OSU faculty revive religious studies program

Since 1995, OSU has been without a complete interdisciplinary religious studies program.

This year, that is dramatically changing. The religious studies program, after 24 years, is experiencing a bold rebirth.

Program director Lawrence Pasternack, Matthew Pereira and Jin Young Kim are the key people reviving this program to meet student interests. It hasn't been easy.

"I've been racing to create everything needed," Pasternack said. "Basically starting from scratch because there was nothing."

Since the start of the semester, the team has been working hard to transform what once consisted of only a few courses into a full program. Their hard work has brought forth two lecture opportunities and the birth of a new student group, Religious Studies Student Organization.

All three promise that there will be more chances to get involved in the upcoming weeks. Notably, OSU alumnus Charles Kimball will give a lecture Nov. 5 about combating the lies created about Islam.

From an outsider's perspective, it might be difficult to see the relevance in studying religion. Why is it necessary, and how could it possibly benefit a career? All three explained the answers to those questions.

"I've had lots of students in the past who have had religious studies minors or majors who go on to medical school, who go on to law school," Pereira said. "And so I think we need to relieve ourselves from thinking about it as this cloistered little thing when in fact religious studies is pervasive throughout life."

Pereira went on to explain that religion, whether it's carefully practiced or there is a lack of it, is a part of every human's identity.

"People are religious," Pereira said. "If you want to understand people, it's beneficial to do a religious studies minor."

Pasternack explained the way religious studies allows one to gain a well-rounded worldview.

"Learning about other religions gives you a way outside of your own circle," Pasternack said. "Realizing that other people have very different worldviews and discovering that and learning how to mediate between your worldview and another person's worldview is important for maturation."

Kim elaborated on her past and how she discovered the world of religious studies. She explained how experiencing a diversity of religious cultures throughout her life brought her to a question she seeks to answer academically and encourages her students to ponder as well.

"Why do I see this vastly different opinion about reality (from religious culture to religious culture)?" Kim said. "Either God exists, or he doesn't exist. Either God communicates, or he doesn't communicate."

Kim explained the difficulty of confronting contrasting religions without the academic knowledge and understanding of different beliefs.

"(Religion is) something that we don't get to explore thoroughly because of the assumption that 'you are wrong and I am right,'" Kim said. "It is really important to understand what that religion provides, and how can we really make meaningful conversations between two people with different religious ideas?"

The Religious Studies Student Organization's first meeting is 5 p.m. Oct. 9 in the South Murray Hall Parlor, room 130. Pereira said there will be a taco bar in store for those who attend the meeting.

The rebirth of the religious studies program at OSU offers opportunity for all who want to be involved.

"We are looking forward to growing," Pasternack said. "There is so much student interest, and we're doing our best to meet the interest."