Religious Studies

The fields of religion and philosophy embody essential ingredients of a liberal arts education by encouraging interdisciplinary reflections on the human condition as it is shaped in a multicultural world.

Religious studies is the critical inquiry into cultural expressions – such as myth, ritual, symbols, and sacred texts – that address fundamental human concerns. The student of religion develops a broad methodological base from areas such as theology, ethics, history, philosophy, sociology, and literature to explore the intersections and intimate connections between systems of beliefs and practices, ethical codes, rituals, narratives, philosophies and social and political structures across many cultures and centuries.

The fields of religion and philosophy (which is part of the department of religious studies) are essentially about critically engaging beyond the classroom and providing models to address questions of ultimacy, belief, and ethical life. The study of the historical, political, and sociocultural contexts of religious traditions and of intercultural philosophical traditions provide an intellectual background for those interested in pursuing careers in social service, education, ministry, government, journalism and the arts.

Academic Catalogue

Student reading book on religion studies

Professional Development

encourage students to bring their whole selves to the study of issues of human existence and community formation fundamental to them. At Wesleyan we believe that a focus on developing one’s voice and one’s orientation to the world, as well as facilitating the discovery of language needed to both challenge and express one’s deeply held beliefs should be at the core of all religious, philosophical, and ethical learning. As such, our students have the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary projects combining multiple majors and minors with religion and philosophy.

Additionally, Wesleyan offers students interested in a range of ministerial callings—social justice activism, parish ministry, chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, and the liturgical arts—with a pre-seminary advising program and mentorship.

Outside the Classroom

With contacts in theological and philosophical education across the United States and Internationally, students in the Wesleyan religion and philosophy department have the opportunity for a broad spectrum of experiences within and beyond the Wesleyan campus. Students may participate in community service and internships with religious, non-profit, and governmental organizations in the US and abroad; attend summer programs like the “Philosophy in an Inclusive Key” summer institute, which focuses on mentoring for philosophers from underrepresented groups such as women and people of color; present at undergraduate conferences; and engage in service-learning opportunities on campus and in the diverse and vibrant Macon community.

Sample Courses

REL 100: Theories and Methods of Religious Studies.
Introductory texts in religious studies; primary sources from particular religious traditions.

REL 110: Introduction to Theology.
Introductory texts in theological studies and primary readings by influential theologians.

REL 213: Gender and Religion.
Students will examine in detail the approach to gender and gender roles undertaken by a diversity of religions, religious practitioners, theologians, and theorists of religion. The impact of gender on issues such as ethical formation, religious authority, the nature of human existence, and conceptions of the holy will be explored.

REL 216: Faith and Doubt.
Faith in some conception of a "Divinity" is still an important component of human societies, in spite of increasing attacks against faith and in favor of doubt. These debates about faith and doubt employ interesting philosophical arguments and have important philosophical, social, and political ramifications. Students will engage texts that argue for and against the rationality of belief in divinity, the importance of faith and doubt on views of social and ethical life, and differing views of reality connected with faith and doubt.

REL 225: Exploring the World's Religions.
Primary texts (including the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur'an, Hadith and Sufi writings) and scholarly works on the history and cultures of the Abrahamic traditions.

REL 280: Sacred Texts and Social Change.
The course will examine the role of sacred texts, especially the Bible but also texts of other religious traditions, in movements for social change. Particular attention will be given to struggles for justice in the history of the United States, including abolition, women's suffrage, civil rights, queer and trans liberation, and recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too. Students will analyze the texts and strategies of scriptural interpretation used within social justice movements, as well as those used by their detractors, and will thereby consider what makes sacred texts effective as tools for social change in public discourse.

More requirements for the Religious Studies Major

Guaranteed Path
to Graduate School

Wesleyan students who major or minor in Religious Studies or Philosophy and earn a 3.0 GPA or higher have the unique opportunity of guaranteed admission into a Master of Divinity or Master of Religious Life program at Emory's Candler School of Theology (one of the top theological schools in the country). This means Wesleyan religious studies and philosophy students get the best of all worlds: the community-oriented experience of learning in small seminar classes with close relationships to their professors at Wesleyan and a direct path to a larger graduate school experience. 


Why Wesleyan?

Why Wesleyan?

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Career Development

Career Development

A liberal arts education prepares you for your first job and your last. Wesleyan has a four-year plan to prepare students to make the connection between a liberal arts education and success in the workplace.

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Wesleyan offers 25 majors and 35 minors, including self-designed interdisciplinary studies, eight pre-professional programs and the bachelor of science in nursing and bachelor of fine arts degrees.

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Karen Bray
Associate Professor of Religious Studies & Philosophy (478) 757-2839 Profile

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