WHY STUDY RELIGION WHAT IS RELIGION? SOME MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT STUDYING RELIGION PRESSING CONCERNS IN RELIGION WHAT WILL I STUDY? WHERE CAN I GO? WHERE DO I START?

What professors do in specific religion courses, especially introductory courses

The vast majority of colleges and universities will offer introductory courses. Some look at religion through a specific lens, like death and the afterlife or pilgrimage. Others offer a broad survey in the foundational aspects of world religions. Still others focus on scripture or the foundations of belief and theology. Whatever the approach, the intro course is the gateway to the advanced study of religion.

For many students, the introduction is the only religion course they will take. As a consequence, professors offer introductory courses that stand on their own. Even if you don't pursue further study, at most schools the introductory course in religion will serve you well, both intellectually and practically: at three out of every four schools, the introductory course in religion counts towards general education requirements, adding to progress towards graduation.

By looking at individual syllabi (a syllabus is the plan for a college course), you'll get a good sense of readings, assignments, and goals in introductory religion courses. For a thorough collection, see The Wabash Center Religion: Introductory Courses (Syllabi) page.

Beyond the introduction, religion departments and programs offer a wide variety of more advanced courses on specific areas of study. According to a survey conducted by the AAR:

  • 86% of departments offer a course in Christianity
  • 65% of departments offer a course on Judaism
  • 51% of them offer a course on Islam or Buddhism
  • 50% offer a course on Hinduism
  • 37% have a course on Confucianism
At many colleges and universities, you can also take a course in:
  • Biblical Studies
  • World Religions (Eastern and Western)
  • Theology
  • American religions
  • Arts, literature and religion
  • Religious ethics
  • New religious movements
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion
  • Ritual studies
  • Social scientific approaches to religion
If you are interested in the way these courses are taught, have a look at the syllabi presented at the AAR Syllabus Project.

As you might notice from examining individual course syllabi, religion professors design a wide variety of assignments and exercises to help you learn about the subject matter. In college courses you'll still have to take exams, but studying religion often requires methods that go beyond simply learning "the facts." In class, you will often be encouraged to present your views in an exchange with your professor and peers. Sometimes you'll be expected to do group projects or presentations. Depending on your specific subject matter, written work may be assigned that will require critical analysis of texts or informed personal reflection. In addition, visits to religious sites are also important in many religion courses, offering the opportunity to observe religious practice firsthand. Taking a religion course often requires much more than memorization; it can be a full educational experience that extends well beyond the walls of the classroom.

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