Religious Studies

The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies offers a major in which students may concentrate in either philosophy or religious studies. Please consult the Radford University catalog for area course requirements for students wishing to concentrate in philosophy.

Benefits of a Religious Studies Degree

Explains One of the Most Persistent Forces in Human History
Although some mistakenly believe that modern science has rendered religion outdated, religion exerts its influence in even stronger ways throughout the world today than in pre-scientific times.  For instance, consider the constant and rising tensions in the Middle East, debates concerning abortion, the relation between creation and evolution, and capital punishment, as well as the judicial tensions between church and state. Clearly, the way people think about these controversial issues directly mirrors their religious convictions.

Instills a Broad Understanding of the History of Ideas
The study of religion in a college curriculum involves the historical and comparative scrutiny of the religious traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto, just to name a few. The examination of basic questions about religion, such as the existence and nature of God, religious experience, and the role of religion in society, are central to the discipline.

Enables You to Ask and Invites You to Explore the Deepest and Most Profound Questions about Human Existence
Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? Why do innocent people suffer? What is the ultimate purpose of life? What is salvation? How do we perceive people with conflicting beliefs from our own? Different religious traditions offer a host of answers to these questions. The study of religion provides you the opportunity to explore the spectrum of answers to these deepest of questions, and empowers you to make intelligent and well-informed decisions in forming your own beliefs and values.

Improves Articulation of Difficult and Abstract Concepts
Religion is also one of the humanities, and, as such, inquiry in it represents an important preparation for further study and employment. In religious studies, students acquire skills in reading and analysis of texts and cultural situations. It allows students to hone skills in communication, especially in writing, which is becoming increasingly important in our text-based, internet world. Because students gain knowledge of a variety of cultures and learn to listen and understand the differences among peoples, they are ready to work in the increasingly diverse workplace.

Provides Unique Insight into Human Behavior and Experience
Whether consciously or subconsciously, people live out their religious beliefs or lack thereof every day, even in the most mundane of decisions. Affecting all aspects of human experience, the religious dimension of life, though not accessible to the five senses, permeates politics, economics, the fine arts, and all other domains accessible to the five senses.  Therefore, an examination of the religious world views affecting the past and present is essential for understanding what people do and why they do it.

Fosters Critical Thinking
The study of religious traditions gives one the tools required to understand both sides of important ethical issues. This makes the academic study of religion an asset, not only in an academic context, but also with respect to moral issues and decisions. A person who possesses critical thinking skills has the tools required to make better decisions, do better moral reasoning, and think more clearly about difficult issues.

Career Options

What can you do with a religious studies degree? Jobs you might be able to land with are usually what students want to know when considering a major. You may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of religious studies majors do not become members of the clergy, but go on to lead their fields in many other areas. A baccalaureate degree in religious studies is an excellent preparation for law, business school, medicine, or graduate study in counseling, humanities, or administration. Additionally, many people with religious studies degrees find employment in social services, journalism, public relations (especially international relations), music, and health and welfare organizations, and many others start businesses, found non-profit organizations, and much more.

For those who wish to pursue more traditionally "religious" careers, a baccalaureate degree in religious studies provides the ideal preparation for youth ministries, campus ministry, adult ministries, theological and medical missionary outreach, religious education, religious activities programming, chaplaincy, and several other related fields.  Those desiring to enter the clergy will find that an undergraduate major in religious studies constitutes the best possible training for seminary.  Likewise, an undergraduate religious studies degree obviously furnishes the optimal preparation for those who wish to pursue graduate work in religious studies, leading to career opportunities in secondary or higher education.

To examine even more of the broad spectrum of possibilities open to religious studies majors, check out the following websites describing the jobs landed by past religious studies majors:

Famous Religious Studies Majors

Arts and Entertainment
Willard Scott, TV personality
David Duchovny, actor
Harrison Ford, actor
Peter Lynch, director
Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet
Steve Thomas, host of This Old House

Social Justice
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist and Baptist minister
Elie Wiesel, human rights activist
Dr. Stephen M. Younger, director of Department of Defense's Threat Reduction Agency
John Silber, former president of Boston University

Pierre Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister
Rahm Emanuel, Clinton White House political adviser
Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia
Jerry Brown, former Governor of California

John Elway, former quarterback for the Denver Broncos
Michael McKaskey, owner of the Chicago Bears
Aaron Taylor, offensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers
Mick Schmidt, former Philadelphia Philly