Why Study Religion at New College?

As a student studying Religion at New College, you will work closely with your faculty advisor to devise a plan of study that matches your interests and goals. You will also learn to be self aware as you explore questions that engage both religious faith and practice. Our students tell us this freedom to drive their own education energizes their studies. As one New College Religion professor said, “I love teaching religion because we help our students engage this complex, important and often neglected area of academic thought.”

The Religion faculty at New College cover a wide variety of topics and approaches. But in each they help students develop the critical thinking, analysis and communications skills that are crucial to success not only within the field of religion but to all others as well. The Religion program at New College aims to:

• Develop empathetic insight into the fundamental ideas and values of other peoples, times and places that are key to effective communication with those outside one’s own culture and time.
• Encourage critical thinking about religious ideals and practices in history.
• Foster critical self-consciousness about the values and commitments of one's own age and society and thus learn about the historically developed content of one’s own culture as well as that of others.

In the face of the influence of religion in the intellectual heritage of both Western and non-Western cultures, the program provides the beginning student with an understanding of the complexity of religious phenomena and offers the advanced student a variety of methods appropriate to such study.

Prospective students in Religion should consult with faculty to construct an individualized plan of study. Typically this plan will include:

• An introduction to the study of religion to foster communication concerning the central ideas of the discipline.
• Expansion of content knowledge including work in ethics, exploration of the sacred scriptures of a religious tradition, coverage of the history and development of a particular religious tradition and study in a tradition distinctly different from one’s major focus.
• Work in a variety of approaches to the study of religion to develop aspects of critical thinking, including conceptual approaches to the study of religion, as well as religion in society.

Interdisciplinary majors, or senior projects linking religion to other areas of inquiry, are particularly encouraged.

Through a combination of introductory courses, advanced seminars and courses offered in cooperation with other disciplines (such as art history, classics, history, literature and philosophy) the Religion program works towards these goals of nurturing critical thinking, effective communication skills and content knowledge. Advanced students examine philosophical issues in religious thought, method in the study of religion, religious texts and religious ethics. Strong attention is given to historical study, analysis of the relationship between religion and society, and in-depth study of key thinkers and traditional problems in religion. Faculty in allied fields and visiting faculty provide additional opportunities to pursue diverse traditions and approaches.

[Did you know?]

What do the top one percent of earners in the U.S. major in? According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the one percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology, biology and yes, rounding out the top 20, philosophy and religious studies!

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