Religious Studies at the University of Toledo
The Religious Studies Program at the University of Toledo offers undergraduates the opportunity to explore religion—one of the most powerful forces shaping human civilizations and individuals. Religion wrestles with the deepest questions humans can ask, such as: What is ultimate reality? What is the meaning of life and of death? Why is there both good and evil? What is the destiny of humanity and the universe as a whole? The world’s religions offer different answers to these questions. Our program explores these answers and the robust traditions of religious practice, ethics, social institutions, sacred texts, rituals, and lived experiences that accompany them.
Our program offers both an undergraduate major and minor. Students can opt to focus their studies in the major in focal area such as Jewish and Christian Studies, Islamic Studies, or other areas they design in conjunction with a faculty advisor. We work hard to see that all our majors and minors have a course of study that reflects their career goals and interests so they can flourish professionally and personally.
Our majors are also invited to intern with local, national and/or international organizations as part of their curriculum and to be involved with outreach work done by the Department’s Center for Religious Understanding.
WHY STUDY RELIGION?
Eighty-five percent of the world’s population are adherents of a religious tradition…. Thus the study of religion can provide insight into the hearts, minds, and activities of most of humanity. To the degree that we assign importance to learning foreign languages…anthropology, sociology, political science, and psychology, the study of religion, too should be our concern (Will Deming in Rethinking Religion).
The question, Why study religion? is like asking Why study human beings? Or, Why study civilizations? The short answer is that religion is too important to ignore. Most people in the world are committed in some way to religion. Some of them take their religion to be their most important commitment—even above politics, nation, family and self. As a result, religion is deeply implicated in individual and communal history and culture. This fact makes the study of religion critical for understanding human issues, both past and present.
Specifically, understanding religion…
…contributes to a full grasp of world events and the decisive role that religion plays on the global stage and in one’s own community. Even in an increasingly secularized world, a glance at the headlines shows that religion continues to impact human interactions dramatically, in both harmful and helpful ways.
…is central to a deep understanding of other fields, such as art, literature, music, politics, business, human psychology, and public health, to name just a few. This makes religious studies a great second major or minor.
…enables you to understand and get along with other people by knowing what they may care about most. This is true professionally—with clients, coworkers and colleagues—as well as personally—with friends, family and neighbors.
…contributes to personal fulfillment. Understanding religion can deepen and add perspective to your life. Getting to know other people’s worldviews provides enough distance from your own to enable you to evaluate it in the background of other options. Also, studying the questions the world’s religions address—including questions of purpose, how we should live, and what we can hope for—and arriving at your own considered response to them helps you reflect on who you are and who you want to become.
WHAT OUR MAJORS LEARN
- Religious literacy: a grasp of the fundamental histories, beliefs and practices of the major religions that ground over 90% of the world’s religious commitments, as well as the growing phenomenon of non-religiosity and what motivates it.
- Cultural awareness: a broad and deep understanding of global cultures from the past and present.
- Great books & figures: we encounter some of the most important texts in human history about some of the most important figures in human history.
- How religion intersects with other facets of culture, such as art, science, politics, ethics, race, gender, class and popular culture.
- Interreligious studies: How to interpret what happens when religions encounter other religions and secularism.
- Critical thinking skills.
- Writing skills that evidence reasoned arguments and careful analysis.
- Oral communication skills, in small- and large-group settings and presentations.
- Self-reflection skills, honed by regular written and oral responses over the course of the program.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH A RELIGIOUS STUDIES DEGREE?
Our majors and minors go on to a variety of careers including:
- Social work and not-for-profit ventures
- Teaching in high schools, colleges and universities
- Religious ministries, including as clergy, youth leaders, and clergy associates
- Health care
- Public and political service