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The academic study of religion at Colby focuses on the origins and historical development of the world’s major religious traditions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto. Learning about the growth and worldviews of Christianity and Judaism gives one a deep knowledge of the development of the Western tradition. Similarly, learning about Asian religions is crucial in understanding the traditional culture of India, China, and other Asian countries. In the course of completing the religious studies major, a student learns to study religious traditions by scrutinizing literary traditions, ritual practices and texts, and religion’s profound impact on cultural development. The study of religion teaches people to think clearly, critically, and cross-culturally about ways in which human beings have understood the world and their role in it.
The Religious Studies Department offers an interdisciplinary program that includes courses both in specific traditions and in cross-cultural topics. The major and minor provide exposure to Biblical literature, the religious heritage of the West, and Asian religions, as well as the opportunity to become a specialist in one of these three areas by participating in advanced courses and independent study projects. A portion of the requirements is met by selecting elective courses in both religious studies and related fields, such as anthropology, art, classics, English literature, history, music, philosophy, and sociology.
A student majoring or minoring in religious studies receives careful academic advising and an opportunity to develop both written and verbal skills. Because upper-level courses are fairly small, students have a chance to explore areas of interest and work on special projects. Religious studies majors at Colby are articulate, independent-minded people with far-ranging intellectual concerns. Many elect double majors, combining religious studies with majors in government, biology, chemistry, literature, American studies, or others.
Students majoring in religious studies find that the analytic skills they have gained in their studies serve them well, no matter what careers they pursue after graduation. Some have gone on to graduate or divinity school and then into careers in teaching or ministry. Several have gone to law school, medical school, or to graduate school in other fields. Others are employed in a wide variety of occupations, ranging from scientific research to business.