About Religious Studies


While Whittier College has been an independent liberal arts institution for more than half its history, it affirms its Quaker heritage, whose values of tolerance, equality, and social justice still serve as driving forces on campus, both academically and socially.

These values shape the form and content of the Religious Studies curriculum.

Affirming that the study of religion is an important component of a liberal arts education, our program features three major course areas — Global Religions; Religions: Comparisons & Contrasts; and Religion: Cultural Critique — and develops students' understanding of both the global aspects of religious traditions and the specific ways in which those traditions are embedded in local environments, especially throughout Southern California.

Religion plays increasingly significant and complex roles in affairs here at home and around the globe. At the same time, a religious perspective stimulates individuals to lead meaningful lives in a rapidly changing world. Our faculty helps students to analyze and understand the impact that religions have in contemporary society — at individual, social, and global levels.

Where can I go with the study of religion? What will I do with my life? Fortunately, the career options for graduates of the religious studies program are vast. Our majors and minors are prepared to pursue theological and religious studies at the graduate level and to make meaningful contributions throughout their lives. In recent years Whittier’s graduates have pursued successful careers as teachers, ministers, counselors, coaches, editors, business leaders, non-profit organizers, and other professional officials.

Mission Statement

The Religious Studies curriculum at Whittier College equips students with analytical tools to develop their interpretive skills for understanding the complex roles of religion in society, past and present, local and global. Focusing on religion as a social institution and as a significant component of cultural diversity, the program induces students to investigate how religious traditions are embedded in local environments. Because of its diverse character, the Southern California region provides an ideal opportunity for field trips and other activities that encourage students to apply and enhance what they learn in the classroom setting. The program sees the inquiry into religious practices and beliefs as an occasion for becoming self-conscious about both theoretical issues in the study of religion and the search for meaning and values.


Students will be able to understand that:

  • Interdisciplinarity is central to the study of religion
  • Religions are humanly constructed institutions that both shape and are shaped by social, cultural and historical forces
  • Religion is a significant form of diversity
  • Religions possess their own internal logic
  • A perceptive study of religion requires an appreciation of the system on its own terms
  • Religions provide a way of engaging the world.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate evidence of knowledge of similarity and difference in three major religious traditions
  • Evaluate religions as dynamic systems affecting politics, economics, art, and wider culture
  • Define and apply various theories and methods for studying religion 
  • Interpret at least one religious tradition via field experience.

Together, these objectives support Whittier College’s mission statement by:

  • Emphasizing the value of the intellectual quest, the use of reason, and a respect for the human pursuit of justice 
  • Fostering an informed appreciation of other traditions
  • Exploring the interrelatedness of knowledge and the connections among disciplines
  • Assisting in the development of skills (such as the ability to communicate effectively, to analyze theories and methods, and to critique perspectives
  • Cultivating attitudes appropriate for serving and leading in a global society by respecting other worldviews.