Religion has shaped much in the way of world history on every continent, from the beginning of recorded time. It impacts the public and private lives of people around the world every day. The Center on Religion & the Professions focuses on improving religious literacy among professionals to help them serve an increasingly diverse public.
Religion has broad impacts on fields as diverse as agriculture, architecture, engineering, biology, business, media, community building, technology, economics, education, health, law, social work and public policy, as well as many academic disciplines.
• Religion Studies
Cultural impact: Religion is no longer the study of theology, but rather much larger in scope. This is not a new idea, because those interested in religion are responsible for many of the scientific advances in fields such as astronomy, philosophy, literature and other fields. On the other hand, mass media and academia are beginning to understand the notion that religion is not a stand-alone topic. Research in partnership with the Center can further that discussion, giving mass media and academic professionals access to original work that shows the role religion has played and continues to play in everyday life and global affairs.
Religion in the professions: There is growing demand for religious literacy among many professions. Understanding of historical and current religious beliefs and trends makes people from many walks of life better able to serve their clients, care for their patients or support their communities. There are growing opportunities in the fields of religion journalism and religion studies as more people seek greater depth of understanding of past and current issues.
There are also opportunities, both in religious and secular fields, for those who study religion or plan on going into a religious field. Their knowledge and experience will inform them as well as others in many avenues of personal and professional life.
Interdisciplinary work: The Center offers chances to link religious inquiry with those in other departments. Religion research can be combined with other disciplines to produce innovative research into how religion interacts with public life.
The Center’s affiliation with the School of Journalism gives researchers unique opportunities for study. Much of the work being done in journalism research utilizes MU’s PRIME lab to conduct research into how people cognitively and emotionally process media. The Center can help partner researchers to do unique studies to answer religious studies questions.
The Center’s partnership with the School of Journalism can also help link researchers to ways in which journalists can be better trained in religion, better perform their jobs, and increase public understanding of complex issues. The Center on Religion & the Professions is working on projects to improve the religious literacy of reporters by strengthening journalistic coverage of religion in the United States, as well as planning significant research about how the public views religion news coverage.
Religious Literacy: The Center believes that as America grows more religiously diverse, professionals need to better understand the religious traditions and beliefs of the public they serve.
To that end, the Center helps improve religious literacy of professionals by supporting groundbreaking research on how religion affects people and encouraging its use by the appropriate professionals. It provides resources and training programs to improve religious literacy, as well as the development and testing of curriculum to help achieve these aims. The Center presents public forums and discussions to improve professionals’ and the public’s understanding of religion.
The goal is to help educate people in workplaces and other public places of interaction to help them begin to understand better the people with whom they interact on a daily basis. Understanding the faiths that motivate and affect people is necessary for all citizens in a democracy that prizes its freedom of religion.
Professionals generally serve the public, require specialized knowledge and training, have ethical codes and often require some type of licensing. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, teachers, journalists, psychologists, clergy, social workers, veterinarians and other professionals share most of these qualities. But the Center defines professionals broadly and aims to teach about a variety of religions and traditions.
Current issues: Much of what occurs in the world today needs religious and historical background for better understanding. Conflicts in the Middle East and other parts of the world are based on factors that often have religious ties. Researchers can study the impact of religious knowledge on people’s perceptions of current events, or more deeply research past events to provide broader insight in the present day.
Researchers could track the influence of religion on historical development over time and map an arc for present religious influence on the future. They may study whether and to what degree religious beliefs impact choice of career or how that career is practiced; or the impact religious knowledge has on workplace satisfaction, communication and prosperity. They may be interested in interdisciplinary study in specific fields that are informed by religion.