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Sacred Scholarship: Majoring in Religion

Aidan discusses his experience as a Religion major!

Aidan discusses his experience as a Religion major!

Coming into Carleton I thought I would be a STEM major of some sort. I ended up taking multiple mathematics courses during my first year to test the waters. Although I did well in the courses, I found myself drawn to the elective courses which I was taking.

I particularly enjoyed the courses in the religion department. I initially took these classes to fulfill the graduation requirements, but they drew me in and made me want to study more. Thus, when major declarations came around at the end of my sophomore year, I decided to declare Religion! It has been the best decision I’ve made here at Carleton. I’m excited to share more about the department with you all.

Religion? What’s that really?

When I tell people I am a religion major, I often get some form of the question ‘what exactly do you study?’ When many people hear the word ‘religion’ their brain jumps directly to theology. However, that is only a small piece of religious studies.

Religion is a very interdisciplinary field of study. It combines almost every field of study housed in our humanities building, Leighton Hall. Philosophy; History; Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies; and SOAN (Sociology/Anthropology) are all studied in religion courses. This is in addition to other fields like Political Science and Art History. In some ways, I feel like religion encapsulates everything (save maybe chemistry?). This interdisciplinary nature is why I have loved studying religion so much.

Image of Leighton Hall, where I have class.
Leighton, home to religion, during the winter! Photo by Tom Roster

My Favorite Courses

I have taken six courses so far in the religion department. They have varied significantly in terms of content, but I like all of the courses I have taken. There have been a couple of stand-out courses which I love to talk about.

Christianity and Capitalism

I took this course during the spring trimester of my freshman year, and it solidified my love for religious studies. As the title suggests, we learned all about the development of the relationship between Christianity and Capitalism. The development from the intentionally poor Franciscans to the modern Christian business (e.g. Hobby Lobby) was super interesting. I loved learning about early Christian practices such as almsgiving and evaluating Scripture through an anti-Capitalist lens. This class also functioned as my first foray into Christian secularism, with the likes of Max Weber’s works. Secularism has quickly become one of my favorite fields of study.

special collections book
A photo from a book from the special collections which I used for my Christianity and Capitalism course!

Islam in America

Islam in America, which I took this past spring, fell under the political science and sociology umbrellas. This was different from Christianity and Capitalism which was more historical. We mainly focused on the ways in which American Muslims acculturated into American society. My favorite part was our evaluations of evolving and contradictory sentiments towards American Muslims. The professor, Kambiz Ghanea-Bassiri, was incredible. I highly recommend everyone take a class with him when he officially joins our religion department next year!

Learning Together

Although religion is a relatively small department, we have an incredibly strong community. The department frequently hosts events for us. Often the events seem a little random (like an office assistant appreciation day). I always attend for the free food. It gives us ample opportunities to discuss religion with one another. During this time we tend to develop close friendships. This environment is only aided by the religion lounge. It is always stocked with candy and free tea. If you ever want to find a religion major out of class, just check the religion lounge.

Campus and downtown Northfield after the snow
Gould Library is a favorite study spot of most religion majors. Photo by Kallie Rogenhagen

Closing Thoughts

I can honestly say that religion is my favorite academic department here at Carleton. The variety is truly astounding. The relationships are only an added perk. If you are looking for an elective to fill a slot in your schedule, I highly recommend religion. Perhaps being a major is too much but check out our minor too! I hope to see some of you in class.

Aidan (he/him) is a rising Junior from Batavia, IL. He is a Religion and French and Francophone Studies double major with a Cross-Cultural Studies minor. You can often find him at the campus’s two dining halls chatting with other students while working as a student dining hall manager. He enjoys spending his time outside of class cooking and hanging out with his housemates in the Culinary Interest House and performing in Carleton’s sketch comedy group. Aidan also loves to broadcast music to the greater Northfield community on the college radio station, KRLX 88.1 FM. Meet the other bloggers!