Department of Religious Studies

What is Religious Studies

In today's world and in current events, religions are playing prominent and often confusing roles. Both in Canada and internationally, Religious Studies departments provide students the opportunity to increase their understanding of their world through examining the place of religious traditions, religious experience and points of view in the context of today's cultural diversity. Being religious may or may not involve membership in a particular church, temple, synagogue or mosque. Religious expression and activities pervade our world—from the Internet and the movies to politics and international relations.

Religious Studies is a multidisciplinary field of study. Within the field, students study how religions and spiritualities exist in, and relate to, contemporary cultures both in Canada and around the world. At Saint Mary's University the department has chosen to focus its curriculum and research on the study of religions and culture. The department has specialists on comparative ethics, the anthropological study of religions, religion and culture, comparative religion and the Christian Religious Tradition.

In addition, the department cross-lists courses from Anthropology, Classics, English, and Psychology. Religious Studies courses are cross-listed in International Development Studies, Asian Studies, Women's Studies, Environmental Science, and Film Studies.

Through the comparative study of religions, students learn about religious traditions from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East or new religious movements and civil religions. The department regularly offers courses on the religious traditions of the world such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the religious traditions of China, Japan and South-East Asia. Majors and honors students in religious studies are given the opportunity to participate in field studies among the diverse religious communities in Halifax Regional Municipality and beyond. 

Courses on religions and culture look at themes and debates which enliven the diverse connections between religious traditions and their cultural settings.

Here are some examples of topics pursued at Saint Mary's:

  • Religious experience in contemporary media or on the Internet
  • The diversity of religious voices in the debates on religion and ecology and other social and issues such as sexuality, marriage, racism and poverty
  • The relation of gender and religion, science and religion, and religion and international development
  • Religious perspectives on love, death, and suffering
  • Canadian religious diversity
  • Indigenous religions and questions of justice
  • Religion and international conflict


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Installation of the statue of the birth of the Buddha 
Tam Bao Son Monastery Harrington, Quebec