Department of Religious Studies


Welcome

Welcome to the world of religious studies in the academic field! This area of study helps develop your ability to think flexibly and acquire practical skills. If you're someone who enjoys asking profound questions and tackling significant issues, you're invited to join our program.

Our curriculum is tailored for students interested in exploring how religions influence human life and society. Through this journey, you'll develop a global awareness, gaining insights into a world with diverse religious beliefs.

Moreover, the curriculum is structured to empower you to use your understanding of religion to analyze contemporary issues at both national and international levels. So, if you're ready to delve into the study of religion and apply it to the analysis of present-day challenges, we look forward to having you on board!

Diversity Makes Us Stronger


The study of religion is an important part of understanding the world in all its diversity. By familiarizing ourselves with global religious traditions throughout history, we better understand the world. Religion is the key to understanding other cultures and important historical events in many circumstances.

Our Department’s Commitment to Anti-Racism and Social Justice


We, the Religious Studies department of the College of Charleston, share in the grief and outrage so many have experienced over the past few weeks in the face of the deaths of yet more Black people at the hands of police and vigilantes. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks. We say their names. And we could add so many more, including those from our very own “Holy City” of Charleston. Walter Scott, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson. We say their names. Their lives mattered.

-Juneteenth 2020

 

Click to Read Full Statement

World Religions Down the Block


As the Holy City, Charleston is the perfect location to study religion. There are so many places within walking distance from campus that are important points of interest.

In fact, the Department of Religious Studies has a prime location. It's located next door to the Jewish Studies Center and across the street from Grace Episcopal Church and Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal.

Home to more than 400 churches, Charleston is the best place to be if you're interested in fieldwork or ethnography. Your courses might include field trips to local places of worship, or you can set up time to visit on your own.

The pioneering scholar of religion, Ninian Smart, often remarked that it is no longer necessary to travel to exotic locations to study world religions; they are now down the block. Nowhere is this phenomenon truer than in Charleston. Link back to the interest page in student opportunities with places of interest.

Academic vs. Theological


There  are two distinctly different methods of teaching religion in colleges and universities today. The academic approach, which is the approach the College of Charleston takes, is taught in public colleges and universities. Our faculty take a sympathetic yet properly critical approach to all religious traditions and presents them as interesting and provocative. This approach emphasizes a tolerant but detached attitude toward the world’s religions. Many questions are explored, such as:

  • What do people believe and practice?
  • How have their beliefs and practices changed over time?
  • What texts do they regard as sacred and authoritative, and why are some texts deemed canonical while others are regarded as heretical?
  • How do the ‘insiders’ of one religion view ‘outsiders’ from other religious traditions?

The academic approach is interdisciplinary, historical and comparative. It underscores the value of understanding many different religious perspectives.

The theological approach is found in seminaries and other schools with religious affiliations. A theological approach is often used in training students for careers in religion, and is a faith-oriented approach.

For more on the academic study of religion, see Why Study Religion? and Why the World Needs Religious Studies.

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