“If I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that’s how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about today” – Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Aug. 7, 2013 & Sept. 14, 2015Keyword Scan

Comparative Religion students are globalists, with expertise in analyzing the ways in which billions of people lead and evaluate their lives across the world and within American pluralism. With one foot in the humanities and the other in the social sciences,* Comparative Religion is interdisciplinary in nature. Through their study of world history and its shaping of current events, global comparative analysis and knowledge of ethical standards and practices, Comparative Religion students are equipped to understand multiple perspectives on today’s pressing issues in the U.S. and around the world, and to engage in informed discussion and decision making towards sustainable solutions. The vital contribution of Comparative Religion students’ globalist expertise has been recognized and noted by two recent U.S. Secretaries of State, as well as the National Council for the Social Studies.

Comparative Religion: What We Do

  • Explain concepts, practices and patterns of global religions through the interpretation of a wide variety of sources, including masterpieces of literature, art, architecture and performance (Cultural Studies)
  • Analyze religion as an influential expression of human experience across the globe, including Africa, America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, using methods of historical analysis, ethical reasoning and practice, and comparative study (Global Studies)
  • Examine Western and world history, from local culture to global news, through an understanding of religion’s roles in world events, both past and present (Social Studies)
  • Interpret ethical standards and practices and values-motivated behavior of individuals and groups, historically and in the present (Behavioral Studies)

Comparative Religion: What We Contribute

International: Religion has a vibrant presence across the globe

  • “The proportion of the world’s population that claims membership in the world’s four largest religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism – actually increased over the past century, from 67 percent in 1900 to 73 percent in 2005. The number is predicted to reach 80 percent by 2050. . .Former Secretary of State [Madeleine] Albright recently has become a highly vocal advocate of the public role of religion studies, writing that the failure of Americans to understand other religions `poses one of the great challenges to our public diplomacy.'”**
  • John Kerry has recently added his voice to the growing multitude interested in Comparative Religion: “If I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that’s how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about today” (Faith-Based Community Initiatives Launch, August 7 2013; he has also expressed his interest in and support of  Comparative Religion at his Remarks at Youth Connect in Berlin, Germany, February 26, 2013). The State Department has a new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, led by ethicist Shaun Casey. In his Launch remarks Kerry also noted: “In a world where people of all faiths are migrating and mingling like never before, we ignore the global impact of religion at our peril.” He reiterated this position in his remarks on “Religion and Diplomacy” in the Sept. 15 2015 issue of  America: The National Catholic Review.

National: Assessing implementation of the U.S.’s core commitment to freedom of expression and the current status of national pluralism

  • We travel in our own region – New Jersey and New York City – to sacred spaces and institutions in order to understand the public presence of religious communities in the U.S. and ways in which their presence changes and enhances the diversity of our cultural landscape.
  • Our study also involves demographics, immigration and settlement patterns, issues of integration and exclusion, and multiple perspectives on what it means to be an American
  • In 2014, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) strongly reaffirmed its position that teaching about religion should take place at all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten to graduate: “National Council for the Social Studies re-affirms that study about religions should be an essential part of the social studies curriculum. Knowledge about religions is not only a characteristic of an educated person but is necessary for effective and engaged citizenship in a diverse nation and world. Religious literacy dispels stereotypes, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and encourages respect for the rights of others to religious liberty.”

Comparative Religion Majors & Minors have the skills employers today say they want

In a national survey conducted for AAC&U in 2013, employers said they wanted a college education to emphasize the following skills, all of which are part of the study of Comparative Religion:***

  • Global issues and knowledge about societies and cultures outside of the U.S. 78% of employers
  • Ethical issues/public debates 87% of employers
  • Ethical decision making 64% of employers
  • Problem solving in diverse settings 91% of employers
  • Civic knowledge, skills and judgment essential for contributing to the community and to our democratic society 82% of employers
  • Written and oral communication 80% of employers
  • Critical thinking and analytic reasoning 82% of employers
  • Information literacy 72% of employers

Real-world civic engagement at home and abroad

  • We travel across the globe to places such as Egypt, India, Israel and Italy on Drew International Seminars, Drew Service Learning Seminars and semester-long study programs in order to understand how others view the world and our relationship to their views.
  • We travel to cultural institutions, such as museums and theaters, to assess the ways in which they represent religiously-inspired fine art and performing arts to the public.
  • We study real-world case studies in ethics classes – medical, business, environmental, social.
  • We apply our knowledge of global issues, diversity and ethical decision-making to diverse fields of internship and employment, including professions that address a diversity of people, such as medicine, education, public policy, law, marketing and administration of cultural institutions such as museums, as well as professions that have a pronounced global dimension, such as the arts, journalism, international law, international relations, international business, diplomatic service and humanitarian aid. Comparative Religion majors and minors may further consult our departmental Handbook on Outcomes.

*At Drew as at the majority of Liberal Arts academic institutions, Comparative Religion is located in the Humanities division; however, at many academic institutions as well as the International Baccalaureate, Comparative Religion is located in the Social Sciences division.

**Source: American Academy of Religion 2008 White Paper. Statistics are from the AAR Surveys of Religion and Theology Programs in the U.S.: Numbers Count

***Source: It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. 2013. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities and Hart Research Associates. Click here for the Key Findings from 2013 Survey of Employers on this survey and related employer findings.

Major/Minor Requirements & Course List

Please view the college catalog for a full and up to date list of requirements and courses for this program.