...it might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion...
The Department of Religious Studies at George Mason is a vibrant community of scholars and students exploring questions about human life through the lens of religion. The Department offers a comprehensive study of religion that spans geographies, traditions, and methods, including historical, ethnographic, philological, sociological, and text critical approaches. Religious Studies as an inherently inter-disciplinary field brings together the scientific and historical study of religion, which may include an intense focus on a specific religion, the comparative study of multiple religions, or even the very definition of “religion.” Our curriculum affords students the opportunity to learn about diverse religious movements and the cultural realities that comprise them in all their nuanced complexity.
Religious Studies courses at George Mason equip students with a solid grounding in the distinct texts, customs, and values of dominant and conventionally less familiar religious traditions (both ancient and modern), as well as a familiarity with various theories and methods in the study of religion. Through various critical approaches and theoretical frameworks, students gain a rich understanding of the world’s religious diversity and the centrality of religion in the human experience. Concerted attention to the intersections of religion with contemporary social issues or the influences of religious themes and symbols in literary, performative, and visual expressions, students come to appreciate the extent to which religion is not simply a singular phenomenon best experienced and understood from a particular perspective, but rather is something that prompts critical reflection on what it means to be deeply and distinctively human. The Department’s courses and degree programs aim to strengthen students’ capacities to think critically, imaginatively, and responsibly about the manifestations of religion across diverse populations, social structures, and cultural expressions. The careful questioning, critical reading, and effective communication fostered by sustained inquiry and intellectual collaboration is a skill set applicable to any career path or academic trajectory.
Whether a student chooses to focus on a particular religious tradition or study religion from a theoretical perspective, they’ll examine the myriad ways that religion is a source of inspiration, meaning, and controversy. A major in Religious Studies compliments many other programs at Mason, such as a minor in Asia-Pacific Studies, Latin American Studies, or Native American and Indigenous Studies; it can even be part of a dual major with Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies, History, Art History, English or Comparative Literature, or Governmental Studies. The Religious Studies minor, or more specifically the minor in Islamic Studies or Judaic Studies, adds concentrated depth with another major such as Global Affairs, Security Studies, Conflict Resolution, or Global and Community Health.
In light of the Department’s methodological pluralism and focus on religion as a crucial part of human cultures and personal identities, the Department is fully committed to diversity and inclusion in our own community of faculty, staff, and students. Through wide-ranging course offerings and interdisciplinary perspectives we seek to make the academy a more equitable and reflective space, particularly for people who have been historically marginalized and systemically excluded.
The Department of Religious Studies invites you to join us in exploring religion in social, political, textual, literary, and artistic traditions from around the globe as we nurture diverse intellectual inquiry, ask bold new questions, and rethink traditional models and definitions.