Religious Studies Program

About Religious Studies 

Religious Studies courses at UNF are known to students as rigorous and challenging as well as theoretically informed and innovative.   

 

The courses have included such activities as the development of a course “Wiki,” a “make up your own religion” project, and the “adjudication” of current first Amendment Supreme Courts Cases.  Religion as Culture, currently required for the minor, and which Religious Studies majors will also take, significantly predates UNF’s Transformational Learning Initiative and yet, meets the requirements and goals of such courses.  Students learn field work techniques, and the disciplined thinking skills that comprise “academic distance” in the field of Religious Studies.  They spend time in religious communities, with which they are unfamiliar, and then reflect on the experience by writing term papers that explore their own experience of “otherness” as well as describing and explaining a dimension of the culture of the groups they study. 

 

While the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Abington Township v. Shempp removed religious practice in the form of school sponsored prayer and devotional bible reading from public classrooms, the decision also declared that “education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.”  This makes the study of religion part of the institutional responsibility of higher education generally.  

 

The Jacksonville community, furthermore, is an increasingly diverse city.  Part of the mission of UNF is to contribute to the development of an educated public that has the ability to both benefit from that diversity and participate in civil society as informed citizens.   

 

Religion has been the source of great human achievement and the source of much cultural conflict.  Religious Studies as a discipline seeks to understand the various dimensions of religion that contribute to each.  Students explore exactly these issues in their “Topics” courses that include: religion and violence, religion and globalization, the role of religion in America, and science and religion.   

 

The Religious Studies Program has several qualities that make it noteworthy: 

  • It introduces students to the study of religion in an impartial but thoroughly engaging manner.  
  • Its faculty actively conduct research that contributes to the understanding of religions and keeps them aware of the state of the art in their fields. 
  • It teaches students in relatively small classes, usually of 20 to 40 students, and professors are more available to students than they might be in large research universities. The professors keep a minimum of five office hours a week. 
  • It includes courses taught from a variety of perspectives and disciplines, including religious studies proper, philosophy, anthropology, history, literary studies, and sociology. 
  • It offers topical courses, such as religion and violence and religious nonviolence, and sponsors symposia and lectures on topics of current interest for the wider Jacksonville community. 
  • It is a rapidly growing program with the promise of instituting a major in the near future. Furthermore, with the addition of new faculty comes the addition of many new courses, both as additions to the catalog and as additions to each semester's philosophy course offerings.