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 Tuesday, May 10, 2005 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Exploring the Cultural and Historical Context of Religion
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

Providing "dispassionate discourse" on passionate subjects, the department of religious studies pursues a critical and comparative study of religions. "We are scholars who teach about religion - the historical importance of religion - in a world context, without advocating any particular point of view," said Rodney Taylor, department chair and professor of religious studies.

Created in 1970, the department offers instruction on most of the world's religions. Its eight faculty (nine next fall) provide students with a broad knowledge of religion as a dimension of human culture, a variety of approaches to the academic study of religion and training in advanced research skills.

Topics are both timely and timeless: How is stewardship of national park land spiritual? Why are parts of the world vegetarian, and other parts not? When a national leader invokes religion, how does that affect people's perceptions of him or her? What is the relationship of religion to play and to dance? To what degree are issues in the daily newspaper being framed by certain religious perspectives - right or wrong? "There's a very broad sweep of interest among our students, representing to a large degree the interests of the faculty, which also are broad," said Taylor.

Katie Vahey, religious studies master's degree student, said, "I am fascinated with the religious studies perspective because as our world grows smaller through globalization, it is important to know where people's values are and how this affects the interactions between individuals and communities."

This month the department will debut a new undergraduate student journal, Studies in Meaning. Aaron Proffitt, a senior religious studies major and an editor for the journal, said, "We are trying to make the best of our educations within a department that is wholly supportive."

For more information about the religious studies department, visit the Religious Studies website.

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