2023-2024 College Catalog

Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts

Faculty: Lisle Dalton (Chair); Jeremy Wisnewski



Religious Studies



Religious Studies



The world’s great religions are centered on the quest to find meaning and purpose in human life and existence. Religious beliefs and practices in various ways address not only what it means to be human, but also concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong. These beliefs and practices, in turn, help to shape the character of individual societies and cultures. Therefore, knowledge of religion and its various manifestations is indispensable to a study of the diverse social and cultural phenomena we encounter in the world around us.

Hartwick’s curricula focus on the comparative study of religions as a way to understand diversity and achieve cultural fluency. Major topics include the basic elements of the great religious traditions of the world, the philosophical dimensions of religious ideas, and the ways religion and spirituality interact with modern culture.

Courses focus on the major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), major non-Western traditions from Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism Chinese religions), and the smaller scale religious expressions of indigenous groups, sects, and cults. Particular emphasis is placed on the diversity of religions found in contemporary secular societies, and the relationship between religion and modern culture, including science, philosophy, medicine, entertainment, technology, politics, and social change.

Religious studies courses use historical, anthropological, literary, philosophical, and social scientific approaches to explore the complex character of religious traditions, as well as their dynamism and adaptability. Students may take courses in other disciplines, including Philosophy, Literature Media & Writing, Anthropology, Art History, Sociology, Political Science and others, to support the Religious Studies major or minor.

Special study opportunities available through the department include off-campus programs and internships. Because Oneonta is uniquely situated within a few hours’ drive of various important Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu religious centers, efforts are made to incorporate field trip experiences into regular course offerings.

Each student who wishes to major in Religious Studies must develop a program of study in the discipline in consultation with a faculty advisor. Guidelines for both the major and minor are described below.
Students with a special interest in combining the study of Philosophy with Religious Studies can pursue one of three degree options: 1) an double major; 2) a major (with senior thesis) in one program and a minor in the other; or 3) a 35 credit major in Philosophy and Religious Studies, with a senior thesis bridging both disciplines. Students should meet with members of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies to design the degree program that best suits their interests.
The departmental program offers the breadth and depth of study to prepare students to better understand the world, its diverse people and cultures, the challenges of the future, and the resources of the religious imagination that may help inspire us to engage the world and the future more responsibly. In the past, religious studies graduates have been drawn to careers in a diverse range of professions, including law, journalism, medicine, teaching, counseling, public relations, community organization, not-for-profit agencies, and even government service. Some have gone on to religious vocations, from Christian ministers to Buddhist monks. Others have chosen to continue the academic study of religion at the graduate level.