Religious studies is the objective study of religious thought and behavior through a number of different disciplines including anthropology, psychology, sociology, and the history of religions. It is distinctively different from theology, which is the faith based study of religion. Religious studies provides opportunities for exploring the deepest levels of meaning of human experience and for understanding its expression in culture. Accordingly, religious studies is highly interdisciplinary. At Cedar Crest College, religious studies courses emphasize experiential education. Field experiences and study abroad are common components of courses in the minor.
Religious studies prepares students to live in a world in which the four major religions— Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity—are increasing in number and at the same time moving beyond their traditional boundaries as defined by nation states. Religion is an increasingly powerful force that is used to influence the binary message that accompanies the social construction of knowledge and the symbolism inherent in civilization including order and disorder, truth and illusion, meaning and the absence of meaning. In order to help prepare students to meet the demands of this changing world, the religious studies minor emphasizes the complex, symbiotic relationship between religion and culture and the changing societal contexts within which religions are practiced. The program helps create global competence and responsibility in keeping with the Strategic Plan of the College. It enhances the College’s Mission Statement by preparing the whole student for life in a global community. Religious studies courses may be taken as part of the minor or as one of the three concentrations within the global studies major.