West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Email: Rose Sykes, Department Secretary
From the dawn of civilization, people have used rituals and symbols to express their deepest hopes, celebrate major milestones, and mourn their losses. Religious Studies offers an opportunity to explore religion as a human phenomenon in all its diversity, using a variety of interdisciplinary tools. The field of Religious Studies is particularly pertinent today, given the intersection between religious belief, public policy, and international politics. With a focus on careful reading, critical thinking, and engagement with perspectives quite different from our own, a degree in Religious Studies also develops skills easily transferrable to a wide variety of career options.
Liz Remelius, undergraduate majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in Philosophy:
I think studying Philosophy [or Religious Studies] opens you to many different kinds of beliefs - religious or simply philosophical. In addition to solidifying my own, I learn more about the viewpoints of others. The Religious Studies major allows me to learn about aspects of religion I didn’t know existed. I believe that cultivating religious literacy is important in an age where the philosophies and religious in our own country are so diverse. Being able to appreciate someone else’s beliefs helps me to understand more about the way they see the world.
Ryan Baith, undergraduate in Religious Studies:
I really enjoy studying Philosophy because I'm interested in learning more about the Hindu and Buddhist religions. They fascinate me and I'm open to any other kinds of religions that may be either new, contemporary, or have ancient roots.
We often struggle to understand the religious beliefs of others in history and in the present. "How can they believe that?" is a common question. In addition, we are bombarded by sensational media coverage of religious groups and the skeptical (if not cynical) inquiries and exposes of celebrities such as Bill Maher in his recent film, "Religulous." This project was developed out of the conviction that documenting the religious memories and beliefs of local subjects and the impact they have had on their lives will help us develop more empathy with representatives of diverse religious groups and a more nuanced understanding of religious belief.
This project is directed by Dr. Karin Gedge and Dr. Helen Schroepfer, both of West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Gedge, Professor of History, teaches upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of religion in the United States. Dr. Schroepfer, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-director of Religious Studies, designed a general education course on Religion in the United States for undergraduates across all majors and regularly teaches a course on Women and Religion.