Tree of Life by Ardyn Halter

“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 Kerry, August 7, 2013

With some 47,000 majors nationwide,* the Study of Religion is a growing humanities field of study that is interdisciplinary in nature and contributes significantly and distinctively to our knowledge of global cultures, diversity, and ethical standards and practices. Our students and faculty promote an informed public discourse on religion in culture, history, society, politics, and artistic expression.

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 and we need to understand it.

  • “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.”

National: The US has a core commitment to freedom of expression, including religious expression, and we need to understand it and assess its implementation in our nation.

  • 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.

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

In a national survey conducted for AAC&U and published in 2010, employers said they wanted a college education to emphasize the following skills, all of which are part of the Study of Religion:**

  • Knowledge of Global Issues 67% of employers
  • Ethical Decision Making 75% of employers
  • Written and Oral Communication 89% of employers
  • Critical Thinking and Analytic Reasoning 81% of employers
  • Information Literacy 68% of employers

Real-world 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.

*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: Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Raising the Bar Survey; “These findings are taken from Raising the Bar: Employers’ View on College Learning in the Wake of the Economic Downturn, a survey of employers conducted for AAC&U by Hart Research Associates and published in 2010.” Click here for the full report on this survey and related employer findings.