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Religious studies faculty Jim Thrall leads a discussion on world religions in the Round Room of Ford Center for the Fine Arts.

Religious Studies

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James Thrall

Knight Distinguished Associate Professor for the Study of Religion & Culture

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts


How We Work

  1. We believe that everyone plays a role. That's why our students are so diverse: atheists, agnostics, and followers of all faiths work side-by-side to situate the religious traditions of the world. We know that spiritual beliefs and sensibilities inform the aspirations and motivations of people in every society. By seeking to understand these realities in a scholarly manner, our students develop a better understanding of their world. 
  2. Our campus life informs our studies. Students from all over the world practice their traditions and faiths through a host of organizations and the Office of Spiritual Life. With so many first-hand teachers in our own community, Knox students are embedded in a sea of cultural and spiritual information. Lectures and discussions seamlessly meld into the forums and celebrations that students hold all around campus, keeping the dialogue going long after the class ends. 
  3. We nurture curiosity and collaboration. Becoming a liberal arts student means learning to see through multiple lenses. That's why our faculty aren't afraid to get creative: Professor of Biology Judith Thorn's course on Life examines teachings of Western traditions around life events such as birth, death, and marriage, and compares them with our evolving scientific understanding. Religious studies students hone their ability to analyze social and historical contexts, and many carry this into their graduate studies in a variety of disciplines. 
  4. We strive to learn at the highest level. Our professors are always encouraging our students to challenge themselves and to learn to be uncomfortable. That's why Intro to Religious Studies involves a field report on a worshipping congregation: students are taught to apply a critical sociological lens to their first-hand experiences. But it doesn't stop there—research projects go on to conferences such as the annual MAAR conference, where students like Melissa Smith '18 and Anya Wang ‘17 have presented their own original papers. 
  5. Our grads find success. Jacob Scholl ‘09 is pursuing a Master of History at Colorado State University. Robert Kurtz ‘05 is involved with Student Ministry at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Michael Owens ‘74 is an Emergency Room Physician at Mercy Hospital.


Religious Studies Alumni Working in Related Field

Given the importance of religion to understanding the modern world we live in, taking courses or pursuing a minor in religious studies can be an excellent complement for any major. Students completing a minor will learn to:

  • Analyze the role of religion in human societies of both ancient and modern worlds,
  • Trace the historical development of religious traditions, texts, practices, and beliefs,
  • Engage respectfully and critically with the religious backgrounds and assumptions of others as well as their own, and
  • Apply key terms and concepts common to the academic study of religion.

The Program

Requirements for the minor in religious studies include five credits in courses ranging from an Introduction to Religious Studies course to advanced work in the field, as well as three electives chosen from a wide variety of courses.


Seymour Library and Special Collections & Archives offer a wide range of resources for students in religious studies. The program is also supported by the Nixon Fund for Religious Life, which funds speakers; the Glossberg Visiting Israeli Scholar Program, which funds one scholar each year to teach a course in Jewish Studies; and the Barash and Rudman Funds for Judaic Studies, which support both student and faculty research.

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Printed on Saturday, January 22, 2022