Why Religion?

Pluriverse: Your Questions Answered

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Pictured (moving clockwise): Cindy Sanchez, Psychology ‘23; Dr. Colleen Windham-Hughes, Co-chair of the Department of Religion; Francine Aclan, Business ‘22; Dr. Peter Carlson, Religion Professor

By Jessica Easter

Many a first year, on their entry to Cal Lu, have wondered why in the world they have to take religion classes when they’re studying biology or business or music, etc. They can wrap their heads around English, history, or even the dreaded science lab; but, when it comes to religion they simply don’t understand why it's required. Most have never had a religious education beyond that found tucked inside history courses, or perhaps a home faith community, and so cannot see the value in it. So, we went to former CLU religion students and current religion professors to ask what we might gain from these religion classes…

Cindy Sanchez, Psychology ‘23

“As an Atheist, religion was never a significant part of my life and I often would stray away from conversations surrounding religion. Taking religion courses at CLU was a refreshing surprise because unlike in conversations with others, the professors structured the courses in ways that welcomed different religious views into the conversation and didn’t try to force a certain religion upon any of the students. I've taken my two required religion courses, plus an extra one pertaining to my minor in gender and women’s studies, before which I never really realized how impactful religion has been, not only in my own life but also in society and how it’s shaped. I am now ready and willing to discuss religion and the influences it has on the public discourse surrounding such issues as sexual orientation, women's rights, and immigration. I am thankful to the department and the school for giving me the opportunity to broaden my views on religion and the world.”

Dr. Colleen Windham-Hughes, Co-chair of the Department of Religion

“Religious and non-religious identities join race, gender, and class as among the most important identities shaping life in the 21st century. Learning how to think, write, and speak about religion prepares us well for daily life and leadership in a global society. In religion courses at Cal Lutheran, you are exposed to ways of life that are new to you and you explore new interpretations/questions about things you thought you knew—both of which open you more fully to the world and to yourself.”

Francine Aclan, Business  ‘22

“Initially, I was hesitant when I learned about CLU’s RLTH-100 requirement. I wasn’t particularly religious and I was fearful that I would be lost in the course. However, taking Dr. Windham-Hughes’ (more affectionately known as Dr. Dub) Religion 100 taught me the overlap between religion, identity, and vocation. I was taught how to develop my critical thinking skills on a deeper level and encouraged to broaden my initial expectations regarding all faiths. I was challenged, but in a way that assured me that I was in a safe space—a brave space. I was taught with intention and inclusion. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs–or lack thereof–it is impossible to deny the impact religion plays in society. That is why RLTH-100 is such an essential course for a true liberal arts education.”

Dr. Peter Carlson, Religion Professor

“The fundamental goal of a liberal arts education is to provide students with experience in a variety of academic disciplines and epistemologies—ways of knowing—that can liberate us (hence the ‘liberal’) to be our most authentic selves. The study of religion investigates what I am convinced are some of the most important questions in that quest for liberation: Who am I? What do I believe? How do my beliefs affect the ways in which I engage with others in the world? How can I encounter beliefs different from my own with a sense of wonder and curiosity rather than competition? The study of religion honestly entered into, is ultimately the study of what matters to people as they relate to whatever they understand to be divine. It is the study of our relationships, of our deepest desires, of our passions. And it can be helpful to remember that ‘passion’ literally means ‘suffering’ or ‘death,’ which should tell us something: because when we’ve discovered what we’re willing to suffer for, even to die for, we’ve found what we’re willing to live for. Studying religion will help you find out what you and others are willing to live for.”