Religion has played a major role, positively and negatively, in the formation of human culture around the globe.

Religion has played a major role, positively and negatively, in the formation of human culture around the globe.

The study of religion at Hampshire is interdisciplinary and interdenominational, allowing exploration of the ways religion has shaped our history, political life, social and cultural institutions, literature, arts, sciences, and even the languages we speak.

Students may focus on a specific religion or on co-evolution of multiple religions in a particular area of the world, may integrate spiritual perspectives into a study of healing, gender, or environmental sustainability, or may critically analyze a sacred text. Respectful of the complexity of their subjects, all bring to their work an awareness of the wider-world implications.

Student Project Titles

  • En'Raptured: A Study of Rapture and the Premillennial Dispensationalist Movement
  • Encountering Devi: An Investigation of the Hindu Goddess Through Mythological and Political Contexts
  • Path of the Dharma Farmer: Seeking a Sustainable Spirituality
  • Lacan, the Buddha, and the Self: Finding Meaning in Religion and Therapy
  • Detour to Calvary Hill: Silk Screen Prints Inspired by Two Thousand Years of the Catholic Imagination
  • Young Evangelical Christians' Perspectives on Politics, Pluralism and Sex Issues: an Ethnographic Study of the University of Massachusetts Chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ

Sample First-Year Course

Exploring the Divine Feminine

The earliest evidence of religious imagination suggests that the source of all life, death, and rebirth, the power of creation, sustenance, destruction, and re-generation, was first understood as feminine. Goddess worship, arguably the original "religion" of the human species, has survived not only in memory but also in practice to the present day, despite the hostility or indifference of virtually every "world religion" of the past several millennia. This class will look closely at a number of prehistoric and ancient goddess traditions from Europe, the Near East, and South Asia, examining their ancient forms and their enduring legacies. More specifically, this class will begin in the painted caves of prehistoric France and end on the streets of contemporary Kolkota, home to the largest and most vital Mother Goddess festival in the modern world, the Festival of Ma Durga.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • American Religious Experience: Literary and Historical Perspectives
  • The American Transcendentalists
  • Asian Religious Texts and Traditions
  • Augustine
  • Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity in the U.S.
  • Buddhist Traditions
  • Culture, Religion, and Environmentalism
  • Daoism, Shamanism, and Shinto: Indigenous Religions of East Asia.
  • Decoding Zen Buddhism
  • The English Bible
  • Exploring the Divine Feminine
  • High Spirits: Reading and Writing about Spiritual Experience
  • Intro to the Buddhist Meditation Tradition
  • Intro to Tibetan Religion: The Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Mystics and Texts
  • Myth and Myth Theory
  • Myth, Belief, and Reality in World Literature
  • Nuns, Saints, and Mystics in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
  • Religion in Modern India
  • Religious Experience and Literary Form
  • The Rise of Secular Jewish Culture
  • Topics in Comparative Religion
  • Sacred to the Secular: The Performing Arts of Asia
  • Science in the Islamic World
  • Text, Canon, Tradition: Scriptures and Their Emergence in World Religions
  • Theories of Religion
  • Yoga Traditions: Philosophy, Practice and Narrative

Through the Consortium

  • Ancient Israel (AC)
  • Buddhist Philosophy (SC)
  • Intro to the Qu'ran (MHC)
  • Intro to Philosophy of Religion (MHC)
  • Mary Images and Cults (SC)
  • The Meaning of Life (SC)
  • Religious Movements in America (MHC)
  • Sacred Sound (AC)

Facilities and Resources

The Five College Buddhist Studies Certificate
The Five Colleges provide an excellent environment in which to study Buddhism, with one of the largest concentrations of scholars of Buddhist Studies in the United States. Collectively we enable students to study most of the major Buddhist traditions. The Five College Buddhist Studies Certificate might be pursued in conjunction with a major in philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, Asian studies, or another field to which Buddhist studies is directly relevant. It might also be used to support studies in a very different field, such as law, one of the social sciences, or studies in the arts or humanities. Students who enter this program will benefit from the structure it provides and from advising by program faculty, enabling them to take full advantage of the resources offered in the valley beyond their individual colleges.

Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program
Hampshire co-sponsors, with Smith College, the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program. Through this unique program, students have the opportunity to study Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan cultures and history during Smith's January Interterm at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India.The Institute is a research and teaching university established and jointly administered by the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Ministry of Education of India. In recognition of the importance of this thriving program, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited in May, 2007 to address the members of the Smith and Hampshire communities.

National Yiddish Book Center
Located on the Hampshire campus, the National Yiddish Book Center creates innovative programs to inspire readers and students who want to learn more about Jewish history and culture. The center's internship program has given dozens of students a valuable foundation for notable careers in the fields of Jewish studies and education. Yiddish Book Scholarships have supported undergraduates, graduates, readers and teachers in their ongoing study of Yiddish literature. The center also offers events and conferences for college students, focusing on Jewish literature and culture.