Starting in September 2008, King’s University College is offering a new degree program in World Religions! You will be able to take a course in World Religions, or a Minor, or a Major, or a Specialization, or an Honours Specialization. In addition to our longstanding and specific expertise in Catholic Studies, King’s will be offering courses in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese and Japanese religion, as well as various thematic courses of a comparative nature. It is perhaps obvious that, in an increasingly multicultural environment, understanding the world’s religious traditions is more than ever required for us even to understand our new friends and neighbours. But the study of World Religions also helps us to understand ourselves and our own religious traditions, and there is wisdom in the dictum of all comparative studies: “She who knows only one, knows none.” The impulse to religion appears to be a universal characteristic of the human species, and studying the various forms this impulse has taken throughout history and across the globe is perhaps the most fascinating study one can undertake. You need not be religious yourself to engage in this enterprise, nor need you worry that your own religious tradition, if you have one, will be undermined. King’s University College is certainly a proud Roman Catholic institution, but here all religious traditions are treated with equal respect and, in the World Religions Program, treated with equal interest.
The academic study of religion is often an eye-opening experience. The texts, doctrines, creeds, and rituals of the various religious traditions throughout the world are often treated as though they dropped from heaven, fully formed. Core beliefs may appear monolithic and uncompromising, making religious traditions appear to be simple competitors, even hostile competitors. But when the monolithic veil is removed, one finds that every religious tradition develops and evolves through history, that nothing is as clear and straightforward as it seems, and that each religious tradition is a fascinating and complex mixture of ideas and ideals, at times internally conflicting ideas and ideals. Moreover, religious traditions often mix and blend, borrowing from and influencing one another, demonstrating that the boundaries between them are remarkably porous. Moreover, because religion has proven to be of enormous importance to cultures across the globe, we often find cultural gems of philosophy, art, architecture and even science and medicine preserved merely as a result of their connection to religion. Just as religions cannot be understood when divorced from their social and historical contexts, cultures cannot be understood without a careful examination of their religions. The study of religion globally is an engrossing and rewarding study – so don’t delay. Climb on board!