Religious Studies

What is Religious Studies at Washburn?


Religious Studies is not just the study of religion. It begins with serious reflection on what we mean by "religion" and whether we all mean the same thing when we say it. Is religion a ubiquitous human phenomenon, the very thing that makes us human (as some have claimed)? Is religion about humanity’s search for cosmic meaning, or is it a technique for social cohesion (and control), or is it a projection of our desires and fears, or is it something else entirely? These perspectives (and others) will be entertained and evaluated in religious studies courses at Washburn University.


Religious Studies students at Washburn University, upon graduation, are expected to be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of the subject matter of, and various methods used in, the academic study of religion.

Describe the nature and diversity of world religions.

Demonstrate competence in a concentrated area of religious studies.

Access various theories, concepts, and materials (e.g., written texts, oral reports, archaeological data) central to the academic study of religion.

Conduct and present research in written form.

Orally explain and defend positions taken in written research.


The major in religious studies is designed to take full advantage of Washburn University’s unique resources as a public municipal institution in a state capital city. Courses will focus on religious traditions and communities from around the world as they are found in the modern United States of America. Introductory courses (RG 101, 102) include ethnographic components and local site visits. Core courses (culminating in RG 331) invite students to reflect on religious studies as an academic discipline and to position themselves within it. The major culminates in a senior thesis in which students use the theories and methods they've learned to analyze a particular religious community that they've studied in their elective coursework. Ultimately, religion majors develop a toolkit for understanding human beings in light of their ultimate concerns and the particular contexts in which they live.

Religious studies majors go on to find success in a number of pursuits after graduation. Some go on to graduate studies in religion, which can lead to a Ph.D. and a career in academia. Some go to seminary and seek ordination within their own religious communities. Most, however, go on to graduate study in other areas or find work in business, government, or the non-profit/NGO world. Because religion is pervasive in human experience, studying it provides a foundation for engaging people within any sphere of life.