Why You Should Take A Religion Class
February 16, 2012
I think every liberal arts student should be required to take some sort of religion course during their undergraduate career. Yes, I am slightly biased because religion is my second major, but I feel like the skills that I have learned from studying religion can be valuable to students of every major.
Reason #1: If you take a class on a religion that is not your own, or one that you do not know much about, you get to study the history, texts and practices of a group of believers and I guarantee that it's incredibly fascinating.
Reason #2: If you take a class in a religion in which you identify with, two things can happen: 1) you gain a deeper understand of your religion and your faith grows because of it or 2) you gain a deeper understanding of your religion and that causes you to convert or leave religion all together. One extremely valuable skill you obtain while studying a religion that is your own, is learning how to bracket your own views and set them aside so as to look at the religion from a purely objective point of view. It can be very difficult to study your own religion because you already have knowledge and experiences that influence your thought about that religion. Yet learning to set those aside allows you to analyze the history and text from a scholarly point of view.
How this can help in the real world: You're a democrat working in government, and find yourself having to lobby or support something from a republican. Personally you completely object to it, but it's your job to support it. You have to set your own views aside, and rally around this idea.
Reason #3: Knowing various religious traditions allows you to relate (on some small level) to various people and cultures.
How this can help in the real world: You go on a trip with a friend to Egypt. She wears shorts and a tank top and is stared at and maybe even harassed. You know that Egypt is a primarily Muslim country and having studied Islam, know that they prefer people to dress modestly, so you wear long pants and cover your shoulders.
Reason #4: Religion influences politics so much, and knowing a bit about both can be very beneficial. Sure we have separation of church and state in America, but think about it. Some people (albeit a very few) were up in arms because they thought President Obama was Muslim. So what if he was? Or how about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) or gay marriage? The only argument people have is that it's forbidden in the bible.
Studying religion also allows you to study what drives people. I'm not saying that everyone should drop what they're doing and become a religion major (although that would be very cool), but I guarantee that taking at least one religion course will be very enlightening.