What is Religious Studies? Religious Studies at UCA is the objective and critical study of religion in all its aspects and forms. This study involves, first, the sympathetic attempt to understand religions from the inside, from the perspectives of those who practice them. Second, it involves attempting to explain religion from the outside, from the perspective of the natural and social sciences. And third, it involves the philosophical critique of religions in terms of their truth, moral worth, pragmatic value, and the like.
Why Study Religion? There are many reasons for studying religion academically at UCA. We live in a diverse and pluralistic world where religious faiths exist not in isolation from one another, but in close proximity and contact. Even in Central Arkansas, the mixing of religious cultures is not a future possibility, but a present reality. Living well in such a world entails understanding it in all its diversity. Indeed, Justice Clark, writing for the majority in a 1963 Supreme Court decision that encouraged the study of religion, argued that “one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” Study of the world’s religions thus leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the role and importance of religion in society.
It can also benefit those who are personally involved in the perennial human search for meaning and purpose in life through its critical exploration of the most enduring ways in which people from around the world have responded to this search.
See the American Academy of Religion web site on Why Study Religion?
Many who study religion at UCA have career goals for which the academic study of religion is excellent preparation, from more explicitly religious occupations to broader professional careers where an understanding of the human condition in all its variety is the best foundation. Others are simply interested in this fascinating and complex subject and know that, as with any liberal arts degree, the skills they develop will help them to achieve a variety of personal and professional goals. We invite you to join us in the study of the human quest to discover meaning in the world and our place in that world.
The Major and Minor in Religious Studies:
The Religious Studies program at UCA is an interdisciplinary program where students take courses in a variety of departments that are relevant to the study of religion, including the Departments of Philosophy and Religion, Art, English, History, and Sociology.
The Major involves a total of 33 hours, including 18 hours of core requirements and 15 hours of elective courses. The Minor involves 24 hours, with 18 hours of core requirements and six hours of electives.
Religious Studies majors and minors are encouraged to take RELG 1320, World Religions to satisfy three hours of their General Education World Cultural Traditions requirement.
The Honors Program in Religious Studies
Students who major in religious studies and who demonstrate exceptional ability may request or may be invited to enter the religious studies honors program. In addition to or as one of the courses required for a major in the area, the student must
1. Complete RELG 4300 Religious Studies Honors Tutorial;
2. Maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA overall and a 3.5 GPA in the major;
3. Complete an honors thesis in conjunction with RELG 4300; and
4. Pass an oral examination on the theses conducted by three faculty members.