Religious Studies (REL)
The academic study of religion is a challenging and exciting discipline. It seeks to understand different religious traditions in both their historical contexts and their living vitality. Inherently interdisciplinary, Religious Studies seeks to understand and interpret religion as a cultural, historical and psychological phenomenon.
“If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.”   Huston Smith
What is the study of religion?
Religious Studies investigates both the common ground across religions and the distinctiveness of each tradition, through study of religious literature, myths, rituals, symbolism, ethics, art, community, institutions, philosophy and religious experience. Religious Studies at Sinclair also promotes a sophisticated understanding of an increasingly complex and pluralistic world, along with the attendant issues of the relation between religion and politics; the relation between religion and science; and the relation between religion, peace, and violence.
How is religion studied?
Religious studies shares with many other disciplines the standards and methods of a secular college.  It does not rely on one method alone, but draws on historical, literary, and social scientific methods. The main distinction to be made is between being participants of religion and teaching about religion. While the first presupposes a faith commitment to the tradition and ideas studied, the second does not.
Why study religion?
Besides being fascinating in and of itself, there are many other reasons to study religion:
 
1.    Understanding society and current events: Religion permeates culture and it influences social institutions, values, attitudes, and behavior. Studying religion gives us a tool to analyze and comprehend society.
 
2.    Understanding history: Religion has played a critical role in history and one simply cannot understand much of history without understanding the religious dimension.  Consider:  What would it mean to study American history without understanding the religious impulses of the English Puritans or the ways in which religions responded to social crises like slavery?
 
3.    Developing a multicultural and global perspective: There is hardly a
better way to broaden one’s horizons than by studying other faith
traditions.
 
4.    Understanding our neighbors: In an ever more diverse society and
increasingly global world, one encounters people of different faiths at work, in restaurants, on the telephone, on buses, in hospitals, and on trips to different countries.
 
5.    Understanding religious traditions places us in a position to be better
neighbors and better citizens.
 
6.    Understanding ourselves: By being exposed to other world views and
answers given to human questions, we may come to a deeper understanding of our own answers.