Religious Studies

Religious Studies

ReLigious Studies Degree

Explore the world’s major religions and be prepared for a career that involves differing communities of belief.

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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.



Why a B.A. Degree in Religious Studies?

With a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies, you’ll explore the world’s major religions in all their diversity and be prepared for a career in any field that involves differing communities of belief. Whether you’re interested in a future in Christian ministry or are looking to broaden your view of humanity’s spiritual beliefs and practices, this degree program will enhance your perspective of the world’s cultures and religions.




Photo of Holman LibraryAbout the Religious Studies Major

Housed within the Division of Humanities, the B.A. in Religious Studies gives you the flexibility to shape your study in the direction of your interests. Choose between a general analysis of world religions or a more intensive study of Christianity with courses in Christian history, ethics, and theology. Students also have the opportunity to focus on the intersection of religion and culture with classes such as religion and gender, religion and race, and religion and literature.

2016-2017 Program Catalog

2016-2017 4-Year Plan

A minor in Religious Studies is also available.




Photo of McKendree's Entryway MonumentWhy McKendree?

McKendree University provides you with interactive learning opportunities through our small class sizes, experienced faculty, and unique internship experiences that move you beyond the classroom. We are committed to your success in the degree programs we offer, the internships and extracurricular activities that will set you apart, and the college experience you’ll get here. Just 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Missouri, McKendree University is located in historic Lebanon, Illinois, and affords students a host of enriching cultural, career, and entertainment opportunities.



Program Highlights


  • Unique independent studies, special topics courses, and internships allow you to pursue your own interests in religion.

  • Related student clubs and campus events introduce you to a diverse faith community.

  • Immersion trips give you the opportunity to experience another culture firsthand by staying with locals and experiencing their lives as they are lived.

  • Coursework provides a broad basis for further study and a career helping others.



Photo of McKendree Seal MarkerEmployment Opportunities


Religious Studies majors often go on to seminary studies, graduate school, and/or a career in Christian ministry. They also find employment in social services or any profession that values critical thinking and sensitivity to human motivation.

Our students have been accepted into graduate programs at:

  • Eden Theological Seminary
  • Claremont School of Theology
  • Wesley Theological Seminary
  • Aquinas School of Theology
  • Chandler School of Theology
  • St. Paul School of Theology
  • Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Covenant Theological Seminary




What Our Students & Alumni Are Saying


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The greatest strength of McKendree’s Religious Studies program is its diversity. I not only learned about different faith traditions, but I also had the opportunity to experience them. The small class sizes made it easy to engage in meaningful and thought-provoking conversations, and the broad scope of the classes provided a foundation for future coursework as well as knowledge base for my work in children’s and youth ministry.”

~ Sarah (Haas) Aryan ’08, Director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at Corpus Christi Catholic Church of Shiloh, IL


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When I began attending McKendree, I had no intention of double majoring in English and Religious Studies. One class with Dr. Olson opened my eyes to the possibilities of a Religious Studies major complementing my interests. The professors created a positive atmosphere in the classroom that allowed students from all faith traditions to participate in discussion. In a time when religion is creating a wedge in society, people with knowledge of and a passion for interfaith cooperation is important.”

~ Elizabeth Gershon ‘12


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Studying religion is often seen as a simple task, but McKendree’s Religious Studies program offers insight into the cultural power of religion. What does it mean when we say someone is Hindu or a Quaker? How do those beliefs impact social life through politics, environmentalism, and issues on gender and sexuality? McKendree provided the tools and space to think about these varied spheres of influence and their mutual mingling, revealing how religion is deeply pervasive.”

~ Michael Anderson '12, Ph.D. Candidate at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA


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At McKendree, I fell in love with the religion and speech communication classes and professors. My religious studies classes allowed me to build a foundation in theology that I could build upon while in seminary, and they challenged me to be a better writer and speaker. McKendree morphed me into the person I am today not only as a licensed pastor, but also as a community-focused person of faith.”

~ Erin Totten '11, Pastor of the United Methodist Church in Sunfield, IL




Interesting Courses


  • Contemporary Christian Thought

  • Religion and Concern for the Natural Environment

  • Jesus in the Gospels and in the Movies

  • Nature Writing and Nature Spirituality




Club Information / Honor Societies


  • Center for Faith & Spirituality - Join other students at weekly chapel services, Bible studies, Catholic Mass, and other special events. Take advantage of service and travel opportunities, such as yearly spring break mission trips.

  • Interfaith Council - Engage in dialogue and service with representatives of different religious traditions.



Related Programs





Student Support



Meet the Faculty


Duane OlsonDuane L. Olson, Ph.D.

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



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