Religious Studies

"Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of a meaning of our life."  ~ Paul Tillich

The discipline of Religious Studies explores the relationship between humans and ultimate reality. You’ll study the beliefs, practices, and behaviors of the major world religions, with a focus on Christianity, its sacred texts, and theology. You’ll also examine the spiritual impact of religion on individuals and community in the past and in the present.

You’ll have significant freedom to form your program in the direction of your interest. You can choose a more general analysis of the world religions or you can make a more intensive study of Christianity with electives.

Major Tracks

Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies

The Religious Studies Major involves examination of the major world religions in all their diversity and variety, while also focusing in a special way on the Christian tradition.  From this framework, students have considerable flexibility to shape a course of study in the direction of their interests. 

Students interested in exploring the Christian tradition in depth take classes on the Christian Bible, and Christian history, ethics, and theology,   

Students can also focus on the intersection of religion and culture, including courses in religion and the environment, religion and gender, religion and race, religion and literature, and interfaith relations.

There are numerous opportunities for students to pursue their individual interests in religion, including independent studies, special topics courses, and internships.

Students must complete at least 33-34 hours of religious studies for the major and two semesters of a foreign language.  Students who intend to pursue seminary education or students with a special interest in the New Testament are encouraged to take New Testament Greek to fulfill their language requirement.

A minor in Religious Studies is also offered.  Students must complete at least 18  hours of religious studies for the minor.


The Religious Studies major helps prepare students for seminary studies, graduate school, and/or a career in Christian ministry.

Religious Studies majors can use their degree for any career that values critical thinking and sensitivity to human motivation, and includes working with diverse communities of belief.

Those who work in social services or any helping profession often find that religious studies complements their interests.


Religious Life

McKendree University has an active Center for Faith & Spirituality program that includes weekly chapels, Bible studies, Catholic Mass, and special campus-wide chapel series events.  The center also provides special opportunities for service and travel, including spring break service trips. 

McKendree has an interfaith student group that actively engages in dialogue and service with representatives of different religious traditions. 

Meet the Faculty


Duane OlsonDuane L. Olson, Ph.D.

Professor of Religious Studies
Carnegie Hall 216
(618) 537-6961