The University of Mississippi Department of Philosophy and Religion offers an undergraduate major and minor in Religious Studies. The term “Religious Studies” refers to the academic study of religion, a discipline very different from religious education in churches, synagogues, temple or other religious institutions.
Religious Studies aims to understand sympathetically yet critically the world’s religions, and to explore the phenomenon of religion itself as a prominent component of human life and culture. Dedicated to free academic inquiry and continuous conversation with other academic disciplines, we are completely non-sectarian and without ties to any theological seminary or church body.
The main strength of our department is our faculty. First, our faculty is composed of top scholars with prestigious credentials engaged in a wide range of religious inquiry: some of us are historians, exploring how different religious traditions grow and change; others of us are theologians and ethicists, focusing on religious texts and community; and others of us are ethnographers and anthropologists, studying the enactment of religious beliefs through ritual. Second, all of us are genuinely dedicated to teaching and interested in our students.
Our department is small enough that professors know their students personally, offering advice in scheduling classes, deciding upon a career, and seeking complementary educational opportunities (such as internships and study abroad).
Perhaps our most important goal is to introduce our students to the diverse cultures of our increasingly connected world, while also providing the requisite tools to critique and analyze how religion functions in society and culture. In doing so, the study of religion cultivates many skills that serve students well in any career they happen to pursue, such as critical thinking, textual analysis, debating skills, curiosity, open-mindedness, ethics, decision making, and understanding other cultures and ways of life.
Like many other liberal arts degrees, a B.A. in Religious Studies prepares students for a variety of career paths. Our most recent graduates have pursued careers in conflict resolution, religious training, and non-profit work. Other graduates have continued their academic careers in law school, nursing school, and Religious Studies graduate programs.