Religion is a central part of all cultures. From an academic perspective, the study of religion offers powerful insights into human behavior and cultures. Religious beliefs inform what people value and how they act. Religious differences are often used for political purposes, such as those seen in international conflicts and in American politics. On a personal level, many students have grown up with religious beliefs that sometimes sustain, and sometimes restrain, their development. Studying religion provides students, no matter what their upbringing, opportunities to expand both their personal perspectives and their analytical, critical thinking skills.
Sometimes students fear a conflict between the academic study of religion and personal faith. The teachers of the religious studies courses believe the study of religion can strengthen both thinking abilities and personal beliefs. These courses in religious studies present a diversity of traditions and offer students an opportunity to study religion in a supportive academic atmosphere. The courses incorporate multicultural perspectives, especially issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, disabilities and other differences.