The religion studies department is committed to the academic investigation of religion as an intrinsic and vital dimension of human culture.
The scholarly study of religion is an integral facet of a liberal arts education. The student of religion is engaged in the critical and interpretive task of understanding patterns of religious thought and behavior as aspects of the human cultural experience.
Religion studies is interdisciplinary in that it draws upon humanistic and social scientific modes of inquiry.
These include historical, philosophical, sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives. Religion studies is a cross-cultural, comparative discipline concerned with the character and significance of the major religious traditions of the world. The student of religion confronts ethical problems and basic issues of value and meaning raised by modern multicultural and technological society.
The academic study of religion has a unique contribution to make to the study of humanities, and for anyone who is curious about the ways that people understand themselves and present themselves to each other.
Majoring in religious studies gives students a chance to explore through many different methodologies and many different religious traditions how people construct conceptions of themselves, how identities are built. Whether that means then going on to medical school, to law school, or to careers in many different fields, it is a tremendous asset to be able to say that you have control over this particular type of identity construction. That this particular type of social organization is something that you have academic training in, in order to be able to understand something better about the social worlds in which we find ourselves today. – Dr. Hartley Lachter, Associate Professor and Chair
How can you understand the world that we’re in if you can’t understand what drives people to act? …If you want to understand the world around you, that world is suffused with religious belief, religious history, religious behavior, even if it doesn’t take place in a church or a mosque or a temple. – Dr. Dena Davis, Associate Professor, Presidential Endowed Chair in Health
Using religion as a way of interpreting the world and thinking about every aspect of life, from material culture to what’s up on the screen in front of you … I think that’s what really gets at people where they live and is part of what I absolutely love about our department and my students.
In religious studies, we have something that I would call more generally the material and affective turn. We want to get more at the texture of everyday life, at objects, at sounds, at senses. What we call the religious sensorium. – Dr. Jodi Eichler-Levine, Associate Professor, Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization
(Religious Studies) provides knowledge of how issues connected to theory and method work, not only for the study of religion, but for the social sciences and the humanities in general. – Dr. Christopher Driscoll, Assistant Professor
As part of the humanities, we take great pride in dealing with text, but also with context.
To look at living communities as they’re experienced on the ground and getting students to go out into those communities, to meet people, and to observe, perhaps to participate… We study how people live their faith and sometimes the gap between what ought to be of text and what is, the lived reality of religion as it is on the ground in everyday experience. – Dr. Robert Rozehnal, Associate Professor South Asian Religions, Director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies
Majoring in religious studies gives students a chance to explore through many different methodologies, many different religious traditions, how people construct conceptions of themselves, and how identities are built.
Whether that means then going on to medical school, to law school, or to careers in many different fields, it is a tremendous asset to be able to say that you have control over this particular type of identity construction. –Dr. Hartley Lachter, Associate Professor and Chair, Director of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies
Religion affects the way that human beings interact, the way that they are motivated to behave, people in their interactions with other people – with their neighbors, with their fellow students – religious behavior affects our motivations, the way we think, the way we organize ourselves as human beings into social groups.
We study all those things in the department of religion studies. We have things that one does with religion, if we want to ask that question, are multiple and one of the important things, at least how I see it, is when we talk about human behavior and the way that human beings act, we teach students how to be flexible and critical in their thinking and how to interact with the world around them… –Dr. Benjamin Wright, University Distinguished Professor
Recently, we’ve had this emphasis at Lehigh on globalization, on being more cognizant of different cultures and different parts of the world.
I think religion is a wonderful lens into that, into a certain kind of thinking about the rest of the world and about ourselves. It allows us to study people, how they make meaning in their lives and express those meanings in such forms as art, architecture, poetry, and literature. All of those things are fundamentally important to our place in the world as world citizens, as living in a world that is rapidly globalizing and interconnected. –Dr. Khurram Hussain, Assistant Professor
Future employers want a person who can come out of a university education and can interact with the world, can make decisions, can critically sort through problems. …And those are the kinds of things that we do within the academic study of religion, with religion as our specific focus. –Dr. Benjamin Wright, University Distinguished Professor
No matter if you find yourself interested in the sciences, technology, marketing, sociology, or in mathematics, for example, there is something about having a bigger picture about the world that is a necessitated in certain occupations and careers.
I would go as far to say (this is true) throughout a lot of careers. An example might be, if you’re a business student and you do your work globally around the world, you’re going to have to have an understanding about culture. You’re going to make business deals, you’re going to be involving yourself with transactions with cultures that might be unlike yours back at home. Our courses offer students a really interesting, yet focused, intersectional and interdisciplinary way to think about religion as a social category, as a cultural category, as a historical phenomenon, but also as way to more philosophically or existentially make meaning. –Dr. Monica Miller, Associate Professor of Religion, Associate Professor Africana Studies, Director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies