Religion (Comparative)


Bachelor of Arts | College of Arts and Science

What is Religion (Comparative)?

Comparative religion, also called religious studies, is an interdisciplinary field that specializes in understanding religion as a dimension of culture. As a religion major, you study how people's religious beliefs, values, or practices intersect with other areas of human life, including law and politics; conflict and peace-making; ethnic and national identities; gender, sexuality, and family; health, consumption, and finances; life transitions and death. In the process, you become familiar with multiple religious traditions.

Most Miami students who major in religion are double majors. They study religion to complement their training in another field where religious issues are pertinent, such as political science, international studies, economics, or media and culture, among others.

Note: The religion major is not a program of religious formation; in other words, the major does not teach you how to practice a religious tradition yourself. At Miami, religious formation is provided by extracurricular student groups or ministries. Also, the religion major is not a program in theology or training for ministry. For education of that kind, you would attend a religious institution such as a seminary (which some of our majors have gone on to do).

What are the features of Miami’s program?

Intercultural competence

According to survey data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 4 out of 5 employers say that college students should gain "intercultural skills and understanding of societies and cultures outside the US." Nearly 85% of employers say it is "very important" for college students to gain skills for working "in diverse groups."

Religion is one aspect of diversity and intercultural literacy. As you study multiple religious traditions and engage with competing perspectives around religious issues, you develop skills for navigating unfamiliar cultural settings and for working with people whose background, beliefs, or values differ from yours.

Miami students majoring in religion have studied or interned abroad in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Our department regularly offers a Winter Term experience in the Arabian Peninsula, where students observe how religion and business intersect in Middle East economies.

Multidisciplinary intellectual skills

Religion courses at Miami are designed to help you develop widely applicable competencies in critical thinking, critical reading, writing, and research.

Because this is an interdisciplinary field, the religion major introduces you to methods and theories from history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literary studies, and cultural studies. Religion faculty are cross-affiliated with other departments and programs, including political science, Asian/Asian-American studies, international studies, Russian and Eurasian studies, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. The multidisciplinary exposure you receive as a religion major expands the intellectual toolkit you take into your profession—your ability to examine issues from multiple perspectives.

Flexible coursework

Students usually pair the religion major with another area of professional interest—a double major. The religion major allows you a great deal of flexibility in choosing courses that allow you to combine your particular interests: religion and politics, religion and psychology, religion and history, religion and business, religion and music, religion and black world studies, etc. You can satisfy required hours for the religion major by taking related courses from other departments in the humanities or social sciences.

Student Support

The department has 7 full-time faculty, with approximately 60 students majoring or minoring in the program. This relatively low teacher-student ratio allows you to work closely with faculty, as well as with fellow students in the department. Our faculty have assisted majors with special research projects including the Dean's Scholars program, the Undergraduate Summer Scholars, and trips to interview members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church (an ongoing research project by one of our faculty).

As a religion major, you are eligible to apply to the department for Experiential Learning Grants—funds to help you with study away experiences, travel to conferences, or other professional development opportunities.

What are the special admission requirements, if any?

There are no additional admission requirements for this program.

What courses would I take?

The religion major requires a 200-level methods course and a 400-level research seminar. You are also required to select introductory courses that familiarize you with at least three different religious traditions, or religious traditions from three different world regions.

Beyond that, you have considerable flexibility in constructing your program of study, with approval of the Chief Departmental Advisor. You will take courses both from the Department of Comparative Religion and from related departments or programs, such as American studies, anthropology, and political science, among others.

What can I do with this major?

Studying religion, as a second major, can add value to your preparation for many different professions. Whatever career you pursue, it is likely that religion will intersect in some way with your work, creating challenges and opportunities in your relations with colleagues or clients.

Our department's alumni have gone on to work in a range of fields, including education, law, government (civilian and military), the non-profit sector, media and the arts, and religious ministry. Several of our recent graduates focused on Islam in their coursework, to prepare themselves for careers in diplomacy, foreign policy, or national security. One graduate, a double major in religion and zoology, aspires to work with Buddhists and Hindus to preserve rainforests in Asia. Another alum, who majored in religion and anthropology, works in environmental compliance, ensuring that development projects protect cultural heritage. The religion major can complement many career paths.

Who can I contact for more information?

Department of Comparative Religion
200 Upham Hall
Oxford, OH 45056