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Program Description

The Religion Department provides its majors and minors with a thorough and thoughtful appreciation of the nature, complexity, and importance of religion.   Our curriculum highlights a number of important skills for students to develop.  Those skills include:

  1. The ability to read and analyze sacred texts closely and responsibly;
  2. The capacity for significant and nuanced reflection on theological and philosophical questions that arise in different ways in many religious traditions;
  3. Detailed comprehension of the ways of living and believing exhibited in multiple faith traditions from around the globe; and
  4. The facility for understanding and analyzing the complicated relationships between religions and the cultures in which they exist.    

With these multiple skills in mind, our classes are divided into four main fields:  Texts; Theology and Ethics; Traditions; and Religion and Culture.  While classes in each individual field involve the practice of all four of these skills simultaneously, each field tends to emphasize one of the four in particular.

Majors are expected to do substantial work in all four fields of study:  they must do one introductory and one upper-level course in each of the areas.  In addition, majors also take three more courses (of their choice) at the upper level.   During the second semester of their junior year majors take a seminar in which they study both classical and contemporary theories about the nature of religion.  This seminar serves as the springboard for the capstone project for the major, in which students produce an original research project in the first semester of their senior year.  This project allows senior majors to put into practice all the skills they have developed over the course of the program, along with the specific knowledge gained in the junior theories seminar.  Recent senior thesis topics have included:

  • A comparison of Nagarjuna and Meister Eckhart on the nature of religious language  
  • A discussion of passages in Leviticus dealing with the notion of the scapegoat 
  • The presence of religious themes in superhero comics/graphic novels  
  • A comparison between contemporary Muslim and Christian apocalyptic literature
  • Baptist attitudes towards women in ministry  
  • Typing/categorizing the nature of an Atlanta, Georgia church's attempts at interfaith dialogue with Muslims  
  • The role of religion in Spain from the time of Franco to the present  
  • The controversy surrounding the publication of Rob Bell's book Love Wins 
  • A consideration of what role religious ethics and belief should play in the American public sphere 
  • An exploration of the conflicts between Christianity and the feminist movement as manifested in wedding ceremonies 
  • Constructing a typology of recent legal and church battles over gay rights in the United States 
  • An examination of the apocalyptic rhetoric in the contemporary environmental movement