A BA in Comparative Religion is a program of study offered at a few colleges and universities. This particular degree focuses on understanding the similarities and differences among belief systems as well as religious tolerance. Sometimes the degree is referred to as Comparative Theology.
This article provides information about post-secondary accredited institutions that have a specific Comparative Religion undergraduate program. There are many universities, such as Harvard Divinity School, that offer comprehensive programs in Religious Studies, but these degrees are not always primarily focused on comparing theologies.
Note, in addition to offering an undergraduate degree in Comparative Theology, many of the spotlighted universities also offer graduate (master’s and PhD) programs in the field.
California State University, Fullerton Undergrad Major in Comparative Religion
California State University in Fullerton has a Comparative Religion undergraduate major and minor.
Giving an overview of its philosophy with respect to the study of religions, the school defines this academic field:
“Comparative Religion is the name we use to describe the work of scholars who teach and pursue research about one or more of the religions of the world in a non-sectarian, academic and comparative manner. … It is not a dry, cloistered, or indoctrinating study. Here, you will encounter new ways of understanding the world, learn exciting methods of analysis, and develop sophistication in the interpretation of religious texts, beliefs and practices.”
Classes offered at CSUF include:
- Judaism, Christianity and Islam Compared
- Religion and the Quest for Meaning
- Religion and Violence
Miami University BA Degree in Comparative Religious Studies
Miami University, located in Oxford, Ohio, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as an undergraduate minor, in Comparative Religion through the Humanities Department in the College of Arts and Science.
According to the university, the mission of the religion program “is to study all world religions: their history, their relationships, and their impact on the individual and society.” Students are able to tailor their degree program to fit their specific interests and goals.
The school explains the flexibility of the program: “You may examine common themes among religions in different parts of the world. You may trace the development of a particular religion over time. You may study the cultural aspects of religions in different times and places. You may study religion together with such fields as psychology, literature, philosophy, anthropology, women’s studies, black world studies, or science to see how these fields influence and enrich each other.”
A sampling of courses offered through Miami University includes the following:
- Global Religions of India;
- Religion and Popular Culture; and
- Religions of American Peoples.
Truman College AA Degree in Comparative Study of Religions
Located in Chicago, Illinois, Truman College offers two-year associate’s degrees. The college has a Comparative Religion Associate of Arts degree. The school explains that the degree is intended for students who plan to further their education at a four-year university.
Coursework includes classes such as:
- Comparative Religion I – Eastern Religion;
- Comparative Religion II – Western Religion; and
- Philosophy of Religion.
University of Washington Bachelor’s in Religion
Through the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, the University of Washington in Seattle offers a BA degree and a minor in Comparative Religion.
The University of Washington describes its program, stating, “From the start, the Comparative Religion Program was intended not to teach religion, but to teach about it. The study of religion introduces students to the diversity of human experience, to analytic tools that help them do comparative work across cultures, languages, and religions. This comparative perspective illumines bias and instills in students the necessity of multiple perspectives as a lens to interpret our interdependent world.”
The university enhances its religion program with a variety of public lectures and conferences. Students pursuing the degree also have access to study-abroad programs, internships, and fellowships.
UW courses exploring various aspects of religions include:
- Greek and Roman Religion;
- Modern Religious Thought; and
- Religion and World Politics.
Western Michigan University Undergraduate Program in Religions
Located in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University has an undergraduate program in Comparative Religion. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree or minor in this field.
The WMU religion program has two primary goals: 1) help students understand the role of religion in human cultures in the past and today, and 2) teach students about scholarly methods for understanding religion and encourage students to develop new effective approaches to the study.
Some of WMU’s offerings include the following classes:
- Historical Studies in Religion;
- Psychological Elements in Religion; and
- Women in Religion.
Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Comparative Theology
There are a handful of colleges and universities that have bachelor’s degrees in Comparative Theology. These academic programs prepare students for careers in religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and so on, as well as graduate-level study.
- California State University, Fullerton: Comparative Religion, hss.fullerton.edu/comparative. Accessed January 25, 2011.
- Miami University: Department of Comparative Religion, www.units.MUOhio.edu/religion. Accessed January 25, 2011.
- Truman College: Comparative Religion Program, TrumanCollege.edu/academics. Accessed January 26, 2011.
- University of Washington: Comparative Religion Program, jsis.washington.edu/religion. Accessed January 25, 2011.
- Western Michigan University: Department of Comparative Religion, WMich.edu/religion. Accessed January 25, 2011.