One of the major goals of a liberal arts education is to prepare students to become productive, responsible, moral world citizens who critically reflect on who they are as complex individuals in an equally complex society and cosmos. Such reflection inevitably begins with students as enthusiastic, yet perplexed inquirers confronting fundamental questions about human meaning and truth. In this regard, philosophy and religion are essential parts of a liberal arts education. Both disciplines help students to analyze and comment critically on concerns that are fundamental to human existence.
Philosophy and religion interrogate the “truth” of human existence. Both seek to move students beyond uncritical patterns of thought and experience to ones that recognize problems of human knowing/existence and that bring students to a more considered approach to living. Both disciplines attempt to help students think clearly, critically, and cross-culturally about who they are in relationship to themselves, their social and world communities, and the wider cosmos. Philosophy does this by bringing basic human experiences and issues into question. Religion does this by exploring a particular view of reality and human existence that establishes the meaning of the human being (socially and individually) in relation to “ultimate” reality. Philosophy and religion converge in their concern to probe questions such as: What is truth? What can I know? What must I know? What is the meaning of existence? What is moral? What is just? What can I hope for? What is the meaning of a good life? What is a just society/world? The point of divergence between the two disciplines of inquiry is oftentimes found in the answers they give to these questions. Religion necessarily relates the meaning of truth, knowledge, morality, etc. to “ultimate reality” while philosophy may not.
The Religion Program provides an interdisciplinary approach to the academic study of religion. This program reflects the fact that while religious study provides a means of intellectual inquiry and development for some students, for other students the study of religion involves a personal journey as academic study and spirituality interact and challenge one another. Goucher’s religion program does not assume that the students come with a religious commitment and does not endorse or condemn any particular religious commitment. This program does assume that students come with a commitment to religious inquiry.
The religion program explores religion from two perspectives: methodology and content.
Courses in the major are divided into three general areas: Area One: history and development of religious traditions, Area Two: significant thinkers, texts and theological movements, Area Three: religion and society