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Religious Studies

infosheetreligiousstudies-226pxUnderstand. Analyse. Explain.

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Why study Religions?

In a world shaped by religion, and divided by religious conflict, the academic and scientific study of religion has never been more important.

Religious Studies at Otago

In Otago’s Religion Programme, you will critically examine religious beliefs and practices and their influence on human behaviour. You’ll investigate religion’s evolutionary origins, psychological underpinnings and historical development as well as its links with modern politics, law and social movements.

Looking beyond ‘mainstream’ religions, you’ll examine those new forms of spiritual practice that have emerged alongside the traditional religions. Religion approaches these phenomena with both critical spirit and empathy and offers explanations that believers might be reluctant to accept, while also attempting to understand the believer’s point of view.

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.


Detailed information about Religious Studies papers.

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Background required

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.

Career opportunities

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.

Student Exchange

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.