Religion unlocks insight to humanity.

Religion can be a mindset, a practice, an institution, or an orientation of the heart. Religious literacy is a foundation for connecting with, understanding, and accepting people, especially those with different views, beliefs, and experiences from our own. The academic study of religion is a central component to the humanities curriculum of Mercyhurst University. In keeping with the Mercy tradition, we are committed to fostering awareness of regional, national, and global issues of justice that emerge within religious contexts and society. The curriculum in our Department of Religious Studies develops and hones skills in communication, argumentation, research, social justice, cultural awareness, creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking. 

Fast Facts

  • Religious Studies students regularly present original research at academic conferences throughout the region.

  • Students have the opportunity to join Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for the Study of Religion and Theology.

  • Housed in the Hafenmaier College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Religious Studies is an excellent complement to other majors and is often encouraged in professional fields including medicine, social work, law enforcement, and national security.

  • Our graduates have pursued advanced degrees at institutions such as Yale University, the University of Chicago, and Emory University. 

  • All Mercyhurst full-time Religious Studies faculty hold Ph.D.s in religious studies and have extensive records of publication and public engagement in the field.

  • The Department of Religious Studies houses both the William C. Sennett Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies and the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society.

  • Former FBI Director James Comey, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, and actress Rashida Jones all have degrees in religious studies, further demonstrating how versatile this exciting field is!

Program Overview

Through diverse course offerings, the Department of Religious Studies cultivates understanding of the religious experience of human kind. We provide students with a breadth of knowledge in the field and essential skills for full participation in a globalized world. Students will cultivate reflective and critical thinking skills through the study of religion's broad impact on human life and society.

The Religious Studies major requires a minimum of 10 courses, including two courses in each of the following areas:

  • Tradition, texts, and history
  • Pluralism, comparison, and society
  • Theology, philosophy, and ethics

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify and define tools of the academic study of religion.
  • Recognize diversity within religious traditions.
  • Compare and contrast religious traditions.
  • Apply a variety of methodological approaches to the study of religions. 
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Minors in Religion and Society and Ethics complement programs from business to law enforcement to health in revealing the religious components of contemporary life.

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Through faculty guided research, careful reading, presentations, and lively class discussions students gain both breadth and depth in their knowledge of world religions.

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Graduates with Religious Studies majors and minors have gone on to diverse careers in national security, medicine, social work, counseling, education, and ministry.  

Contact Us

Verna Ehret, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Religious Studies
Office: Preston 204
Phone: 814-824-2532