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Study the Science of Religion at Otago

Pursue scientific explanations for religious beliefs and behaviour

Are you interested in how science can help us understand religion? Have you ever wondered why some people are religious, and others aren’t? Or whether religion affects a person’s mental and physical health?

The scientific study of religion examines topics that are important locally and globally. A minor in the Science of Religion will allow you to explore experimental, cross-cultural and survey-based research design and learn how scientific methodologies can help us understand religious beliefs and behaviour.

Minor subject requirements

Science of Religion as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points

RELS 110  Introduction to the Scientific Study of Religion
One of:
BIOA 101  Introduction to Biological Anthropology
PSYC 111  Brain and Behaviour
PSYC 112  Human Thought and Behaviour
SCOM 109  Communicating Science: an Introduction
STAT 110  Statistical Methods


Above 100-level

At least three papers from the following list, including at least one at 300-level: HIST 229, RELS 217, RELS 225, RELS 237, RELS 238, RELS 240, RELS 317, RELS 325, RELS 337, RELS 338, RELS 340




Why study the Science of Religion?

Religion is a fundamental feature of human nature and exists in all human societies. Understanding religion will also be critically important in helping to solve many of the world’s most pressing social issues. A scientific approach to the study of religion can increase our understanding of key aspects and concerns of human life.

The Science of Religion minor will give you a general ability to understand and appreciate scientific research. The papers in this minor introduce hypothesis testing through a range of experimental, comparative and survey-based research designs. You’ll discover what cutting-edge psychology experiments reveal about religious belief. You’ll learn about the place of religion on diverse scales, from the context of human evolution to contemporary New Zealand. And you’ll examine the future of religious belief and unbelief.

This subject is a valuable addition to degrees across all university disciplines – Arts, Science, Health Sciences and Business.

Background required

There are no prerequisites for this minor. All students are welcome.

Teaching style

Students attend lectures and small-group tutorial sessions. For those who cannot study on campus, it is possible to take all Religion papers by distance study, regardless of where you live.

Key information for future students

Contact us

Religion Programme
School of Social Sciences