Department of Religion
The academic study of religion is an integral part of a liberal arts education. The aims of the Religion curriculum are first, to introduce students to the various religious traditions of the world, and second, to acquaint students with the textual, philosophical, social scientific, and historical methods employed in the field. The Department’s courses serve both to develop students' capacities for critical assessment of religious thought and practice, and to provide an adequate grounding for independent, analytic inquiry into the history of religious traditions.
The Department focuses on the in-depth study of four religious traditions — Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — with occasional courses taught in other traditions. We teach a range of courses on these four religions and their complex histories in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. In addition to studying the texts, practices, histories, and institutional forms of religious traditions, we teach thematic and comparative courses that investigate patterns of religious belief, the roles of religion in society, and forms of religious expression in literature, art, myth, and philosophical reflection. Our course "The Nature of Religion" is a focused examination of the major modern theories about what religion is and the roles it plays in human life. Our courses are interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and methodologically rigorous.
In addition to providing a cosmopolitan and interdisciplinary foundation for a liberal arts education, an Amherst Religion major prepares students for advanced study in Religion and related fields. Our students often double-major in other departments such as History, Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, Classics, Math and the sciences. Many of our students fulfill the pre-med requirements. Graduates with a Religion major have successfully pursued careers in education, law, library science, the ministry, medicine, social work, business, and the academy.