Philosophy & Religious Studies

Why Study Religious Studies at Western Illinois University

Religious Studies students think carefully about one of the most important and influential aspects of humanity.

Various courses at WIU focus on questions such as:

  • What kind of religions are there?
  • How are various religions practiced?
  • What is Buddhism? How do religious beliefs affect the way Buddhists live?
  • What is Islam? Why is the Koran so important?
  • What is Hinduism? How is it practiced differently in different places?
  • What is Judaism? What do Jewish people believe?
  • What is Christianity? Why is the Bible important? What does it say?
  • How does religion affect how a person lives/what they value?
  • What role do women have in various religions?
  • What are some recent developments or movements in religion?
  • Is faith rational? Should it be? What arguments are there for the existence of God?
  • What do religions have to say about engaging in warfare?
  • How has religion affected our culture in the United States?
  • How do movies, shows, and literature reflect religious ideas?

Religious Studies students acquire the ability to:

  • reason critically
  • analyze multifaceted data and identify the most important information
  • read and understand challenging but important text
  • explain ideas clearly both verbally and in writing
  • understand and appreciate multiple responses to problems 
  • recognize and appreciate the importance religion has in multiple human activities

Religion plays a significant role in global affairs, political views, and cultural practices and a lack of understanding of religion has caused great human suffering.

Millions have been motivated by their religion to wage war or, in contrast, to provide extensive services and humanitarian relief.  Understanding the influences of religion is extremely important for understanding the world.  This has practical benefits.  Being able to understand how religion affects individuals, groups, and nations is a vital skill for many careers.  It is important for business owners and managers to understand their employees and customers.  Understanding religion allows health care workers to better care for their patients and families.  Having a thorough grasp of religion makes one a more effective journalist, politician or policy maker. In addition, Religious Studies graduates have good earnings potential. Most graduates will change their career five or six times, and a degree in religious studies provides adaptable skills for any career that requires research, thoughtful reflection and writing. The skills identified above are very desirable in the workforce, which is why the typical person with a degree in religious studies makes more than most people might think

Those who majored in religious studies nearly double their salary from their first job to mid-career (10-15 years later).

See the full list of WIU Majors here. You can start with a technical degree and make a better salary at first, but a major in religious studies will provide continued growth in earnings that will far outweigh the initial advantage of a technical field. (Source: - you may need to create an account to see the full list, but there is no charge to do so.)

Religious Studies students at WIU get personal attention from faculty 

Our doctoral holding faculty are readily available to help with assignments, prepare for exams, or have a conversation about course material.  At Western, all courses are taught by faculty with PhDs.  Religious studies majors are eligible for the Mary Olive Woods Scholarships, with up to $6,000 in annual support, and minors are also eligible for a Mary Olive Woods Scholarship.