The Corner

Education

How Much Do ‘Religious Studies’ Have to Do with Religion?

Over the last several decades, American higher education has seen a proliferation of courses and departments described as “Studies”: Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Latina/o Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and so on. Those fields often became platforms for academics who wanted to talk about leftist ideology and tell students how awful capitalism, private property, and constitutional government made things.

There is a fairly new discipline called “religious studies” and, as attorney Mark Pulliam points out in today’s Martin Center article, it has become a breeding ground for leftism.

He writes:

Religious studies—one of the most ‘woke’ disciplines on America’s college campuses—is an ideological wolf in sheep’s clothing, luring students, parents, and alumni into a false sense of security. In the innocuous guise of religious studies, many colleges and universities are promoting a leftist political agenda.

While few students who take religious studies courses have any interest in the clergy, they are popular electives — easy to get through as long as you don’t object to the progressive propaganda.

Naturally, that environment attracts academic types who see their mission as the creation of lots of new activists. As Pulliam puts it,

The field is an academic invention with no established tenets, methodological consensus, or fixed pedagogy. A blank canvas disconnected from religion, religious studies has become a free-wheeling gestalt of leftist sociology, economics, history, anthropology, and philosophy. As such, it is the ideal platform for aspiring academics wishing to avoid a more rigorous specialty with recognized scholarly standards.

College students who are actually interested in learning about religion should be cautious when taking courses labeled “religious studies.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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