“[W]hat do you do with a Religious Studies degree? You get a Master’s. What do you do with a Religious Studies Master’s? You get a PhD? What do you do with a Religious Studies PhD? You work in Starbucks”
(The Religious Project, 2012).
[DIDOWARDAH] The excerpt abovemay soundabsurd, yet that is the joke I heard ona podcast thatI grabbed on theportal of The ReligiousStudiesProject.AninformalroundtablediscussioninvolvingDavidRobertson, ChrisCotter, EthanQuillen, JonathanTuckett, KevinWhitesidesandLiamSutherlandconversed thetheme ofthe contentious debatetoday i.e. “what is the futureof religiousstudies?“They are themaster anddoctoralcandidateswho tried toproblematize the religious studies, thepublic perception of the religiousstudies,as well as the future of the scholars in religiousstudies. Though, it is acollectiverantabout thecognitivestudyof religioncoming out a hilarious,at the same time,satirical joke as Inoted, I observed the podcastisto givea clear pictureabout the future ofreligiousstudies which remain to be an endlesspuzzle. Therefore, before considering on the future of the religious studies, we mustfirstresponsewhat exactlyreligiousstudy is.Doesitresemble aslearningtheology? Shouldreligious studiesmultidisciplinarybe? Then, what is thepublic benefitof the study religion? Fromsome of those questionswe mayconcludeabout thefuture of thereligious studiesthemselves.For moredetails, thefollowingpassagesmayrevealthequestionsgiven.
Indeed, since theWTCtragedyafter9/11a number of people areinterestedin thestudy of IslamasexpressedbyGeorgeChryssidesthat “[r]eligiousstudiesparticularlyin thefieldofIslamtookoff after9/11” (The Religious Project, 21/3/2012).Hence,religiousstudyalso becomes a concernof many parties, especially ofAmerican andEuropeanscholars. Subsequently, some campusesintheUnited Statesopenedthedepartmentof ReligiousStudies, because this major presents very important subjects which is one of them is to explain this tragedy. Then, exactly,what is religiousstudy? Does itjuststudy theouter shellof the discourse ofcertain religions? Or, instead, is it learning aboutreligiousdoctrine anddogma?In this case Iadvocated whatNinianSmart affirmed thatthere should bea revolutionin the study ofreligiousstudies.As said byNinianthat “religious studytakesreligionasanaspectoflifeandtriestounderstandhistoricallyandCulturallybyapplyingtheinsightsofvariousdisciplines -such aspsychology, anthropology, sociologyandlinguistics”(Smart, 1983, p. 3;Hyman,2004,p. 198).
Definitely,renewal inreligiousstudiesis quite significantbecause itwill determine the futureofreligiousstudiesitself andits graduates. Since, manylay peoplemisinterpretreligiousstudyas the similar study to thetheology. This is what shouldbe clarified. Stillaccording toNinian, religiousstudymustapplythe“multidisciplinary approaches” (Smart, 1983, p. 3;Hyman, 2004, p. 198). In the study ofreligionby using the sociological approach, for instance, toJamesCox“[a] scholarof religioncan understandthemannerwherebytraditionsarepassedon, howsocietiesfunctionandoperate, the wholequestionof Westernvs. Non-Western, issuestodowithsecularizationandthedevelopmentortheindividualizationof religionin thecontemporaryworld” (The Religious Project,3/19/2012). It is clear to saythatifwe canexaminereligiousstudies well, it willbeamulti-discipline of appliedsciencewhich absolutely has good prospectsto be developed.
Related tothefuture prospects,there seems to be obviousthatreligiousstudy -cited on CusakCarol’sopinion- [i]s bothbright andbleak(The Religious Project, 3/19/2012). Beingbleak because few peoplewho are willing tobe religiousscholars. In this case, Istarted to remember a lectureconveyed byDrs. MundhirThohir, M.Ag., in adiscussionof“TheWorkshop onDevelopmentoftheComparativeReligious Studies” took place in STAIN Kediri in which he expressed concernat theclosure ofdepartmentsof Comparative Religionin some areas (02/02/2013). How could this happen? Lack of clarity onthe fate ofthe graduates ofreligiousstudyon the future becomes one of the main considerations. Hence, most peoplewhogo throughcollege educationchoose the majorsthat sell, meaning no troublefinding a jobafter graduation. Atthis point, themajorsareconsidered“bona fide” majorssuch asEconomics, Islamic Banking, Tarbiyahand Education, Health Sciences and Medicine. Meanwhile, themajorsdirectly related to the religion becomealack ofinterest.
Nonetheless, isthe assumptionof those who saidthat the future ofreligiousstudiesscholarbleakright? It seems that Ihave toassertthatthe assumption is wrong. Inthis case, the future ofreligiousstudiesis exactly quitebright. When welearn religiousstudy by usingmultidisciplinary approaches, there must be a lot ofsciencethat we canabsorb. We becomemore criticaltoget used tothe dynamicsand learninginreligiousstudies.Areligious scholar, indeed, isnot onlyproficient inthe field ofa particular religion, butalsosocial issues, psychology, economicsand other issues. Undeniably,it will forgethem to be in accustomed in engaging many issues. And thismakesthe future of a religious scholarbright by maximizing the uniquenessof the religiousstudies.
Therefore, I agree withwhatGrahamHarveysaidthat“[t]hereis somevery excitingdaysaheadinstudyingreligiousstudies” (The Religious Project, 3/19/2012). Manygraduatesofreligiousstudieswork as ajournalist, researcher,NGOs, preachers, teachers, lecturers, and evennationalpoliticians. Some of them are KomaruddinHidayat whose job is the rector of UIN Syarif Hidayatulloh Jakarta, and AdeKomaruddin, theMember ofthe House of Representatives(DPR) of GolkarParty. And they are just afew of the manyalumni ofreligiousstudybeingpublic figures.
Overall, the debate about the future ofreligiousstudyshould no longerbea puzzleforalwaysbeing re-asked. Duetotherenewal ofthe assessmentandapproach,it is obvious thatreligiousstudyhasgood prospectsto come. And the mostimportant thing to understandis that the religious study does not resemble withthestudy oftheology, asNinianSmartstated that, “theologians are themselves part of the “data” that scholars of religion seek to understand”(Hyman, 2004,p. 198). If onlywe were stillgoing nowhereby regarding thereligiousstudyspiking on thetexts andone absoluteapproach, thus, wecouldsimplystatethat “religious studiescanneverachieveanything morethangatheringandorganizingthe informationavailable”(Dougherty, 1981, p. 308). Hence, thefate of the future isin ourhandsasthescholarsofreligiousstudies.
Dougherty,D. L. (Sep., 1981). Is Religious Studies Possible? Religious Studies, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 295-309.Published by: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20005753 . Accessed: 18/02/2013 22:41
Hyman, G. (2004). The Study of Religion and the Return of Theology. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Vol. 72, No. 1, pp. 195-219.