Departmental Overview

The study of religion, in the context of a liberal arts education, draws upon multiple disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences.

We examine the existential, intellectual, and social problems to which religions respond, and probe the dynamic and often ambiguous relationship between religious beliefs and practices and the social order in which they are embedded. Throughout the curriculum, religion is approached as a significant and pervasive expression of human culture, both past and present.

Despite predictions of its demise, religion remains a vital component of most human cultures in the world of the twenty-first century. Understanding of religious texts, persons, and practices is indispensable for appreciating not just the human quest for meaning in life, but the ways in which current social and political movements and institutions have developed and new ones continue to appear.

Through our program of study, we seek to provide students with imaginative, analytical, written, oral, and social skills that will permit them not only to gain the ability to understand human religiousness, but also to become productive members of any community. Our major gives our students many opportunities to gain the understandings and practice the skills we recognize as central to a liberal arts education.

It is our hope that students who study religion at Carleton emerge with those intellectual skills that are central to a liberal arts education—reading perceptively, thinking analytically, writing clearly—together with an appreciation for the distinctive role of religion within human experience. The Department of Religion at Carleton is a place where various influences on both the subjective and the objective dimensions of human religion and religious experience can be critically examined and openly questioned in an intellectually relevant and vital manner.

But the study of religion at Carleton extends beyond the offerings of Religion Department faculty alone. Sociology of Religion and Myth, Ritual and Symbolism are some of the courses frequently offered in other departments that are cross-listed in Religion and for which Religion majors may receive credit toward their degrees. Many religion courses also count toward other majors and concentrations, such as American Studies, Asian Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies.

The Religion Department is housed on the third floor of Leighton Hall. The Department Lounge is designed to be a comfortable and welcoming space where students can gather for informal class discussions, sit and read quietly, or enjoy a cup of tea as they wait for an appointment with one of their professors. In the lounge area students will find materials on graduate and off-campus programs and a bookshelf of books by faculty in the Department. The display case offers a visually interesting array of materials on a subject related to religion which changes each term.