Why Religious Studies?

Religions have been and remain among the most powerful forces shaping human history. Their discourses and practices inform the way we perceive ourselves, those around us, and existence at large, even when we are not actively religious. They are central to understanding both what divides us and unites us. The academic study of religion is a trans-disciplinary endeavor to understand from an objective perspective how religious traditions shape the lives of their adherents, without seeking to promote or disprove any specific belief system. Religious Studies acquaints students with the diversity of religious cultures and introduces them to key methods and theories employed in their examination as "religion." The skills that Religious Studies students gain in critical thinking and cultural awareness have led them to successes in a wide array of career fields, including education, law, journalism, healthcare, chaplaincy, and social justice advocacy.

Daniel B. Stevenson, Chair
Molly Zahn, Graduate Director
Hamsa Stainton, Undergraduate Director

 


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Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (http://bit.ly/1AbAqYw), will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”