Religion is a major force in human experience. Across the globe religious agendas have fueled conflict and encouraged acts of terrorism and ethnic cleansing, dislocating populations and destroying economies. But religious traditions have also laid the foundation for human rights, social justice, toleration, and international peace. Religious Studies is therefore by nature a complex, interdisciplinary field with direct relevance to the world we live in.
It is impossible to open a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch television without being bombarded by debates about the religious and ethical dimensions of medical care, sexual behavior, interpersonal violence, large-scale war, capital punishment, and a host of other issues that fiercely divide the public both in this country and abroad. Encouraging students to learn about the historical roots and the cultural effects of these issues, and to discuss them in an academic setting, is of the greatest importance in creating educated, thinking individuals who are prepared to participate responsibly in our complex society.