Q&A with Dr. Alicia Batten: why study religion

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Welcome to our Q & A series with Religious Studies instructors, alumni, and students. Get to know our people, research, and courses!

Meet Dr. Alicia Batten, RS professor and undergraduate officer.

It is a privilege to have taught Religious Studies for over 20 years, and I love the questions and observations that students bring to class, as well as student energy! The pursuit of scholarship is also a pleasure. My primary research interests involve the study of the ancient Mediterranean context, including the social, cultural, and “religious” dimensions of that context. I remain fascinated by the question of why Christianity developed and grew to be such a dominant religion.

This week, we will answer questions about the relevance of studying religion.

Why did you study religion?Alicia Batten.

I loved my high school World Religions class because it exposed me to many new ideas and practices.  During my BA I took a couple of Religious Studies courses which explored questions that I didn’t know one could ask. I continue to enjoy the study of religion because I like asking questions even if often there are no clear answers. I am also very interested in thinking about how ideas and perspectives from the past, especially from antiquity, compare to contemporary perspectives.


Why study religion? How is it relevant today?

There are many reasons to study religion. For one, religious traditions have and continue to exert powerful influences on cultures, politics, and practices throughout the world. Religious traditions also engage some of the major questions that humanity continues to ask such as “what is meaningful?” “how should we relate to other people, to animals, and to the earth?” “is there significance to suffering?” etc.


Why should non-RS students (ex: math or environment majors) consider taking RS courses?

Religious Studies courses expose students to writers, ideas, and practices related to religious traditions and cultures that our broader culture does not engage very much, and if it does, not with particular depth. I think that our courses can enrich and challenge people, regardless of their major.

Tune in next week when we will answer questions about our undergraduate program!

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