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Religious Studies

For Religious Studies major and minor requirements, please visit the course catalog.

Why Study Religion at Westminster?

  • Religion is, as one scholar suggests, "ultimate concern." From this perspective, religion shapes our world views and motivates us at the deepest levels. To understand others and ourselves, the study of religion is essential.
  • Religious Studies at Westminster employ a phenomenological viewpoint. That is, we attempt to study religions through the eyes of their followers and careful understanding of rituals, cultures, histories and sacred texts.
  • Students not only develop basic knowledge of the histories, sacred texts, and world views of the major religious traditions of the world, but also attain the ability to utilize the various methods of understanding religious phenomena found in the discipline of religious studies.
  • Students gain the ability to utilize the various critical methods of analyzing sacred texts (especially the Jewish and Christian Bibles) and demonstrate an understanding of religions within their cultural contexts.
  • Religious Studies develop a student's ability to reflect critically on their own religious perspectives and conceptually enhance their understanding. Leaders cannot hope to relate effectively to people of other cultures unless they understand their religions. Religious Studies courses at Westminster help students develop the tools and perspectives necessary for a balanced understanding of the world's religions.

Major Highlights

Majors in religious studies take at least nine three-hour courses of their choosing, including not only courses offered in religion but also courses that study religion in other departments (e.g., Sociology of Religion, Philosophy of Religion, Zen Buddhism and the Beat Poets, Asian Philosophy and Religion, Evolution and Intelligent Design, Magic and Witchcraft, Pagans and Christians and a number of others). Most religious studies majors are also able to double or even triple major, most frequently in religious studies and Classics, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology and/or Sociology/Anthropology. Minors in religious studies take just eighteen hours, three lower level and three upper level courses.

Cool Classes

In addition to the two basic courses offered every semester (Introduction to the Bible and World Religions), religious studies classes recently have included The Teachings of Jesus, Writings of Paul, Recent Christian Thought, Perceptions of Death, Native American Spirituality, Spiritual Ecology, Religion and the Environment, Religions and Cultures of India, and Religion and Politics. In their senior year, majors in religious studies are encouraged to do an independent study on a topic of special interest with a member of the faculty. Recent independent studies have included Women and Islam and the Book of Mormon.

Other Experiences

Students visit Jewish, Muslim, and Christian places of worship in mid-Missouri and reflect on the spiritual practices they have experienced. Students visit Protestant and Roman Catholic services to understand the diversity in Christianity and to reflect on the uses of sacred texts in those contexts. Students apply the methods of studying religion they have learned in the course to examine additional religious traditions and present what they have learned to their classmates. Students have the experience of community service in several courses, linking their classroom learning to insights gained through involvement in organizations, programs, and with individuals. Students also have the opportunity to study internationally, for example, most recently in Israel and in Japan.

Qualified students are eligible for invited membership in Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honorary society for religious studies and theology.

Career Opportunities

Religious Studies majors are well equipped for jobs that involve relating at more than a superficial level to people from diverse cultures. Westminster Religious Studies graduates have typically gone into various kinds of service fields (including ministry, teaching, counseling, social world, law enforcement) and also into international business.

David Graves'09 Westminster Alumni "Not enough can be said about the value of being a Religious Studies major - this is one of the cornerstones of a liberal arts education. It is a very fulfilling field in that you study what you are passionate about and at the same time, express what every human experiences in his or her life." -David Graves, '09
Kelsey Taylor'14 "As a freshman, I took the Intro. to Bible course as a way to test myself. I got an itch from that moment to attempt to know more and open myself up to the wisdom of not only my own faith but others in the world. Being a part of the religious studies program, I had to face issues that I otherwise would have hidden from, or given a blanket statement in response to, rather than truly knowing what I stood for. I have a passion for questioning my own system of beliefs, and my professors have equipped me with the tools to grow as I continue to learn who I am and what I believe in." -Kelsey (Clark) Taylor, Class of 2014

Contact Information

Name: Dr. James McRae
Position: Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Office: Room 212, Westminster Hall
E-mail: James.McRae@westminster-mo.edu
Phone: 573-592-6229

Meet the Faculty

Clifford Cain, Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professor of Religious Studies
James McRae, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Religious Studies News

Check out what Westminster religious studies students and alums are doing and get department updates.
Religious Studies News

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