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We live in an age of rapid globalization - the transformation of the world into a single, highly interconnected unity. Our students travel extensively throughout the world. Their friends, neighbors, work colleagues and perhaps even relatives include people from many other countries and cultures. In such a world, we are all in the process of learning as fast as we can how to relate to people who differ from us in significant ways.

JMU's religion program plays a unique role in preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens because a religious studies education helps us deal with "otherness," which is a task inherent to the future of the world in this era of globalization. The theologian Paul Tillich demonstrated that religion is "the depth dimension of culture" -- in other words, the foundation of the way most people think and feel. Therefore, teaching religion is a direct way to help students to understand the diverse cultures of the world in which they live, not to mention the diverse peoples that comprise today's American society.

Basic questions of human existence are addressed by religion: the meaning and purpose of life; the presence of death, sorrow and suffering; the existence of God; questions of morality and justice; the possibilities of transcendence, salvation, peace, and liberation for individuals and communities. The academic study of religion explores how religion shapes culture and thought, forms values, and compels human action. Students majoring in Religious Studies, whatever their ultimate vocation might turn out to be, find themselves equipped to navigate skillfully in our culturally pluralistic, diverse world.

Religious Studies at JMU has a global focus. Students concentrating in Religion gain a broad knowledge of the major religions of the world from geographical, historical, literary, cultural, ethical, and political perspectives. Many choose to focus their advanced courses in one or two religious traditions, while others pursue interests in related areas such as ancient Mediterranean religions, biblical studies, theology, and ethics. Here religion is approached academically, as a discipline in the humanities. Students of many different religious backgrounds, or of no religion at all, take Religion courses.

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