About Religious Studies

Our Program and Courses

Religious studies is a major and a minor at F&M. Through a blended lens of humanities and social sciences, you will engage in unbiased studies and analyses of a variety of religious traditions embedded in myth, ritual, art, ethics, doctrine, philosophy, and literature. Most of all, you will explore what it means to be human by investigating the limits of human beings, their audacious explanations of the immaterial and transcendental, the extremity of their practices and beliefs, the ordinary ways in which they confront violence and suffering, and much more. 

By the time you graduate, you will be able to demonstrate: 

  • Familiarity with a wide range of the major religious traditions through use of primary sources.
  • The ability to approach objects, activities, and people from an unbiased, critical perspective. 
  • A fluency in the basic theories of religion and a complex understanding of its historical contexts.
  • Familiarity with social scientific methodologies for the study and analysis of religion as a living and evolving practice. 
  • The ability to use your understanding of religion and religious belief systems to analyze current national and international events.

Curious what a course in religious studies is like? Explore our course catalog to see the depth and breadth available to you. 

Our Faculty and Staff

Ilan Benattar

Robert F. & Patricia G. Ross Weis Visiting Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies & History

History

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Stephen A Cooper

Professor of Religious Studies

Comparative Literary Studies; Judaic Studies

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Sughra Husain

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Religious Studies

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Tami L Lantz

Academic Department Coordinator

Africana Studies; Judaic Studies; Religious Studies

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David L McMahan

Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies, Department Chair of Religious Studies

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John L Modern

Arthur & Katherine Shadek Professor of Religious Studies

Science, Technology and Society; Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind

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SherAli K Tareen

Professor of Religious Studies

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Learning Outside the Classroom

We value individualized, independent study, and offer many opportunities for exploring the topics that intrigue you both on campus and around the world. With our many research and study-abroad opportunities, you can step outside the structure of the classroom and embark on your own explorations in religious studies.

Research Opportunities

Every student at F&M has extraordinary opportunities to engage in independent or faculty-led research. Recent students have studied specific Native American traditions, Hindu mythology, spiritual healing, 20th-century women mystics, and modern commentaries on the Book of Job.
Explore research at F&M

Off-Campus Study

We offer many opportunities for you to explore topics that pique your interest  both on campus and in locations around the world. We also offer students the option of taking a religious course at Lancaster Theological Seminary, a college for aspiring theologians and religious practitioners located just across the street from F&M’s campus. Additionally, many students choose to study abroad. Previous students have visited Japan, Israel, India, Nepal, South Africa, Tibet, Morocco, Scotland, and the United Kingdom.
Explore off-campus study at F&M

Success Beyond F&M

The intellectual and analytical activities that make up the work of religious studies — including social research, data gathering, collaborating with others, and critical thought — help you develop useful and productive skills, which are highly valuable for any post-college plan.

Graduate School

The religious studies department has an excellent record of preparing students for a broad range of careers and elite graduate programs, including those at Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, and University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Career Paths

Religious studies graduates enjoy a vast array of careers, including in the nonprofit sector, business, medicine, government, and education. They hold positions such as: 

  • Attorney
  • Clergy
  • Copywriter
  • Director of Student Success
  • Librarian
  • Minister
  • Pastor
  • Pediatrician
  • Physician
  • Professor
  • Psychotherapist
  • Rabbi
  • Teacher

Impermanence: Losang Samten

The Department of Religious Studies invited the F&M community to celebrate the weeklong creation of a Tibetan sand mandala by renowned artist and Buddhist monk Losang Samten.

Video by Andrew Bilindabagabo

Alumni Spotlight

“I am able to study everything under one branch: religious studies, literature, texts, anthropology, sociology.”

Initially drawn to F&M for its international study programs, Ashley Guernsey '22 was quickly captivated by the College's liberal arts approach to religious studies. "I like the way they study different religions from an interdisciplinary lens. I am able to study everything under one branch: religious studies, literature, texts, anthropology, sociology."
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Alumni Spotlight

“I want to be in the front and center and be immersed in the political system.”

A government major and religious studies minor, Ali Husaini '22 has had many professional opportunities to discover what legislative affairs look like and explore what happens in the halls of Congress. "I want to be in the front and center and be immersed in the political system, getting outcomes that benefit the people that are most in need," he said.
Read More »

Related Fields of Study

Art History

What does art of the past tell us about the transformation of visual and material experience over time? By studying art history at F&M, you’ll actively engage with this living dimension of the past through its artifacts, images, architecture, and relevant texts.

Classics

Immerse yourself in a rich artistic and intellectual tradition. By studying Classics at F&M, you’ll gain a deep understanding of the ancient Mediterranean while building an appreciation of its lasting legacies, empowering you to become a productive and thoughtful citizen in today’s rapidly changing world.

Philosophy

Learn to think clearly and creatively about the big questions: the nature of meaning, morality, justice, art, the mind, knowledge, language, and reality. By studying philosophy at F&M, you’ll search for understanding while discovering how to value the reason for an answer as much as the answer itself.

A Glimpse at F&M Religious Studies

May 23, 2024

Ten Faculty Earn Tenure, Promotion

At its May meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the recommendations of the Professional Standards Committee and the Provost, granting four F&M faculty tenure and promotion to associate professor, while six others were promoted to full professor.

May 16, 2024

Williamson Medalist Embraces Multifaceted Learning at F&M

Roxana “Roxy” Calder, of Philadelphia, is the 2024 recipient of the Williamson Medal, the College’s most prestigious award for student achievement.

February 21, 2023

'Everything is Impermanent': Lessons from an Ancient Spiritual Art Form

An integral component of the F&M student experience is the opportunity to learn about new cultures and forms of art directly from expert practitioners around the globe. The Department of Religious Studies invited the college community to celebrate the weeklong creation of a Tibetan sand mandala by renowned artist and Buddhist monk Losang Samten.