Why Study Religion, Philosophy and Ethics
For all kinds of reasons, good and bad, religion is back in the headlines. Even the dullest person can see that religion is, once again, the most important factor in the world. Simply put, if one fails to understand the world's religious beliefs and practices, then one fails to understand the world.
If you think that statement is provocative, then look at the alternatives. Science can tell us what's happening in the world and why. But it can't explain people's motives. Economics can tell us about the costs and benefits of our actions. But it won't tell us why we still do these things. History, literature, social theory can all open up a world of ideas. But they can't tell us, today , what people are actually believing and doing.
Religion, Philosophy and Ethics explores the world as people find it exciting, provocative, and vital . Only these disciplines show us a world people live and die for, and the God and gods people worship in their lives and deaths.
So what should you be looking for in your new programme?
Don't be satisfied with programmes that simply describe what religion looks like. Description is fine and has its place, which isn't university. Your greatest asset is the question 'Why?' and your gold standard is a programme, and a tutor, who keeps pushing away at the reasons why people believe what they believe. It's nice to know about the key symbols of Sikhism. It's vastly more important to understand why Sikhs are prepared to die to defend the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Choose a programme that asks why , therefore. But also choose a programme that takes you to places like Amritsar, the Kalahari Desert, Nanjing, Rome, Macchu Picchu. Choose a programme that takes you, intellectually and literally, to all the amazing places where people are religious.
And those places aren't just the obvious ones. At Canterbury Christ Church University we take students to mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, and shrines. But we have also taken students to India to meet Hindus and Buddhists in their daily lives. We have taken students to Africa to work with Zambians and Tanzanians, Sudanese and Zimbabweans. We have taken students to the battlefields of France, to Wilfred Owen's grave and the memorials of Thiepval, Vimy Ridge, and Tyne Cot. Anywhere people express their beliefs and practice their faiths students should go, study, and think.
Why not just stay at home and surf the Net?
Because religion is about the three dimensions of life, not the two dimensions. Lots of things will help us measure the world. Only theology and religious studies help us understand the world people believe in, and the worlds they hope to go to one day.
Is it all good news? Yes: understanding people and the ability to think for yourself are the two key skills employers need. Everything else is background. So if you want to be a civil engineer and build bridges, you'll need some science. But if you are looking for a degree that opens up the world and all its peoples, take Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. You won’t regret it!