The Department of Religious Studies is committed to exploring and analyzing in a nonsectarian way, a variety of religious traditions embedded in myth, ritual, art, ethics, doctrine, philosophy, literature, asceticism and other social practices. The study of religion engages the limits of human beings as they have multifariously expressed them: in their audacious explanations of the invisible, the immaterial and the transcendental; in the extremity of their practices and beliefs; in the ordinary ways in which they confront the overwhelming presence of violence, suffering and death; in the emotive terms they provide to explain the significance of the past and the future; and in the constant struggle to come to terms with themselves and others. These activities, whether explicitly identified as religious or not, represent the persistent grappling of human beings with what different cultures throughout world history have articulated as beyond and more than the human. This human engagement with the variously formulated more-than-human Other, this engagement manifesting itself variously in many arenas of cultures, is the object of the academic study of religion. As such, the field demands an interdisciplinary approach drawing on the methodologies native to the humanities and social sciences as well as on the theoretical approaches developed specifically in the study of religion.
A major in Religious Studies consists of 11 courses. Two of these are mandatory: Introduction to Religious Studies (RST 111); and Interpreting Religion (RST 420), a senior-year capstone seminar. In each of five areas (American Religions, Asian Religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam), students must take a 100- or 200-level course. Of the remaining four courses, at least three must be at the 300- or 400-level.
A minor in Religious Studies consists of six courses. Requirements: RST 111; any other three courses at the 100- or 200-level; one course at the 300-level; and the senior capstone seminar, RST 420.
The writing requirement in the Religious Studies major is met by completion of the normal courses required to complete the major.
Students interested in taking courses at Lancaster Theological Seminary can sometimes do so with the permission of the Religious Studies chair (consult the rules on “Exchange Opportunities” in the latter part of this Catalog for further details).
Majors in the Department of Religious Studies have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: Tohoku Gakuin University, Japan; Israel University Consortium; School for International Training, India, Nepal, South Africa, Tibet; History of Christianity at Aberdeen University, Scotland; South India Term Abroad, Madhurai, India. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.