University of Minnesota
Religious Studies

Religious Studies

News and Events

The Field

Religious Studies focuses on the academic study of religion. It aims to understand religions, religious groups, religious practices, and religious ideas, across traditions, time periods, and geographical regions. It does not promote or undermine any religious perspective.

Religious Studies is by its very nature interdisciplinary. The field, from its earliest inception, combined historical analysis of the religion and culture of specific groups with a study of their foundational texts. With the growth of the social sciences, the field later incorporated the approaches of anthropology, sociology, and psychology to study the “lived religion” of specific groups. More recently, the field has embraced a variety theoretical approaches to the study of religion.

What to do with a Religious Studies Major

The Religious Studies major provides a knowledge base that is essential to understanding contemporary society. Religious ideas and practices shape behavior throughout the world.

Those who have a deep understanding of religion—how its features interact with and depend upon social and cultural contexts—are in a better position to grasp the salient aspects of religiously based communication and interactions.

The Religious Studies major provides numerous opportunities to hone intellectual skills in textual analysis, direct observation, historical research, critical thinking, and cross-cultural understanding. It exposes one to the diversity of the human experience, with respect to not only ideas and beliefs but also ritual and community practices and institutional arrangements.

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View Past Events


  • New book by Jim Laine

    Congratulations to our colleague Jim Laine (Macalester College) on the
    publication of his new book Meta-Religion: Religion & Power in World
    , just published by the University of California Press.
    Learn more

  • Nabil Matar, Through the Eyes of the Beholder: The Holy Land, 1517-1713

    Congratulations to RS Steering Committee member, Nabil Matar, on the publication of his new collection of essays, co-edited with Judy A. Hayden and titled Through the Eyes of the Beholder: The Holy Land, 1517-1713 (Brill 2012). Learn more

View Past Accolades