Religion is one of the most potent constituents of a culture. Its complexity and importance can be seen in that it represents, at the same time, the most sublime and the most horrific aspects of humanity, the most creative and the most destructive impulses of cultures. On the one hand, since the dawn of human consciousness, religion has raised the deepest questions human beings can ask and has proved to be a vital source for some of humanity’s greatest artistic, literary, intellectual, political, scientific and social achievements.
Even as scientific secularism has become prominent, religion persists in the lives of the people as we continue to wrestle with different components of our heritages. Religion has a powerful impact on the cultural identity of a tradition as well as the way cultural transformations and changes are carried out in that tradition. On the other hand, many of the catastrophic acts were and continue to be performed in the name of religion. As human history has demonstrated, religion holds one of the most deadly triggers of human destructive potentials, driven by dogmatic loyalty, historical blindness, passion-fueled ignorance, apocalyptic zeal, and self-righteous arrogance, helping to perpetuate human misery as it promises salvation. To study religions academically is to examine them critically.
The Department of Religion at Rutgers is distinguished by both its breadth and depth in the coverage of religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, and others. It is a truly interdisciplinary department that approaches a wide variety of subjects in religious studies through lens of ethics, history, literature, philosophy, politics, and psychology. Our religion faculty has made significant contributions to just war theories, religious terrorism, mysticism, meditation, apocalyptic narratives, religious healing, and religious heresy, among others.