What is religious studies?

Religious studies as an academic discipline comprises the secular study of religion, in all its variety and diversity. Some approaches to religion emphasize the centrality of religious experience and religious meaning. Other approaches concentrate on more material aspects: the texts, art, music, and social formations associated with world religions; the political, social, and ideological factors; or the psychology, sociology, or anthropology of religion. At its most narrow, the study of religion might ask the question, “How does this group or individual connect with whatever it considers to be divine or sacred?” At its most expansive, the study of religion can touch on human culture and society from every possible vantage point.

What is religious studies at the University of Maryland?

The University of Maryland currently offers an undergraduate minor in Religious Studies. Students complete this 18-credit minor by taking courses from a wide variety of departments and programs on campus. Students may pursue a specialized major in an area related to Religious Studies through the Individual Studies Program. See http://www.ivsp.umd.edu/

What are the requirements for a religious studies minor?

Students will complete 18 credits (generally, six courses), with a grade of C or better. Three of these courses must be at the 300- or 400-level. One course must be a religious studies core course, either “Introduction to the Study of World Religions” or “What is Religion?” Students also fulfill a breadth requirement.

What is the breadth requirement?
The breadth requirement is designed to ensure that students are exposed to multiple religious traditions, approaches, time periods, and geographic regions in their study of religion. Because many students of religion have wide-ranging interests, this requirement is often fulfilled effortlessly (for example, if you choose to take ARTH 300, Egyptian Art, and PHIL 236, Philosophy of Religion, this will take care of the breadth requirement). If your interests are highly specific (for example, if you are especially interested in religious art, or comparative studies, or American religion), then you may find yourself tracking along a single path. In this case, you will need to take at least one course that counterbalances your central area of study.

May I count courses toward both this minor and another degree program?

Yes. You may “double count” two courses, or up to six credits, with your major. However, you may not count courses toward this minor and another ARHU minor.

Can I work on my minor while I am participating in study abroad?

YES! Study at other universities, at home or abroad, provides an opportunity to learn more about religion around the world. You may count up to six credits in transfer credit from another institution. The religious studies advisor can pre-approve your study-abroad courses, or you may request course approval after returning from your travels.

Do I have to be religious to study religion?

No. Religious studies is an avenue for studying human cultural formations of all sorts. Although students may gain insights into human experience (including their own!), that is not the primary motivation of religious studies in a secular setting.

If I am religious, will taking religious studies courses make me a non-believer?

Not necessarily. The goal of religious studies is to teach students about the past, present, and future of religious traditions in all their diversity. Rather than creating “non-believers,” the goal of religious studies is to create attentive interpreters, describers, and analysts. Students of religious studies learn to read and interpret primary texts, to understand historical developments, and to take seriously the claims of religious practitioners (including those with whom they agree, as well as those with whom they do not).

How do I sign up for the religious studies minor?

Contact Prof. Max Grossman at mgrossma@umd.edu to learn more about the minor or to make an appointment to sign up.

© 2010 The Minor in Religious Studies, University of Maryland.