The Department of Religion at Haverford views religion as a central aspect of human culture and social life. Religions propose interpretations of reality and shape very particular forms of life. In so doing, they make use of many aspects of human culture, including art, architecture, music, literature, science, and philosophy--as well as countless forms of popular culture and daily behavior. Consequently, the fullest and most rewarding study of religions is interdisciplinary in character, drawing upon approaches and methods from disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, comparative literature and literary theory, gender theory, history, philosophy, psychology, political science and sociology.
A central goal of the department is to enable students to become critically-informed, independent, and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas, and practices that have decisively shaped human experience. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of the sacred texts, images, beliefs, and performances of various religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Students especially interested in Asian religions may work out a program of study in conjunction with the East Asian Studies program at Haverford and Bryn Mawr and with the Religion department at Swarthmore.
The department's programs are designed to help students understand how religions develop and change and how religious texts, symbols, and rituals help constitute communities and cultures. The major in Religion seeks to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Each major constructs a program that focuses on one of three areas of concentration within the department's offerings:
- Religious Traditions in Cultural Context
- Religion, Literature, and Representation
- Religion, Ethics, and Society
Majors are expected to take a range of courses covering different aspects of various religious traditions, while at the same time developing special expertise in one of these three approaches to the study of religion.
Like other liberal arts majors, the religion major is meant to prepare students for a broad array of vocational possibilities. Religion majors typically find careers in law, public service (including both religious and secular organizations), medicine, business, ministry, and education. Religion majors have also pursued advanced graduate degrees in Anthropology, History, Political Science, Biology, Near Eastern Studies, and Religious Studies. For more information about the Department, please contact the Department Chair or Administrative Assistant.