Why Study Religion?
There are many reasons to study religion, some of them obvious,
some of them less so. Religion has shown itself, both throughout
history and in recent times, as able to unite people and to divide
them, to inspire acts of love and acts of hatred. A few decades
ago, many voices of secularization were declaring that religion, or
at the very least religious fundamentalism, will soon disappear
entirely. Today we can see that religion is very much alive!
- What is religion?
- What is involved in studying religion
- Why study religion?
- Careers for religion majors
What is Religion?
This question is much harder to answer than may first seem to be
the case. Is Buddhism, which does not believe that a personal God
or gods is the ultimate reality, a religion? Both Buddhists and
non-Buddhists disagree on the appropriateness of the term
'religion' as a description of their way of life. Some Christians
likewise prefer 'way of life' to 'religion' as a description of
their faith. Theologian Paul Tillich defined religion as follows:
"Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a
concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which
itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of life."
Study of religion can thus be regarded as reflection on what is
ultimate, of what really matters, of what life is all about. To
study such questions has an obvious appeal and relevance.
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What is involved in studying religion at university?
While most of us have some notion of what religion is, many
wonder what might be involved in studying religion at college. For
some, the assumption is that this will be an advanced form of
'Sunday School'. For others, there is the suspicion that academic
study of the Bible and/or other religious texts is dangerous and
asks questions incompatible with faith. Neither of these positions
accurately represents what is involved in the academic study of
Studying religion means looking at religious beliefs and
practices in a careful, analytical, academic manner. While this is
in no way antithetical to faith, it clearly will be challenging to
any student, irrespective of whether he or she is a religious
believer or not. The study of religious texts such as the Bible at
a college level means examining it in detail, both as literature
and from a historical perspective. Doing so often means asking
difficult questions, but the exploration of such questions is
rewarding-just ask our students! At Butler, we seek to provide a
context in which students can express their differing viewpoints in
a way that leads to fruitful dialogue, learning, and mutual
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Why study religion?
The study of religion is not only for the religious!
Understanding religious human traditions is of great value in and
of itself. Religion is a key element in most human cultures. As our
'global village' becomes increasingly smaller, opportunities for
interaction with people of other cultures, and of other faiths, is
constantly increasing. Especially in view of recent acts of
violence perpetrated in the name of religion, it is crucial that we
make greater efforts to understand one another better. This is one
of the reasons why studying 'religion' as a major at university
involves studying not only religious traditions that are familiar,
but also prominent ones from other cultures. Understanding about
religions is important, whether one is planning for a career in
medicine, politics, law, business, or something else.
The study of religion at Butler University cultivates many
skills that will serve students well in any career they happen to
pursue, such as critical thinking, textual analysis, debating
skills, curiosity, open-mindedness, ethics, decision making, and
understanding other cultures and ways of life.
Why should you study religion
at Butler University? We have an entire page dedicated
specifically to that question!
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Careers for religion majors
Of course, it goes without saying that the study of religion is
also a great way of preparing for graduate study at seminary or for
other vocations of a religious nature. The diversity of texts,
traditions, historical study and approaches to religion taken at
Butler will provide students of any religious tradition with the
general grounding they need to go on to further studies for
ministry, teaching, social service and other careers in religion.
Recent Butler graduates have enrolled in graduate programs at Duke,
Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, Boston University, Christian
Theological Seminary, and Lexington Theological Seminary. Butler
University offers an advising program for
students preparing for ministry.
While a natural degree for students headed for theological
school, the religion major is chiefly a liberal arts degree. It
emphasizes basic skills of critical thinking, reading,
writing-skills that will serve graduates pursuing careers in
business, government, or the nonprofit sector, or students
attending professional schools. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that,
if he went back to college, he would study comparative
A grant from Lilly Endowment enabled us to create the Butler Center for Faith and Vocation, a
comprehensive career-counseling center for students interested in
religion. The Center offers assistance and a variety of programs
not just for students planning to pursue theological studies but
for those who wish to link their religious interests with other
career goals. Click here to
visit the website for the CFV.
Reasons for studying religion are many, and at Butler
University, you will find programs and a selection of courses that
will help you prepare to think about matters pertaining to religion
and spirituality in a serious and thoughtful way.
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