How can people on both sides of a conflict claim that God is on their side? Why do some faith communities affirm women in leadership positions while others do not? How can someone claim faith in a particular religious tradition while also valuing the traditions of another? Through questions like these, courses in the study of religion prepare students for lives of deep reflection and civic engagement by inviting them to think critically about the role that religious ideas, literatures, rituals, institutions, and values play in shaping individuals and societies both historically and in the contemporary world.
The study of religion at Luther College seeks to be interdisciplinary, intercultural, and transformative. It is interdisciplinary in that religion courses draw on a wide array of perspectives from fields like history, literature, the social sciences, and philosophy to make sense of the role religion plays in the world, helping students to integrate and synthesize learning from their other courses. It is intercultural in that students engage religious faith and practice in a global context, empowering them to move beyond a concern for immediate interests into a greater awareness of their place in a complex and ever-changing world. It is transformative by raising critical questions about fundamental aspects of religious faith and practice in order to expand students' understandings of both self and others, leading to a life of purposeful service in the world.
The study of religion provides a strong complement to programs of study in business, international studies, law, library science, literature, medicine, music, political science, and psychology, while also forming a foundation for careers in ordained and lay ministry, social service, volunteer service, and social advocacy. Many of our majors and minors pursue graduate study in theology and religious studies.
Goals of a major or minor in religion:
- Exposure to religion as a vital element in the lives of individuals and communities in both contemporary and historical contexts
- Consideration of foundational texts, important literature, and significant ideas and questions in the study of religions
- Knowledge of, and critical reflection upon, the central teachings and the historical development of Christian traditions
- Knowledge of, and critical reflection upon, the central teachings and the historical development of additional religious traditions
- Consideration of the diversity of religious traditions in the world, and the intellectual and social opportunities and challenges posed by such diversity
- Development and application of critical thinking and communication skills, including: the ability to analyze and synthesize ideas, to make systematic judgments, and to communicate ideas with clarity and coherence
- Exposure to a variety of methodologies that are valuable for studying religion
- Reflection on the dialogue between faith and learning, in both historical and contemporary contexts
- Exposure to and engagement with the serious moral challenges confronting the global community, and the variety of ways that religious traditions and individuals seek to address these challenges
- Reflection on personal values, vocation, responsible citizenship, and service in the world
- Exploration of the tensions that arise when religiously committed individuals undertake the academic study of religious thought and practice