Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


About the Department

Religion courses immerse students in this comparative study.

A Religion major prepares you well for graduate work in a number of liberal arts fields (in addition to religion) and, for those seeking to pursue two majors, it is also an excellent complementary major to the range of liberal arts majors available at Southwestern. In addition, a Religion major is good for those seeking to pursue an education in the seminary, though a number of other liberal arts majors serve this goal as well.

As an academic discipline, religious studies prepares students to better understand, compare, interpret, and analyze the diverse array of human expression known as “religious.” A guiding assumption in religious studies is that religion can and should be subjected to the types of critical analyses that are applied to other areas of the human social world. Religious studies is an inherently interdisciplinary field that utilizes the critical theories and tools from many other academic fields, such as: philosophy, art, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, language studies, literature, politics, economics, cultural studies, gender studies and ethnic studies.

Scholars and students of religious studies avoid privileging or promoting the perspectives of a particular community of believers or practitioners.At Southwestern, the faculty of the Religion Department attends to the interplay of religious, social, political and economic systems. We challenge students to analyze the connections between religious systems and other systems of power in order to prepare students to critically and creatively promote economic justice, social equality and ecological integrity.

What our Former Students Say About the Religion Program

“As a 2009 graduate of Southwestern University, I have learned that there are few things comparable to the preparatory knowledge one receives through the religion department. Majoring in Religion was the single best education-related choice I could have made. In doing so, I was exposed to the highest level of academic expectation, the most challenging environment within which to cultivate and articulate my ideas, and the most comforting place to be myself.

“When I came into Southwestern, I thought I would major in Religion and go on to a position in the United Methodist ministry. My plans changed while there, as I grew amongst students of the highest caliber and learned to challenge my perspectives. Southwestern, and the Religion department, did not teach me what to think or what to believe, but my personal faith grew stronger as I learned how to effectively communicate what I believed and why, a skill set I can definitively tie to the education provided to me by my distinguished professors.

“Southwestern is a hub of some of the greatest, most astounding minds in the world. I consider myself lucky to have not only gained admission but to have been treated as if I deserved to be there as much as any other student, staff, or faculty member. There is no “one thing” in the department that made me the thinker I am now, but rather a culmination of a great many ideas and methods gained throughout my academic, intellectual and personal development. The department made me a better writer, a more curious researcher, a more comprehensive reader, and a more compassionate learner. The department and the university fostered within me an understanding of diversity that I do not believe I would have gained elsewhere. I am forever indebted to the program for leading me to challenge my assumptions, investigate my biases, and strengthen my abilities. It is that education which has inspired me to pursue higher education in social work and to live a life based on the constant pursuit of knowledge.”

Porscha Williams ’09