courses from a diversity of areas in religious studies, at least one from each of the four areas listed below. Upperclass majors must take a 300-level course and senior majors must take REL 491, in which they are expected to present a senior thesis or project interpreting an issue in the study of human religion and culture from the appropriate methodological perspectives.
Combined Major in Religious Studies
The department welcomes students who wish to pursue interdisciplinary work in conjunction with religious studies through either a combined major or an individualized study program. Combined majors are required to take seven religious studies courses, beyond general studies, including a 300-level course in religious studies and REL 491. The department especially encourages students to consider interdisciplinary work in areas such as: religion and philosophy, religion and human culture, religion and human behavior, religion and literature, religion and communication, religion and law, or religion and the arts. More information on how such programs might be structured is available from the Religious Studies Department.
Although pre-theological students don't have to major in religious studies, the study and practice of religion is vital to their growth and maturation during college and is an integral part of their preparation for seminary. Working together with the College chaplain, campus religious organizations and the wider religious community in Reading, the Religious Studies Department seeks to encourage, counsel and assist pre-theological students in their personal and vocational journeys of faith.