Religious Studies Program

Religious Structure

The study of religion—a key element in most human cultures—is not only for the religious. Understanding religious human traditions is of great value in and of itself.

As our “global village” becomes increasingly smaller, opportunities for interaction with people of other cultures and 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 by studying both familiar religious traditions and 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 critical thinking, textual analysis, debating skills, curiosity, open-mindedness, ethics, decision-making, and understanding of other cultures and ways of life—skills that will serve students well in any profession.

For some, the assumption is that majoring in Religious Studies will be an advanced form of Sunday school. For others, there is the suspicion that the academic study of religion is dangerous and asks questions incompatible with faith. Neither of these positions accurately represents what is involved in the academic study of religion.

Studying religion at a university such as Butler means looking at religious beliefs, scriptures, and practices, as well as the relationship of religion to culture, politics, and society,  in a careful, analytical, academic manner. While this is in no way antithetical to faith, it clearly will be challenging to any student, whether they are religious or not. The study of religious traditions at a college level means examining them in detail, both from the perspective of adherents themselves and from a critical, literary, sociological, anthropological, and/or 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 understanding.

Our students explore numerous traditional, emerging, and global religious communities, both in Indianapolis and abroad. Our faculty are active authors and scholars, who mentor undergraduates in their award-winning research  Their courses are of interest to students in many fields, and are cross-listed in Anthropology, Philosophy, International Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies; Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies. Religious Studies faculty also work closely with our campus partners, the Center for Faith and Vocation and the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab, to connect students to service,  internship, and fellowship opportunities, preparing them to succeed in life after graduation. Dedicated department funds support student scholarship and subsidize study abroad.

Where your degree can take you

Our recent graduates have used their training in graduate studies of religion, theology, law, public policy, medicine, and creative writing. Others have entered the non-profit sector or religious ministries or found employment in teaching, acting, politics, and other fields.