Religious Studies

Student in Asian countryKaránn Durland, Chair

Students in religious studies courses at Austin College represent a variety of religious traditions: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as the full spectrum of Christians, from Catholic to Protestant, to Orthodox (from conservative to liberal). Students who are not committed to any particular tradition or who are exploring various traditions also contribute to the spectrum of students enrolled. Such diversity of perspectives enlivens class discussions, broadens understanding, and encourages people to examine their own beliefs. Religious Studies majors and minors typically take courses in Bible, Christian theology, and ethics, and various world religions. In addition to basic studies in these areas, the religious studies curriculum fosters explorations and growth in other course areas.

The religious studies program studies offers an array of courses that provide broad exposure to diverse religious texts, traditions, practices, and themes throughout various world cultures/regions from the ancient to the modern periods. The program focuses on the intersection of religious meanings and specific cultural contexts that shape those meanings. The approach to the study of religion is therefore largely interdisciplinary, with any single course providing exposure to several different methods of analysis and interpretation. Using these diverse approaches, the religious studies program investigates the complex, often ambiguous processes, products and performances of religious communities and individuals over time. We also seek to understand and assess religious phenomena on their own terms, appreciating their contributions to human vitality in the past and present, and examining their significance for the future. We welcome students from all religious and theological/philosophical/ideological persuasions, and aim to foster an environment where students feel free to deepen their understanding of their own traditions while engaging alternative perspectives that provide challenges and new insights. Alongside various other course offerings, the Religious Studies Program has three fields of concentration: 1) Asian religions and cultures; 2) Bible and culture; and 3) Christian theology and history. These fields correspond with the current strengths and interests of the department.

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