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Religion Department Goals and Objectives

Courses in Religion enable students to engage major religious traditions, expose them to a variety of approaches employed within the study of religion, and give them an opportunity to explore diverse problems that religions seek to address. By exploring the public and private concerns that religions engage—e.g., the nature of community and solitude, suffering and death, good and evil—students will discover new ways of interpreting the complex world in which they live, through learning about diverse beliefs, behaviors, values, rituals, texts, and forms of community.The department contributes to the general education of the College in a number of ways. First, our courses draw students from many areas of the college, and we teach a large number of students who are neither majors nor correlates. In addition, we offer two survey courses, RELI 150, "Western Religious Traditions," and RELI 152, "Religions of Asia," which provide non-majors with a basic orientation to the texts, beliefs, practices and ideologies of these traditions, which they can use to good advantage in other courses in other departments. Our courses also serve general education through their stress on writing, critical thinking, evaluation of sources, and development of tools for productive discussion of controversial subjects.The department’s goals for majors, correlates, and non-majors include: (1) developing tools for understanding and interpreting religions in varied historical, cultural, and social contexts, and for identifying and interpreting patterns across religious histories and cultures; and (2) engaging critically the various ways in which scholars of religion have attempted to understand and evaluate the nature and functions of religion as a vital force in human society, behavior, and global politics, both in the past and the present. The department expects majors and correlates to pursue a program of study marked by both depth and breadth. Students meet this goal by taking courses that expose them to various religious traditions in different periods and locations, as well as to varied methodological approaches to the study of religion. The department also values comparative work as an important part of students' broad exposure to the field of Religious Studies. We expect majors to develop sufficient background and depth of understanding to conduct advanced independent research and write a senior thesis. This process may involve, for example, developing expertise in a particular religious tradition, methodology, body of literature, geographic area, or time period.