Why Study Religious Studies?

Religion is both the source and expression for much of humanity's self-understanding. Fundamental questions about existence, identity and values are addressed through religious "worlds of meaning." At various times in recent history, religion has been disparaged as oppressive (Marx), criticized as an illusion (Freud) or dismissed as irrelevant (the post-Holocaust "God is Dead" movement). Nonetheless, religious sources and expression continue to provide the central texts, symbols and paths of transformation for individuals and societies throughout the world.

The study of religion is also at the heart of any contemporary program of liberal studies. It has been extolled as "Interdisciplinary multiculturalism in wild and glorious bloom" (R. Eastman). Such a grand assessment can only make sense when one considers the almost boundless range of geography, history, languages and cultures that encompass the field. Perhaps no other area of liberal studies has drawn comparable attention and contributions from such diverse disciplines as archeology, art, literature, philosophy, theology, sociology, history, psychology and political science.

Religious Studies at Marist

Religious Studies courses at Marist are not only integrated into the Core program, but are also available as electives and as areas of more in-depth study (including the minor programs in Religious Studies and Catholic Studies). The departmental offerings are taught with an emphasis on both the academic and experiential insights gained from religion as a "living and growing organism" (T. Ludwig). While the department highly values the Catholic tradition handed down from the Marist Brothers who founded the College, Religious Studies courses are non-confessional. Instead, the emphasis is placed on appreciating the historical, cultural and critical development of this vital branch of study, and inquiring into the role of religion with regard to contemporary moral problems.

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