Professor Nathan French shares a laugh with a Muslim student while speaking together on a panel

The Department of Comparative Religion equips students for work and leadership in a culturally diverse world.

  • We build students' religious literacy—their familiarity with religious traditions that may inform the identities of their future colleague and clients.
  • We train students to engage empathetically with beliefs, values, and cultural practices that differ from their own.
  • We teach students how to think critically about social issues and conflicts involving religion that intersect with the fields in which they will work.

What is comparative religion?

"Comparative religion" is one name for the field of scholarship within the arts and sciences that specializes in understanding religion; this field is also known as "religious studies." In this field, we examine religion as a dimension of human culture, using theories and methods common to other academic fields, such as history, sociology, anthropology, or literary and cultural studies.

Comparative religion is different from theology. Theology refers to intellectual traditions that develop within religions as members reflect on their own doctrines. To be trained in theology, you would attend a religious institution such as a seminary. Because Miami University is a state school, it does not have a program in theology.

Who studies religion at Miami, and why?

Every semester, a few hundred Miami undergraduates take a course from the Department of Comparative Religion, mostly to satisfy requirements in the Global Miami Plan or CAS's College Requirement. A few dozen Miami students each year major or minor in Comparative Religion. Our majors usually combine their study of religion with a second major in another field.

There are various reasons why Miami students decide to pursue coursework in our department:

  • Some want to learn more about religious diversity, in order to expand the cross-cultural skills they'll take onto the job market.
  • Some want to prepare themselves to address religious issues relevant to a field they plan to work in, such as law, government, psychology, health services, or nonprofit work. 
  • Some want to develop the kinds of critical thinking, reading, and writing skills taught in the humanities, as a supplement to their training in a scientific major.

Read more: Why studying religion is a smart career move.