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The academic study of religion is about trying to understand the complex ways that people imagine themselves, organize their worlds, and relate to that which they consider “sacred” – including human beings, divine beings, and non-human beings.
Most of us think we know what “religion” is until we try to define it. At that point we realize it is not as simple as we might have assumed. Religion can be viewed in terms of beliefs, prayers, texts, communities, and rituals, but it can also be about bodies, money, power, the environment, death, family, or gender.
This complexity means that religions lend themselves to multiple methods of inquiry – from humane studies like theology, history, anthropology, and literary criticism, to scientific studies like sociology, economics, psychology, and even evolutionary biology.
At Alma College, the study of religion includes a diversity of voices and perspectives. Our conversations are enriched by “insiders” – who may be well-informed or devout religious practitioners – as well as “outsiders” – including atheists, agnostics, or religious people who are studying religions other than their own. We make no assumptions about our students’ religious commitments or past experiences; our only requirement is that students enter conversations fully, inquisitively, and respectfully.