Whether one is a believer, agnostic or an atheist, the empirical fact is that throughout human history religion has played a determinative role in how individuals, communities and nations find meaning. It constructs how we think of almost every aspect of our lives: our place in the universe; our gender and sexual identity; our relation to the planet; our sensibilities around ethnicity, class and race; our attitudes about medicine, science, contraception and the end of life; our political allegiances and approaches to poverty, immigration, social justice and war; our relation towards the Other. It can be adaptive, enhance love, and promote interrelatedness, yet also foster hatred, intolerance, and ignorance. Religion is everywhere. Religion matters.
The Department of Religion at Rice University engages students in the study of the world's religions and their diverse religious accoutrements and ontological commitments. Housed in a pluralistic, secular and critical social space, it advocates the multi-disciplinary (humanistic, scientific, social-scientific) study of religions in their historical, socio-cultural, political and economic contexts. From small seminars to large lectures, students gain exposure to a fascinating range of religious traditions, texts, peoples, and practices and disciplinary approaches to studying religion that develops their critical, comparative and communicative skills.
Religion at Rice features an undergraduate major and minor that both bring undergraduates into a dynamic community with distinguished faculty and their distinctive lines of research. Religion undergraduates collaborate with faculty advisers to construct individualized concentrations of study close to students’ interests and faculty expertise. They also talk regularly with faculty and graduate students at monthly teas, majors’ dinners, open houses and alumni guest lectures. With 10 courses for the major, and six courses for the minor, students construct their own concentrations with minimal requirements.
Training in the study of religion equips majors to think critically, creatively and comparatively about religious practices, beliefs and traditions. Engaging in discussions with faculty, undergraduate peers and graduate students, majors come to hone their academic interests and see how the knowledge and skills they build in the major contribute to myriad professions and shape them as religiously literate individuals. So, what exactly do religion majors do after graduation? They go on to professions across the fields of medicine, law, journalism, education, politics, public policy, nonprofits and even the academic study of religion.