At Stirling we are committed to approaching ‘religion’ in a critical manner, in two broad senses:
- Firstly: We question the fundamental category of ‘religion’. It is sometimes assumed to be a ‘thing’ that simply exists, and this is where, in part, the idea that we can study ‘religions’ as entities in any society or context comes from. This, of course, implies that what ‘religion’ actually is stands as common knowledge and applies to all contexts. But where does religion begin, end or move into other areas? Some of the great religion scholars of the past have argued that there is some kind of supernatural essence to ‘religion’ based on a person’s relationship to a God or gods. Such an essence might be very meaningful as part of someone’s faith, but perhaps ‘religion’ as a category has little meaning on its own because the boundaries around what is and what is not ‘religion’ so easily blur into other categories (such as politics, economics etc.)?
- Secondly: Rather than hold religion to suspicion, or blame, or discredit, or incredulity – a growing tendency amongst certain public intellectuals, even if against the tide of global demographics – we examine religion from a positive critical standpoint. What this means is that in our studies we consider how open to re-interpretation or re-conceptualisation the term ‘religion’ is today in our intellectual, social, and cultural spheres.
Just as the term ‘critical’ has a wide range of meaning, so too does the concept of religion continue to develop beyond traditional and conventional boundaries. As a result we find engagement with the idea of ‘religion’ in the contexts of religious institutions, but also within the fields of literature, history, gender studies, hermeneutics, visual art, anthropology, politics, philosophy, marketing and business studies, and so on. In coming to Stirling to study Critical Religion, every student is thus exposed to a broad and interdisciplinary vision that can be life-changing in many rich and unexpected ways.
BBBB - one sitting.
ABBB - two sittings.
Modes of study
Full-time (three modules per semester).
Part-time (one or two modules per semester).
We are keen to accept all interested students, including those who have already spent a few – or many – years away from school. For Alternative Routes to degree course entry onto the Religion course, please consult the prospectus or website for information on the subject you intend to study alongside Religion.
Find out more
Please note that Religion is studied as a Combined degree. You will take Religion plus two other subjects in Years 1 and 2.
Semesters 1 - 4
You are required to take the following core modules:
- Religion, Ethics and Society: An introduction to discourses on religion in relation to modern notions of progress and conflict
- Religion, Nationalism and Colonialism: This module studies the impact of western colonialism on non-western understandings of religion and culture
- Religion in Culture: Problems of Representation: This module reflects on what happens when people – e.g. scholars, journalists, politicians, adherents – try to represent religion, whether in books, news, art, film or other contexts
- Theory and Method: An introduction to the history of the study of religion, its major founders, theories, methodologies and critics
Semesters 5 - 8
You will take core advanced (Level 10) modules: Religion and Postcolonialism, Religion and Theory and, in most cases, Dissertation Preparation. You may also choose advanced modules such as:
- Anthropology of Religion
- Political Islam
- Religion, Capitalism and Consumer Culture
- Religion and Philosophy: Ancient
- Religion and Philosophy: Modern
- Religion as Ritual in Japan
- Gender and Religion
- Reading the Bible
- Christianity Missions and Colonialism
- Religion and Literature
Honours students in their final semester will write a dissertation on a topic chosen in consultation with an individual supervisor.
Autumn Semester 2013
- REL911 (level 8) – Religion Ethics and Society: Progress and Conflict
- REL913 (level 8) – Religion in Culture: Problems of Representation
- REL9C5 (level 10) – Religion and Postcolonialism
- REL9AD (level 10) – Introduction to Christianity
- REL9RL (level 10) – Religion and Literature
Spring Semester 2014
- REL912 (level 8) – Religion, Nationalism and Postcolonialism
- REL914 (level 9) – Religion: Theory and Method
- REL9C6 (level 10) – Religion and Critical Theory
- REL9JA (level 10) – Religion as Ritual in Japan
- REL9MC (level 10) – Christian Missions and Colonialism
- REL9ZX (level 10) – Honours Dissertation
Teaching and assessment
Most teaching takes place through a mixture of formal lectures and smaller, more informal, seminar groups. When writing your dissertation you will meet your supervisor on a one-to-one basis regularly throughout the final semester. A variety of assessment methods are used, including essays, reports, class tests, reviews and oral presentations.
