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"In a world where people of all faiths are migrating and mingling like never before, we ignore the global impact of religion at our peril." 

- Madeleine Albright, United States Secretary of State 

 

"If I went back to college today, I think I would probably major in comparative religion, because that's how integrated it is in everything that we are working on and deciding and thinking about in life today."

- John F. Kerry,  United States Secretary of State

 

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 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 culture's "dimension of depth": 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 and worldviews that make up 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 and nature of God; the contours of morality and justice; the possibilities of transcendence, salvation, peace, and liberation for individuals and communities. Students with a major concentration in Religion, whatever their career goals may be, find themselves equipped to navigate skillfully in our culturally pluralistic, diverse world with its many approaches to these essential questions.

The Religion program 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 commitments, or of no religion at all, thrive in Religion courses.

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