Why should I study Religion at Furman?

Religion pays a central role in virtually all societies, and it interacts with all other dimensions of culture. Indeed, religion is a fundamental dimension of the human experience. For these reasons, the academic study of religion at Furman is an indispensable part of the liberal arts curriculum.

What kinds of classes are offered?

The Department of Religion expects students to engage in courses with the same kind of academic rigor and methods of critical inquiry found in other departments within the humanities and social sciences. The study of Religion at Furman highlights the multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural nature of the discipline. The Religion Department encourages both a breadth and depth of study. It offers a wide range of offerings, including courses in most major religious traditions (African religion, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Native American religion), Bible, ethics, and theology, as well as internships and travel study programs. Department courses include an exploration of the historical, social, and political dimensions of religion.

Who are the faculty members of the department?

Faculty members are active scholars who have studied at some of the finest institutions in this country and abroad. They have published on a wide range of topics including biblical interpretation, Christian thought and history, ethics, religion and science, religion and literature, inter-religious dialogue, Muslim-Christian relations, the history of Islam, and South-Asian religions. The faculty consists of teachers and scholars from various denominational backgrounds. While remaining dedicated to teaching, they are also known for their desire to engage religious perspectives with issues in the contemporary world. A list of our faculty is located here.

What role does personal religious experience have in the academic study of religion?

While it is situated clearly in the liberal arts curriculum, the study of religion is unique among the disciplines. At Furman, we understand that the academic endeavor can never be separated completely from the personal exploration of religious questions. While affirming that religious experiences, for example, may be interpreted sociologically or in a number of other ways, the Religion Department supports the view that it is academically misleading to suggest that these explanations preclude any genuinely religious interpretation. Moreover, guided by its religious heritage as well as the academic enterprise, Furman affirms that such questions and interpretations are important.

What about Furman's Baptist roots?

Furman's heritage is freeing, not restrictive. It provides a unique atmosphere in which religion can be studied academically and still be taken seriously. The University's heritage is rooted in the non-creedal, free church Baptist tradition. This has always valued particular religious commitments while insisting not only on the freedom of the individual to believe as he or she sees fit but also on respect for a diversity of religious perspectives, including the perspective of the non-religious person.

Furman's religious heritage has always maintained that the religious journey has both a private and public dimension and is a lifelong undertaking that cannot be not restricted by doctrinal propositions. Thus, faculty members, through scholarship, teaching, and example in their own lives, seek both to nurture and to challenge students in their religious reflections, spiritual growth, and attempts to understand sympathetically the religious perspectives of others.

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