Some readings that give an indication of the kind of approach we take:
- Religion: the Basics. Malory Nye, Routledge, 2003.
- Thinking about Religion: an historical introduction to theories of religion. Ivan Strenski, Blackwell, 2006.
- Thinking about Religion: A reader. Ivan Strenski, Blackwell, 2006.
- Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Mark C. Taylor, University of Chicago Press, 1998.
- Guide to the Study of Religion. Willi Braun & Russell McCutcheon (eds.), Continuum Press, 2000.
- Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formations. Timothy Fitzgerald (ed.), Equinox, 2007.
Religion can be studied with:
|Film and Media
|Professional Education/English Studies
(For a Combined Honours degree the higher entrance requirements of the subjects usually apply.)
Religion at Stirling is distinguished by its critical approach.
It is critical because it questions the fundamental category of ‘religion’. It is sometimes assumed to be a ‘thing’ that simply exists, and this is where, in part, the idea that we can study ‘religions’ as entities in any society or context comes from. This, of course, implies that what ‘religion’ actually is, is common knowledge and applies to all contexts, geographic and ideational (in Scotland, the Middle East, Asia, or in power and gender structures etc.). It assumes that ‘we will know it when we see it’. Arguably, however, it is a much less innocent concept, encompassing some very culturally specific notions of value and power.
It is critical because we aim to understand the problem behind the very idea of religion, and we engage in our work with a view to showing how we might reconsider the term ‘religion’ in light of other social and cultural spheres. So not only do we find engagement with the idea of ‘religion’ in the contexts of religious institutions, and conventional educational spaces such as ‘Religion’ classes and lectures, we also aim to engage with it in the fields of literature, history, gender studies, hermeneutics, visual art, anthropology, politics, philosophy, business studies and so on.
We expect a lot from our students, since our critical approach demands a grasp of many different subjects, methods and discourses. The programme is therefore rigorous and intellectually challenging. But it is also deeply rewarding on numerous levels.
Students of Religion can apply to spend a year of their studies abroad at a university in the United States. Modules taken during this time will constitute part of your final degree.
Teaching provision in Religion has been assessed by the Scottish Funding Council and rated as ‘excellent’.
The Religion course is delivered by a dedicated research team committed to widening interests through teaching, academic research and other forms of knowledge exchange.
Critical Religion at Stirling
Our staff are the organisers of the Critical Religion Association, in collaboration with Ekklesia, an independent, not-for-profit think tank.
Academic Staff in Religion regularly publish books and academic papers and are involved in a range of academic- related projects such as:
…the degree in Religion brought me to critically examine my many cultural presumptions. The balance between modules on theory and method, and topical foci opened up great opportunities to engage my learning from religious studies classes with my other subjects from the very start. Both academic and administrative staff responsible for Religion are fabulous: approachable, motivating and above all, concerned for your well-being as a student, individually as much as in your peer groups.
Kat Neumann Religion and English Studies, graduated 2009.
The breadth of the undergraduate course ensures that you are never bored, with everything from Political Islam to Reading the Bible being covered in such a way that it is both relevant and understandable in the contemporary world. What makes the course even more intellectually stimulating is the ethos within the department that encourages you to ask questions of the material, others and yourself … when you do stumble across something puzzling the lecturers are always willing to answer any questions you may have.
