Religious Studies B.A. - Coastal Carolina University
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Religious Studies

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.

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.

The Student Experience

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.

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.

Develop meaningful and useful skills

A central component of the philosophy major is developing skills that will help students succeed in their careers and in their lives. In particular, religious studies students learn to:

  • Formulate and evaluate arguments
  • Engage in intercultural awareness
  • Consider alternative points of view
  • Discuss controversial topics reasonably and fairly
  • Identify and propose solutions to problems
  • Explain complex issues
  • Think rationally, critically, and creatively
  • Express arguments clearly in writing

Prepare for life beyond the University

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. 96% of respondents judged being “comfortable working with customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds” to be “fairly important” (with 63% judging it “very important”). 55% judged “knowledge of global cultures, histories, values, religious, and social systems” to be “fairly important” (with 16% 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.

Explore non-traditional learning opportunities

We encourage our religious studies students to participate in the diverse learning experiences offered at Coastal. Students can obtain local, national, and international internships, travel to learn in study abroad programs, and participate in experiential learning courses. Additionally, some religious studies courses can be taken online to provide students with flexibility in their academic careers. The department and the Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values host talks by faculty from Coastal and from other universities about pressing issues impacting the religious landscapes of the United States and beyond.

Get involved in leadership opportunities

Religious studies students can become members of the Student Government Association (SGA), the Jackson Scholar Ethics Program, and the Edwards College Research Fellows Program.

Sample Four-Year Plan

For course information, visit the University Catalog »

Additional Resources

Study Religion (http://www.studyreligion.org/why/index.html)

Harvard Divinity School: Religious Literacy Project (https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/about)

American Academy of Religion (https://www.aarweb.org/AARMBR/About-AAR/AARMBR/About-AAR.aspx?hkey=32443cfe-2a95-439d-a625-25831c44b085)

David Chidester, “Global Citizenship, Cultural Citizenship and World Religions in Religion Education (http://www.oercommons.org/courses/global-citizenship-cultural-citizenship-and-world-religions-in-religion-education/view).

Contact

Dennis Earl, Ph.D.
Department Chair and Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
AOC2 327
dearl@coastal.edu

Jeffry Halverson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies/Islam
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
AOC2 336
jhalverso@coastal.edu

Ronald Green, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies/Asian Religions
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
AOC2 332
rgreen@coastal.edu

Alan Todd, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Religious Studies/Judaism
Department of Religious Studies
AOC2 337
atodd1@coastal.edu