Beloit College
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Religious Studies

Program Description

The religious studies program at Beloit College is devoted to pursuing a study of religion that is socially meaningful, culturally and historically aware, and academically responsible. We locate religious and other systems of meaning within the sociocultural environments in which they are manifest. Part of the philosophy and religious studies department, the program offers an undergraduate interdisciplinary degree program for both majors and minors in religious studies, as well as a wide array of courses relevant to students in other disciplines. We have close ties to other programs at Beloit, especially anthropology, sociology, women’s and gender studies, history, art history, classics, and comparative literature.

The Study of Religion

At Beloit College, religious studies is an academic discipline that is inherently interdisciplinary and intercultural. The academic study of religion draws attention to the distinctive institutions, beliefs, rituals, sacred writings, ethics, and narratives of the world’s diverse cultures and civilizations. This approach addresses the influence of religious phenomena on social structures, processes, and relationships. Understanding religion as an important phenomenon of (and constantly changing product of) human culture requires critical intelligence and reflection, sympathetic imagination, and an understanding of what it means to define the human in individual, cultural and universal senses. We do not advocate any particular religious ideas or beliefs. Instead, we encourage sensitivity to "religion" as a category that structures our contemporary knowledge of the world—past and present—in profound ways. Studying religion helps students develop a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the ways in which human beings have understood the world and their place within it.

The program is designed to provide both breadth and depth in a wide range of approaches to the study of local and global religious traditions. Breadth is provided initially through the foundational courses offered in the major, a crucial component of which is the cultivation of cultural competency. The objective of the curriculum is to expose students to the diverse ways and paths by which individuals and communities encounter the sacred and to the methods through which religious traditions are studied and explored.

Depth is achieved through advanced courses that focus on specific religious phenomena in North America and globally. In taking these courses, majors and others will be exposed to interdisciplinary approaches to religious studies and will also engage in an ongoing dialogue about the conception and role of religion in human communities, past and present. Students can major or minor in religious studies, or may design their own interdisciplinary studies major or minor that incorporates themes or foci related to the study of religion.