School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Religious Studies

Religious Studies is the attempt to understand the beliefs and practices of humanity and how these impact on our lives and the lives of others. A knowledge and understanding of religion is essential in order to grasp our musical, artistic, legal, literary and philosophical traditions. We live in a religiously diverse country in an increasingly diverse world. We need to understand our neighbours – what they believe and why they do so and what they are led to do – locally, nationally and internationally.The majority of people on the planet subscribe to a religious tradition or faith. These beliefs and practices motivate people to kill and to heal, to include and exclude others, to love and to hate, and to produce sublime, inspired art, music and literature.

The Religious Studies programme asks question such as what do you believe? Why do religions persist, grow and decline? Is religion the cause of terrorism and war? Do religions have a role to play in the 21st century? Are the gods the invention of humanity or vice versa?

Religious Studies staff teach and research on beliefs and practices and the relationship between religion and conflict, religion and peacemaking, religion and resource inequalities and development, religion and the meaning of death, religion, morality and ethics, and religion and its role in our evolutionary history.

At Victoria the 100-level Religious Studies courses introduce students to the major religious traditions and the role of religion in the contemporary world.The religious traditions of the West (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and of Asia (India, China, Tibet, and Japan) are explored. They also consider the relationship of politics and law to religion; as well as spiritual and religious experience through trance, meditation, prayer and ritual.

200-level courses pursue the study of particular traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, religions of India, religion in Aotearoa and the Pacific) and methodological approaches (psychology of religion, religion and political thought) in greater depth.

From here, the 300-level courses focus on themes and traditions, including religion and nature, religion and sex, new age spirituality and new religious movements, religion and death, religion and globalisation, terrorism, and mysticism. These courses also explore the theoretical dimensions of the study of religion and address the issues raised by cultural relativism and pluralism.