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Religious Studies

At first glance, the religions of the world can seem fascinating and beautiful, strange and threatening, and appear full of contradictions—all at the same time. How can we make sense of these traditions and practices? What place does religion have in the history of human development and in the course of contemporary global events?

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Questions like this are at the heart of Religious Studies, the academic study of religion that will guide you through a variety of nonsectarian theoretical and methodological approaches you can apply to the study of religious practices, material objects, rituals, texts, beliefs, mythologies, and ethics.

Our students often find courses in Religious Studies helpful in broadening their perspectives not only on religion but also on the world. A minor in Religious Studies is often a good way to broaden or globalize a primary major.

Future Career Paths

Like many fields in the liberal arts, Religious Studies also develops “soft skills” that are valued by employers, including:

  • Oral and written communication
  • Cultural knowledge
  • Social understanding
  • Problem-solving

Distinctive Courses

REL 1104 - Introduction to Religious Studies

An introduction to the study of religions at the undergraduate level. The course focuses on how religious studies differs from theology, fundamental terms and categories within religious studies, basic approaches and methods in studying of religions, and classic problems, theories, and figures in the field. The course requires no prior background in the study of religion.

REL 2240 - Religion and Critical Thought

A critical engagement with major theories and methods in the study of religions. Equal attention is given to both historical-hermeneutical and ethical-critical approaches.

AHY 3305 - Sacred Architecture

An historical and systematic examination of both formal and symbolic aspects of structures built for religious purposes, along with their associated religious activities.  Overlapping cultural and symbolic meanings will be studied, with in depth readings of associated religious texts.

FYS 1202 - What the Bible Really Says

An introduction to both the Tanakh (the Bible that Jews use) and the different Bibles used by Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians.  Students will explore questions such as the following: Who wrote the books of the Bible, when and why?  Does what they say correspond to what we know of prehistory and history?  Do they contradict each other?  Why do different religious groups use different Bibles?  What books were left out of the Bible?  What does the Bible really say about issues like abortion, homosexuality, evolution, life after death, and the end of the world?  No prior knowledge of the Bible, Judaism, or Christianity is necessary. 

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The McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Greg Alles

Faculty Spotlight Greg Alles Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Alles has a B.A. degree from Valparaiso University (Indiana) and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. His special interests include religions of Asia, especially south Asia (India, Sri Lanka, etc.), as well as theories of religion and the study of religions in colleges and universities worldwide. In 2008 he edited a volume called Religious Studies: A Global View (Routledge). He is currently involved in a research project on the religion and culture of a group of adivasi (indigenous) people in western India, as well as research with McDaniel College students on religious communities in and near Westminster, such as the Islamic Society of Carroll County.