Program  Information

Michael Taber, Chair
240 895 4900
mstaber@smcm.edu

Penny Shissler, Office Clerk
240 895 2159

Program Highlight

The department offers a major and minor in Philosophy and a major and minor in Religious Studies. As an active and energetic department, we are committed towards an intercultural, international and interdisciplinary understanding of the world. We teach across the traditional fields of philosophy and religious studies, and beyond the cultural divides of East and West. Departmental faculty likes to teach in a variety of venues (Nitze Program; Women, Gender and Sexuality; Environmental Studies; Asian Studies; African and African Diaspora Studies), to take students on study tours (Greece, Germany/Poland, India, Thailand, and, in the future, England and Israel), and to bring questions of global relevance to the campus communities through scheduling events with renowned speakers and activists.

Religious Studies Program

Religious Studies is committed to the academic study of religion as an integral dimension of the human experience. In one form or another, a religious tradition is at the heart of every culture and no liberal arts education can afford to neglect this vital aspect of human culture. One cannot understand the nature of the Western world without some familiarity with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, or the cultures of Asia without knowing something of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism or other indigenous traditions.

The Religious Studies Department offers a comprehensive program of introductory and advanced courses that help students assess their own religious tradition critically and acquaint them with other religious orientations. All courses in Religious Studies are designed to achieve certain goals: 1) to provide an accurate, sympathetic account of religions as they have been and continue to be practiced; 2) to develop critical skills in analyzing religious beliefs, symbolic systems, theologies, and philosophies; 3) to raise fundamental questions about the nature of human beings and their place in the cosmos; 4) to discuss questions of meaning and value and help students take moral dilemmas seriously; and 5) to delineate the social functions of religion(s) in human cultures. Some courses focus on particular problems, such as the reality of the sacred, the problem of evil, death and dying, visions of liberation and salvation, or the problem of patriarchy in the world's religions.

Religious Studies is taught by faculty in the combined department of philosophy and religious studies. The major is non-denominational, inter-religious, and dedicated to the comparative study of world religions. Due to its multi-disciplinary approaches and its broad perspectives, the major in religious studies provides students with unique opportunities to learn about themselves and the culture(s) from which they have come, and to understand more thoroughly the beliefs of those who come from other cultural contexts. In this way, the skills acquired in religious studies, like philosophy, benefit students in the pursuit of virtually any professional career. Moreover, religious studies can assist in establishing and/or clarifying the personal criteria employed in choosing which career would be most useful and most satisfying for each individual student to pursue.