Students Majoring in Religion at Amherst are expected to

  • Acquire a strong foundation in at least one religious tradition – Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism -- and be able to recognize its diverse manifestations in history. Students will be able to engage in informed discussion of its textual past, historical development, and contemporary forms.
  • Gain exposure to at least one other religious tradition beyond their specialization, appreciate its doctrinal and historical complexity and utilize a comparative approach that deepens their understanding of both it and the tradition of specialization.  
  • Acquire sophistication in the historiographical, methodological, and theoretical challenges of studying particular religious traditions, and the category of “religion” in general.
  • Familiarize themselves with the various disciplinary approaches utilized in the study of religion (for example, philological, historical, literary, philosophical, and anthropological). Students will learn how to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of different disciplinary lenses and methods, recognize and critique them in secondary scholarship, and employ them in their own research work.
  • Analyze religion’s embeddedness in cultural, economic, political, and social life, and interpret the complex ways religious ideas and institutions both shape and are inflected by other social realities.
  • Carry out sustained research. Honors thesis students do this in year-long thesis projects, but other students often initiate original research work in independent study courses, and all majors develop advanced research skills and engage in original investigation in upper-level seminar courses.  
  • Cultivate a cosmopolitanism that comes with serious engagement with the commitments and practices of other individuals and cultures, and from critically examining one’s own presuppositions and interpretive lenses.
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