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Why this Major?

How Can This Major or Minor Help You?


People often ask: What can one "do" with a major or minor in Religion and Philosophy?  This question usually implies that the study of Religion and Philosophy does not help, or help much, with getting a job. That implication is false; the study of those subjects does help on the job market.  It develops your ability to think deeply, analyze carefully, synthesize different ideas, write and speak clearly and powerfully, read analytically, work with others, and understand your world. Employers say that these abilities are crucial for any job yet are rare.

  But more importantly, the study of these subjects helps with living a life. Here, the question of what one can do with a major or minor is deeply misguided. Do not ask what (job) a major or minor can help you do; ask who it can help you be. It should help us understand what we are as persons, who we are as individuals, what our world is like, and what our place is in it. That is, it should help primarily with the life we are living. A job is only a part of life, within the broader task of living a life. Jobs are mostly defined for us, but we have to define a life for ourselves. If you master a job but not how to live, you will be unhappy and not likely successful even at the job.  If we fail to understand our world, ourselves, and right living, then no degree of economic success will make for a good life.  We must work out an understanding of what it is to be a person and to live a life. That is a difficult task, we need help with it, and a major or minor can and should help.

So, how can a major in Religion and Philosophy help in the task of defining and living a life?

So, how can a Religion & Philosophy major or minor help us with life?   Philosophy studies the boundaries of our worldview, the limits within which we think and act. It shows us these limits and helps us evaluate them and reconstruct them. Our worldview affects everything about us. Religion studies the nature of the Ultimate, our relationship to the Ultimate, and how religions have worked out these issues. Religion helps us discover needed meaning and value in the world and in our lives. Both disciplines help us understand our very identity, the culture that has shaped us, the world we live in, what we should think, and how we should live. Both disciplines examine essential aspects of a culture, and both are central to a liberal education. A liberal education is designed to help a person critically master her culture and critically assess her own identity. For a long time, this has been judged to be the highest kind of education and a birthright of all people. This sort of education helps        a person find a life calling, a life vocation, as well as a career calling, a career vocation--not merely a trade or job.

Studying Religion and Philosophy teaches crucial abilities and values needed in life: 

  • developing a broad background of knowledge 
  • organizing ideas and issues
  • summarizing complicated materials 
  • reducing complex data
  • reasoning analytically and synthetically
  • writing clearly
  • formulating and defending a position 
  • speaking articulately
  • assessing pros and cons 
  • solving problems
  • listening objectively and being fair 
  • seeking and respecting the truth
  • being intellectual patient, charitable, & disciplined
  • producing informed tolerance

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