The study of religion is at the heart of a liberal arts education. Together with the other humanities and the social sciences, the study of religion helps one understand spiritual dimensions of the world and our roles as human beings in it.
Our Departmental Mission—Religion has always been an important component in human history. In its many configurations religion has played a critical role in shaping diverse and distinctive forms of culture and has also been shaped by culture. We seek to stimulate in students an appreciation of the spiritual teachings, ethical principles, myths, symbols and rituals of a variety of societies, believing that in them we encounter legitimate human attempts to envision the sacred and to live in the world as a spiritual arena. Conscious of Albion's heritage as a college related to the United Methodist Church, we give special attention to the monotheistic traditions in the development of our Western culture and intellectual life.
Contemporary society sometimes represents religion only as a set of subjective beliefs. Because of this misrepresentation, people may view themselves or others as fundamentalists or atheists without understanding the variety of spiritual expressions and their roles in society over the course of history. While not required at Albion, we believe that the study of religion is central to the liberal arts experience as a means of gaining a broader understanding of the depth of one's own and others' religious beliefs and practices.
Since we are concerned with the academic study of religion, our department does not promote any particular, narrow "brand'' of theology or spirituality. We subscribe to the assertion made by Friedrich Max Muller who said, "Whoever knows only one religion, does not know religion.'' We encourage our students to explore religion using various modes of analysis, including historical-critical, philosophical and comparative approaches that keep the life of the mind and the life of the soul in creative tension.
The training and interests of our faculty include several areas: biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek); biblical and related ancient Near-Eastern literature; classic and contemporary Islamic history; Islamic ritual; Sufism; comparative religion; myth, symbol, and ritual; philosophy of religion; philosophical theology; ethics and society; and Asian religions. We work closely with interested students in planning and completing directed studies, pursuing internships, preparing individualized research projects resulting in a thesis, and in exploring career options.