The Department of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston offers both a major and minor degree in religious studies. With eight full-time faculty members, the department supports a wide-ranging, diverse curriculum and fosters close interaction between students and faculty. Students may choose to specialize in individual religions or subject areas through special topics courses and tutorials. The flexibility of the curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore diverse cultures and religions, while providing them with important tools to understand and interpret these worldviews critically.
The religious studies department introduces students to the academic study of religion, which engages in the descriptive and cross-cultural analysis of religious beliefs, practices and institutions, both past and present. The teaching orientation is comparative and non-sectarian in that it does not promote any specific religious tradition to the exclusion of others. The department offers a broad range of courses in religious traditions from around the world. It encourages students to complete courses in the areas of western traditions (such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), eastern traditions (such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese religions) and American religions (such as Native American, African American, and many New Religious Movements). Students become more deeply aware of their own cultural traditions by studying those of others, and will approach other religions with greater empathy and sensitivity to their respective complexity.
Religious studies at the College of Charleston is both a comparative and interdisciplinary enterprise. It serves as a bridge between various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, particularly those of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy and literature, as well as various language programs. Courses explore various religions through a variety of dimensions and themes – ritual, myth, symbol, mystical experience, cognitive patterns, gender, ethnicity, identity – and they also consider the role played by political, economic and social factors on the development of religions in their global context. Religious studies thus provides a coherent disciplinary context where students can engage in a holistic and sustained examination of the history, diversity and ingenuity of human belief and behavior, one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts and sciences education.