Religion is studied by an energetic academic field. Each year, thousands of undergraduates take a course in religion. In the 1999–2000 academic year, for example, about 685,000 students took a religion course at around 900 American colleges and universities. Each school year, many students decide to focus on the topic and make theology or religious studies their major course of study.
There are two main branches of the study of religion in America today. Theology, which studies religion from the perspective of a particular community of believers, has historically been an important part of the Western university. It continues to be a foundation of undergraduate education at many American schools. The academic study of religion, which is often called religious studies, is a relatively new field that aims to treat all religious traditions even-handedly. Utilizing the tools from many other academic fields (including philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and theology itself), the academic study of religion arises out of a broad curiosity about the nature of religion and religious traditions. Religious studies offers a unique opportunity to ask fundamental questions about religious traditions. It also allows experimentation with some of most exciting ideas from other areas of study. Overall, religious studies is an exciting new field that is constantly crossing boundaries and breaking new ground as it attempt to bring its subject into better focus.