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Throughout history, religion has played an important role in shaping cultures and societies.
Religious beliefs have inspired armies in their wars and leaders in their decisions. Religions have provided the foundation for ethical behavior and in many societies have been the primary source of education. In today's world, religions remain important, influencing our responses to the events of 9/11, the Middle East crisis, and other recent events in other regions around the world. Even in our own secular United States, religions and their beliefs play a major role in our debates over public policy.
The Religious Studies Program offers a range of courses in the academic study of religions. These courses seek to acquaint students with religious beliefs and behavior, helping them to understand the ability of religions to define the world in which their adherents live and the power religions have to influence the behavior of their followers. Religious Studies courses cover a broad range of religions, both modern and historical. Some courses focus on understanding a single religion in a limited time period, while others compare aspects of different religions. Yet further courses focus on religious expression, studying how religious beliefs are depicted in literature, film, art and music. Many of these courses are offered by the Religious Studies Program, while others can be found in various departments, including anthropology, art, English, history and sociology.