Religions make crucial contributions to the human worlds in which we live. They shape our presents and futures, ideas and convictions, emotions and desires, actions and values, associations and antagonisms, artistic, literary, and musical creations. At McDaniel, you’ll find that courses in religious studies provide students with knowledge and skills which enable them to understand the diversity of human religious experience, both the positive and the negative. In a world defined by religious pluralism, a rich understanding of religions not only enhances what graduates can offer their businesses, employers, and communities but also enables them to live intelligent and humane lives.
“The skills I learned as a religious studies major have been the keys to my success. I learned to look beneath the surface for deeper meaning—being able to hear everyone’s ideas and draw the links between them - have served me well in the IT industry.”
Baker Memorial, lower level
Dr. Greg Alles
Majors & Courses
Students often find courses in Religious Studies helpful in broadening their perspectives not only on religion but also on the world. A major or minor in Religious Studies can broaden or globalize a primary major. The College’s proximity to the Baltimore-Washington provides ample opportunity to explore and study a variety of religions. Coursework does not presume any religious commitment on the part of the student, nor endorses, promotes or condemns any particular religion, set of religions, or religion in general. Instead, students examine religions as subjects of academic inquiry, and learn a variety of methods to do so, humanistic, social scientific, at times even natural scientific.
Professor Gregory Alles
(Ph.D., Chicago), teaches in the areas of Hinduism, Buddhism, and methods and theories in the study of religions. Twice a Fulbright research scholar in India, his current research interests focus on adivasis (indigenous people) in western India. A past president of the North American Association for the Study of Religions, he co-edits, with Olav Hammer (Odense), Numen, the journal of the International Association for the History of Religions.
Associate Professor Vera Jakoby
(Ph.D., Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany), involves her students in her research interest in interpretations of paradise in European and North American culture while pursuing her teaching and research interests in the philosophy of religion, especially in 19th- and 20th-century continental philosophy, and critique of religion in Nietzsche and Heidegger, which are reflected in her courses, including “Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Renaissance,” “Visions of Paradise” and others.
Visiting Lecturer Jill Krebs
(M.S., Towson University in Women’s Studies; Ph.D.—ABD, Drew University), is a sociologist of religion specializing in Catholic visionary culture, religion in contemporary North America, and gender and religion. At McDaniel, she has taught Introduction to Religious Studies; Sex, Gender, and Religion; African American Religious History; New Religious Movements, and an FYS called Religion and the Earth. She is currently working on her dissertation on a local Marian apparition.
The Religious Studies faculty provide opportunities for students to expand their education through collaborative research and independent studies. A few recent examples follow:
Paul Jaworski with Dr. Alles
Write the history of the Islamic Society of Carroll County, incorporating orally recovered experiences of the participants as well as institutional history
Will Wilson with Dr. Alles
Christian Influences on the Peyote Cult
Mark Letsch with Dr. Jakoby
The Entheological Paradigm in Buddhist Thought
With a few notable exceptions, majors graduate and enter diverse areas of employment or graduate and professional study. Students thinking of entering a religious profession (ministry, priesthood, rabbinate, etc.) should be in contact with their own religious body to determine what kind of undergraduate education that body recommends.
A campus Religious Studies Club gives students the opportunity outside the classroom to share their interests through films, lectures and other extra-curricular activities.
McDaniel’s chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, national honor society for Religious Studies and Theology, promotes further exchange of ideas and research. Eligibility requirements include 3.5 GPA in Religious Studies and/or Theology and a 3.0 GPA overall.