Gemma Carroll Religion and Education, graduated 2010
My four years as a Religious Studies student at the University of Stirling have impacted on me greatly. I have fond memories of exceptionally interesting courses that, to this day, are providing a strong foundation for my academic interests. Upon graduating, I carried on with my studies, taking Anthropology (MSc) at Edinburgh University, and continued developing my research ideas. I was able to get involved with a higher education fellowship, on behalf of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, and I was sent to Malawi to teach and learn at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. These wonderful opportunities, were made possible with the help and support of my academic mentors in Religion (School of Arts and Humanities). I have now returned as a PhD hopeful and I am looking forward to expanding reflections on these wonderful experiences in order to provide my own epistemological contribution.’
Shani Zour BA Religious Studies, graduated 2006.
Dr Timothy Fitzgerald: teaches undergraduate courses on India, Japan, colonial history, anthropology, and history of theory and supervises postgraduates. His latest book is Religion and Politics in International Relations: the Modern Myth (2011).
Dr Andrew Hass: teaches undergraduate modules in religion’s intersection with literature, philosophy and critical theory, and postgraduate degrees in Hermeneutics, among other interdisciplinary approaches. He is currently writing a book on negation and the German philosopher Hegel.
Dr Alison Jasper: teaches undergraduate modules related to Christianity, gender and theory and supervises postgraduates in these areas. Her latest book is Because of Beauvoir: Christianity and the Cultivation of Female Genius (2012) and she is working on Schooling In/difference: Socio-material Practice and the Construction of 'Religion' in (Gendered) Educational Spaces (2013).
Dr Michael Marten: teaches undergraduate modules in colonialism, Middle East, gender and missionary studies, and supervises postgraduate students working in these fields. He has published on Scottish missions and postcolonial theory, and has recently co-edited two books, one on missions and healthcare, and one on saints.
94% of University of Stirling 2012 graduates have found work, or are in a
further programme of study within 6 months of graduation. The Telegraph
ranks Stirling in the top 12 UK universities for getting a job.
A degree in Religion develops key transferable skills, for example, the ability to:
- communicate fluently and effectively
- think critically and imaginatively
- research efficiently
- balance competing commitments
- engage in collegial work
- meet deadlines and work without the need for close supervision
- develop knowledge and understanding of specific and competing ways of seeing the world and its possibilities
- develop a keen awareness of constantly balancing sets of very different values
- understand distinctive and traditional differences, establishing workable and effective practices or solutions in business, political advocacy, the arts and beyond
The skills above make graduates in Religion an invaluable resource in whatever career route they choose; recent graduates have gone on to work in: the civil service, social work, hospital and prison management, banking and insurance, music production, commerce including commercial research, the police, armed services, publishing and the media, as well as the perhaps more traditional career pathway of teaching and academic research.
Skills you can develop through this programme
As you progress through your Critical Religion degree, you will have the opportunity to develop the following practical skills and attributes that are much sought after by prospective employers:
- Written communication – these are developed through the various essays, reports and examinations required for each of your modules;
- Oral communication – learn to communicate effectively through presentations to both classmates and external clients;
- Teamworking – groupwork is an essential part of your Religion degree, in seminars, debates, and so on;
- Research and analysis – these skills develop as you progress through each year of your course, culminating in a significant piece of research for your honours dissertation
- Awareness of global issues – through case study analysis, guest lectures and research projects, you will develop an understanding of many different approaches to key areas of life around the world
- Time management – you will learn how to manage your time more effectively through your active involvement in group projects, as well as by successfully juggling your weekly workload in order to meet your (sometimes conflicting) deadlines for coursework
- Self-confidence – participating in every aspect of your degree will help build your confidence, both personally and professionally
Chances to expand your horizons
Critical Religion students have the opportunity to participate in workshops, research visits to local organisations, and guest lectures from high profile speakers.
Where are our graduates now?
Recent graduates have gone on to work in the civil service, social work, hospital and prison management, banking and insurance, music production, commerce including commercial research, the police, armed services, publishing and the media, as well as the perhaps more traditional career pathway of teaching and academic research.