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RELIGIOUS STUDIES

1. A Brief Overview for Students

2. Practical Benefits

3. Some Useful Links

4. Religious Studies Prize

1. A Brief Overview for Students

Religious Studies is an inter-disciplinary field of inquiry which investigates the religious traditions of humans, in all their historical, cultural, and doctrinal complexity. Rather than teaching a religion from the standpoint of a believer, Religious Studies approaches these complicated traditions of beliefs and practices in the same way as a political theorist regards systems of governance or a literary critic reads canonical literature: that is, we do not attempt to assess the “truth” or the merits of particular religions, but instead seek to understand how they have come about, what they are made of, what their practitioners do, and how they affect culture and society.

NC State courses in Religious Studies provide students with the opportunity to study the history, texts, and practices of well-known religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example), as well as those which are lesser known (e.g., Vodou or Wicca). Our faculty strive to help students develop a variety of methods for understanding and interpreting these traditions, focusing on historical studies (the narrative of a particular tradition or geographic territory), textual studies (oriented towards a particular body of sacred texts or towards a specific theme), and critical/theoretical studies (which investigate broad comparative or analytical questions on, for example, the meanings of ritual, the role of gender, and the connections between religion and politics, religion and law, and religion and science).

Students are trained to interpret and evaluate these elements of religious traditions, and to think critically, constructively and independently about important issues like the comparison of religious traditions, the relationship between beliefs and practices, the justification of religious beliefs, the interpretation of sacred texts, religious ethics, and the role and impact of religions in modern societies.

Religious Studies helps students to develop their capacity to understand, criticize and construct arguments about religions, to identify and engage major issues in the field, and to elaborate their ideas and present them in a clear, coherent and well-organized form (whether spoken or written). Students who have majored in Religious Studies at NC State are familiar with the history of the discipline, the basic features of multiple religious traditions, and with major theoretical and comparative issues in the study of religion.

The NC State Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts Major in Religious Studies and a Minor in Religious Studies. Brief descriptions of the Religious Studies courses offered at NC State appear in Courses Offered.

2. Practical Benefits

The NC State major in Religious Studies provides:

  • excellent preparation for graduate programs in the humanities;
  • solid foundations for professional training in fields as diverse as education, law, library science, management, ministry, public administration, and social work;
  • knowledge and skills that are useful for work in many fields, including consulting, diplomacy, editing and publishing, educating the public, fundraising, journalism, marketing, museum projects, non-profit organizations, public relations, and public service.

3. Some Useful Links

Why Study Religion? (American Academy of Religion)

Where Can I Go With It? (American Academy of Religion)

Religious Studies Revival (Newsweek)

What Can I Do With This Major? (University of San Diego Career Services)

Why Is It Important to Study the World's Religions? (Mark Wallace, Swarthmore College)

4. Religious Studies Prize

The Religious Studies Prize in Honor of Professor W. Curtis Fitzgerald was introduced in 2010/11. The prize, which includes a cash award, is presented each Spring to the outstanding senior in Religious Studies. The winners have been as follows:

  • 2014: Hunter Houston Ross
  • 2013: Amanda Margaret Jones
  • 2012: Allison Aurora DeLargy
  • 2011: Mary Catherine Hamner