Religious studies at Guilford explores the mystery and meaning of our existence as selves in the many aspects of the social and natural world. We seek to nurture wonder, insight, clear and creative thinking, to understand humanity’s destructive ways with others and the environment and to imagine ways of mending the world. We want to open heart and mind to the sacred and the problematic in our world today and historically. The burning issues we address are forms of social oppression and environmental destruction, the nature of the divine and the human condition, the development and practice of religious traditions and the meaning of the religious.
We aim to draw forth leadership potential in all students to enable them throughout their lives to be change agents wherever they find themselves, overcoming injustice and engendering the fullness of life. The Quaker context of Guilford is fundamental to our ways of teaching. All classes expect and enable students to discover the resources within to engage truth and to take responsibility for their learning and living in this world in ways that foster peace, simplicity, integrity, equality and community.
Education in religious studies begins from where each student is, descends to the radical center and draws forth each student’s energies of creative, critical and ethical responses in personal engagement with the multifarious issues of religious studies. Our teaching intends both to challenge and support the process of learning as mind-expanding and transforming. We work intensely on developing capacities of thinking orally and in writing, of listening and of working together as well as in solitude. We do this not only for self-development and to know truth, but for the good of the community of being.
Religious studies employs many methodologies, such as the theological, philosophical, historical, ethical, literary, psychological, socioeconomic and anthropological. Exploring religion is inherently interdisciplinary; we consider the interconnections in all our courses and require one explicitly interdisciplinary course for the major. We emphasize careful interpretation of significant works from a variety of religious and ethical traditions. Our faculty offer courses in diverse areas of study including Biblical studies, Christianity/theology, Islamic studies, Tibetan and Himalayan religions, ethics and comparative religion. Our global context includes the West, the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America and indigenous peoples. The formats for learning emphasize seminar discussions, supplemented with individual reading and writing and student collaboration, lectures, role-playing, film analysis and internships for social service and social action.
The careers our majors enter upon after graduation, often after circuitous journeys, are quite diverse — teaching, law, service and social work, the ministry, counseling, religious education, art, business, government and non-governmental organizations.
Courses are offered at different levels, each of which has specific expectations and goals. The 100-level courses are introductory, designed for first-year and sophomore non-majors. They are accessible to entering first-year students.
The 200-level courses are advanced introductory courses that function as core courses for the major. They are designed to serve as initial courses in the department for sophomores, juniors, seniors and for beginning majors. Majors normally take several courses at this level.
The 300-level courses are designed for majors and for upper-level students with a strong interest in the subject matter and a background in the humanities. 300-level courses are designed primarily for majors and assume at least one course in religious studies. Courses are usually offered in a seminar format that requires active participation by all class members. Majors should have several 300-level courses.
The 400-level courses are small seminars that usually examine one or a few thinkers or issues in depth. They are designed for advanced majors or, by permission, exceptionally interested and qualified non-majors.