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Zen Garden

Religion Program

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. 


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.

Majors Curricula

In addition to studying significant historical religions, Religion and combined majors learn about Native American, African, and Afro-Caribbean beliefs; the intersection of religion with politics, gender, war, and science; influential religious writers and thinkers; and more. 

What is Religion

What Is Religion?

This question isn’t easy to answer. Some Buddhists do not believe that God is the ultimate reality. Are they “religious”? 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.

Desmond Tutu

Why Study Religion at Butler

Our students explore Indianapolis’ numerous traditional, emerging, and global religious communities. Our faculty are active authors and scholars, who mentor undergraduates in their award-winning research.  Faculty also work closely with our campus partners, the Center for Faith and Vocation and the Desmond Tutu Center, 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.

What is involved?

What Is Involved in Studying Religion at University?

For some, the assumption is that majoring in Religion 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 religion.

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 religious or not. The study of religious texts such as the Bible at a college level means examining it in detail, both from the perspective of those who consider it sacred scripture and from a critical, literary, and 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.