Bachelor of Arts
Religious studies is the academic, socio-historical study of the development of religious beliefs and practices across time and cultures. Religious studies majors learn about the history of the most influential texts in world, how religion impacts public and private life, as well as the role of religions in shaping cultures past and present. And since religions are central to all human societies and quite often a driving force behind significant historical transformations, studying religion enables students to become more engaged and informed global citizens prepared for a variety of careers.
The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies offers small and engaging classes, and provides excellent advising and support for each individual student.
The Student Experience
Religious studies majors at Coastal will benefit from small classes, supportive faculty who are experts in their fields, and a close-knit community of students driven to better understand the world around them. Majors also have many opportunities to participate in student clubs, internships, study abroad, experiential learning, and leadership programs.
Students are introduced to the diversity of religious beliefs and practices as well as the basics to the academic study of religion in the introductory-level course World Religions. Students develop even more of the essential skills for understanding the history of religions and their roles in daily life in Religious Studies: Theories and Methods. These two intro-level classes also satisfy CCU’s Core Curriculum requirements. A deeper knowledge of specific religious traditions are then acquired by students in upper level courses such as Introduction to Judaism, Archaeology and the Bible, Christianity: Sects and Practices, Introduction to Islam, Islam in America, Hinduism, and Zen Buddhism.
Beyond the Classroom
By possessing intercultural skills and knowledge of religions, religious studies majors are well-suited for a range of careers. Students who complete the B.A. in religious studies are prepared to continue their studies in graduate school or at a seminary, divinity school, or yeshiva (ministers, rabbis, imams). Religious studies majors also develop broadly-applicable skills of reading and analyzing complex texts, conducting research, thinking critically, and communicating effectively through descriptive and analytical writing and oral presentations. A series of polls of business executives and hiring managers by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) from 2013–2018 showed that employers value such skills highly.
Religious studies majors also develop wide-ranging and advanced religious literacy to understand a variety of cultures and concepts, historically and contemporaneously. The AACU polling from 2013 indicated that employers value intercultural skills. Ninety-six percent of respondents judged being “comfortable working with customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds” to be “fairly important” (with 63 percent judging it “very important”); 55 percent judged “knowledge of global cultures, histories, values, religious, and social systems” to be “fairly important” (with 16 percent judging it as “very important”).
The government has many job opportunities for religious studies majors, including analyst positions at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Among non-governmental and governmental organizations that specialize in international development (e.g., United States Agency for International Development) and conflict resolution (e.g., United States Institute of Peace), knowledge of foreign cultures and sensitivities is vital. Furthermore, newspapers and media outlets in many cities have religion staff writers, journalists, and bloggers. Many museums, historical sites, and archives also seek specialists in religious studies.
What You'll Study
Majors in religious studies can choose between two concentrations: Religion in Public Life (RPL) or Textual Studies (TS). The RPL concentration focuses on the role that religion plays (past and present) in the public sphere, including government, legal systems, gender norms, and international relations and conflicts. Students who choose the RPL concentration take upper-division courses relevant to this area of inquiry, such as Buddhism in Literature and Film, Archaeology and the Bible, Islam in America, as well as courses offered by other programs, such as Sex, Gender and Culture (Anthropology) and Religious Cults and Violence (Sociology). Those concentrating in TS are to focus their study on a sacred text, engaging in its literary analysis, exploring the history of the text’s formation, learning about the different ways the text has been interpreted over time, and understanding its societal and cultural impacts. Students in this concentration take upper-level courses such as Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur’an, and Reading Buddhist Texts.
Department Chair, Associate Professor of Philosophy