Why study Religions?
In the early twentieth century, critics of religion claimed that the age of faith was over and that religion would soon disappear. In the short term, at least, they seem to have been mistaken. Within traditional religions, fundamentalism is on the rise. Across the religious world conservative believers are intervening in the political process, opposing scientific claims if they conflict with religious authority, and clashing with those whom they see as the enemies of God. Outside the traditional religions, there is a growth of new religious movements as people search for new forms of spirituality, based on what they see as alternative worldviews. Today more than ever, an understanding of religion is vital for anyone who wants to understand our world.
Religious Studies offers you the opportunity to become familiar with these religious movements, to understand their history and the influence they currently wield. By studying religion, you will learn to enter empathetically into a world of thought that may be very different from your own, without losing the ability to ask critical questions about it. You will broaden your own cultural and ethical horizons and have the opportunity to clarify what you yourself believe regarding these hotly-contested issues.
Religious Studies at Otago
There are two core first-year papers in Religious Studies. The first introduces students to Hinduism and Buddhism. It examines Hindu mythology, the teachings of the Buddha, religious disciplines such as yoga and meditation, the expression of religious devotion in art and architecture, and the spread of Indian religions to the West.
The second introduces students to the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It examines their origin in the land of Palestine, a cross-roads of ancient civilisation, and the way in which each tradition gradually took on its distinctive modern form. It discusses the ways in which all three faiths have responded to the challenges of modernity.
No previous qualifications are required to undertake courses in Religious Studies. All that is required is a lively sense of curiosity and a willingness to grapple with important but difficult and contentious issues. Religious Studies welcomes students of any religion or none.
Any previous study students have done in Religious Studies at another University may be cross-credited towards a degree at Otago.
Graduates in Religious Studies have particular qualities valued by employers in many fields. They will have a wide-ranging knowledge of both human history and of contemporary affairs. They will have the ability to enter with empathy into the minds and hearts of others, to understand what motivates and shapes their behaviour. And they will have acquired the ability to find information, analyse it in a logical and systematic manner, and communicate it clearly to others.
You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University’s extensive student exchange programme or as a Postgraduate student.
In the exchange programme you pay only your New Zealand fees and complete your qualification within the same timeframe as if you had never been away.