Religion is a wealth of intriguing phenomena: Hebrew singing in American synagogues, millions of pilgrims bathing in the Ganges River, a bull sacrifice in a Mexican village, centuries of text-editing by Confucian scholars, Thomas Aquinas writing (and not finishing) the Summa Theologica, the Buddha smiling in a certain way, the "spiritual intoxication" of Sufi mystics, Egyptian women debating the meaning of modest dress, a President or a terrorist saying "God is on our side," a Greek novelist imagining that his savior is tempted by a dream on the threshold of death, a crowd protesting the movie version of that novel . . .
Underlying these phenomena are perennial questions: What are the greatest powers in the world? What are the ultimate goals of human life? Do we have ultimate debts, and if so, what or whom do we owe for them? What is the greatest fulfillment conceivable and how might it be attained? How can we find reliable guidance in life? Is it possible to live in the everyday world, taking care of everyday affairs, while maintaining a commitment to a radically different reality? What is holiness or the sacred? Can we take part in its realization?
Human beings find themselves engaged by such "ultimate" questions; indeed, human life cannot be understood apart from them. Religious studies is dedicated to understanding human life - one's own life included - in this light.
In the Millsaps Religious Studies program, we pay a lot of attention to the Judaic-Christian sources of the Western religions, since members of Western cultures cannot understand themselves or their neighbors very well without appreciating the meaning and historical influence of the biblical traditions. Equally essential to our program, however, is the study of religious traditions from all over the world. This is a must for all who wish to participate intelligently in an emerging global civilization marked by religious diversity.
See "Why Study Religion?"
on the American Academy of Religion website
Because of the broad scope and interdisciplinary nature of religious studies, this major serves as a powerful integrating center of liberal arts education.
Religious Studies courses also may be taken to prepare for future activity in religious professions, law, social service, scholarship, in the humanities and social sciences, teaching (at all levels), international relations, and journalism. The Religious Studies major is an appropriate undergraduate concentration for most forms of postgraduate study. Students wishing to go further in the field may seek Master's and Ph.D. degrees in Religious Studies or seminary degrees.
To find more ways to use a degree in Religious Studies, click here for a page written by our professors, or click here for ideas and links collected by our students!