First-year Focus

Welcome First Years and Prospective Students!

Thanks for checking out our web site. You might be wondering why studying religion is important and what significance it has to your university education.  Stephen Prothero, chair of the Religion department at Boston University and repeated guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, argues that "religious literacy" is useful in all areas of political and social life and that Religious Studies should therefore be regarded as essential both to a well-rounded education and to an informed citizenry.

Click here to see Dr. Prothero talking on The Daily Show about “What Every American Should Know About Religion – And Doesn’t.”

More reasons to study religion?

Will Deming, in his introductory book on the study of religion, writes: “According to recent estimates, as much as 85 percent of the world’s population are adherents of a religious tradition. This means that the overwhelming majority of people in the world are, to some extent, motivated by specifically religious concerns.  Thus the study of religion can provide insight into the hearts, minds, and activities of most of humanity.  To the degree that we assign importance to learning foreign languages and understanding other cultures or value the insights of anthropology, sociology, political science, and psychology, the study of religion, too, should be our concern.” (Will Deming, Rethinking Religion: A Concise Introduction)

Go to: www.studyreligion.org to learn more about the exciting field of Religious Studies and its growing importance to understanding our rapidly changing world.

Want to learn more about studying religion at Northwestern? Please consult our main menu Undergraduate link to find information and frequently asked questions about majoring and minoring in Religious Studies.

Where do I begin?

Each term we hold open a certain percentage of spots just for first-year students so that you won’t have to worry about your registration time or not being “senior” enough to get into one of these courses.

Our introductory courses include:

  • Religion 170-0 Religion in Human Experience
  • Religion 171-0 Varieties of Religious Traditions
  • Religion 173-0 Religion and Human Suffering in the West
  • Religion 210-0 Introduction to Buddhism
  • Religion 200-0 Introduction to Hinduism
  • Religion 220-0 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
  • Religion 221-0 Introduction to the New Testament
  • Religion 230-0 Introduction to Judaism
  • Religion 240-0 Introduction to Christianity
  • Religion 250-0 Introduction to Islam
  • Religion 260-0 Introduction to Native American Religions

Have any questions about these courses or simply want to set up a time to chat? Just email our friendly Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), Sarah Taylor, at sarah@northwestern.edu. Professor Taylor’s office is on the 4th floor of Crowe Hall; her office hours are on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

For more information of what we offer this year see our 2013-14 Course Schedule

What are some of the transferable skills I will learn as a Religious Studies major?

  • Written and Oral Communication*
  • Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning
  • Problem Solving
  • Researching
  • Debating and Contextualizing Different Standpoints
  • Formulating and Defending Arguments
  • Articulating Difficult and Abstract Concepts

*Did you know that in a survey of over 300 businesses, 89% of employers say that they want those they employ to possess better oral and written communication skills, and that employers ranked these skills higher than any other skill, knowledge, or ability?

Our majors leave Northwestern with a proficient knowledge of and insight into religion in its diverse expressions around the world.  Our majors also gain a heightened understanding for how time, translation, cultural context, and personal situation can shape and reshape the meanings and messages of religious symbols, texts, and practices.  In studying these and related phenomena, majors engage theoretical questions of just what constitutes religion, why, and for whom; and they consider why religion has been and continues to be such a powerful force in our world.

For more information, please see What can I do with a Religious Studies major?

Religious Studies Photos

July 2, 2013