A considerable range of subjects and disciplines are available at all levels of education. These include even the postgraduate levels. In many countries, religious studies are counted among such disciplines. Right from the onset, the goal of many such disciplines has been to allow its students grasp a deeper understanding of their faith; sometimes this extends to getting new disciples who will wholeheartedly follow the teachings. This goal is always kept in check by unions who promote these faiths as associates specific educational institutions worship houses dedicated to these faiths.
What are religious studies? This field of studies can be explained as an in-depth study of religion as it is perceived, understood and practiced on the basis of many other factors. These factors include culture, race, life perspectives and the likes. In itself, this field encompasses a large collection of faiths and spiritual views. Various religious studies courses are available today in different universities and institutions specially dedicated to this cause.
The core of some categories of faith-related studies deals with the acknowledgement of a superior force, deity or God who controls all man’s activities and is not seen by the human eye. In Christian religious studies, for instance, the person of Jesus is taught as the only way to come to God. In Islam, there is a specific reverence attached to the words of God’s prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), which are recorded in their religious book called the Quran. These views are largely universal, irrespective of whether they are observed on a local or international basis.
Speaking of the opportunities available for those who choose as far as obtaining diplomas in a religion of their choice, it has been noticed that people do not think of this. When asked, “What jobs can you get with a religious studies degree?” some people are at a loss. Getting a job with a religious degree is not a common topic. But there are some good job opportunities available. These include counselling (as it relates to the specific religion), working in different NGOs, teaching positions in a university specifically dedicated to religious studies, even business-related positions.
There are jobs available even in religious organizations. For example, a person holding a master’s degree in religious studies could get to work in the media unit of the religious body by editing and writing a critical review of an article or articles about to be published, like they do at EduBirdie. This is important because religious beliefs can sometimes be misconstrued or misinterpreted, a potentially dangerous situation.
In light of these dangers, we come to the first challenge of this field of studies: the concept of faith. In the Christian guidebook, the Bible, faith is portrayed as belief plus action towards something you hope for without seeing. The main challenge is specially presented by science, which teaches that for a thing to be worth believing, it must present in itself some concrete evidence of physical proof. Science upholds anything that can be explained by logic; seen, felt and proved. This is why some people find it easier to hold on to the notion of evolution than the belief of a deity unseen to the human eyes. Teachers of disciplines inclined towards faith often have a hard time getting such people to understand the course.
Another challenge is found in how certain religion-centered writings are interpreted while teaching in various colleges, leading to different schools of thought within one religion. Some go as far as being extremist, citing themselves as ‘special’. They also belittle the validity of other faiths around them. This is why several people who go in to study a particular faith have no interest practicing it. To them, a religion that claims to be ‘peaceful and open’ theoretically yet has such radical views is contradicting itself.
These flaws, however, are seen in almost all religions. They are even more pronounced in those that have high rankings when it comes to followership – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and the likes. For some individuals, it is especially disturbing that a person who has no intention of understanding the spiritual aspect of religion can comfortably hold a doctorate degree in the discipline. One of such branches of religious education is Theology. There is a host of notable theologians who till date do not attest to the divinity of Jesus, who is revered in Christianity as the son of God. These guys are allowed to do major researches on Biblical writings. The results of some of these ‘findings’ are one of the issues Christianity tackles with today.
Then there are mindset problems on the side of the students. Some approach the studies of other religions regarding them as second-tier. Others study other faiths with a constant fear of getting easily swayed from what they’ve believed all their lives. This kind of approaches sometimes makes people miss the perspective embedded in other people’s religions. We should endeavor to have open minds towards other religions; we learn to coexist with each other more effectively when we put aside sentiments and learn from one another.