Why Study Religion? with PhD Student Savannah Finver

Why Study Religion? is a video series in which the CSR asks its faculty, students, staff, and guests what is important to them about the academic study of religion and why more folks should consider pursuing it. Find out more about the Center and its initiatives HERE. To learn more about OSU’s Religious Studies Major, visit our website at THIS LINK.

Why does Savannah Finver, PhD Student in the Department of Comparative Studies, think it’s important to study religion? Watch the video below to find out!

Transcript: “Why study religion? And why is it important to study religion? That is such a great question, and there are so many different ways that we could potentially answer it. Thinking about my context and what I study—I study the intersection of religion and law in the United States—I think that particularly in this country, there is a strong myth that there is a strict separation between church and state. But one of the things I’ve learned over the course of my study is that actually that wall of separation metaphor comes out of a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association and actually doesn’t appear anywhere in the legal structure of the United States. So, what that leads to is quite a number of complications in determining what actually is the role of religion, especially when so much of the population sees religion—at least in the United States but also in other neoliberal, democratic nations—as this segmented off sphere of life that doesn’t really impact other spheres, such as politics or law—you know, “Religion is something you do on Sundays, it’s not something you bring to work with you.” Of course, as we can see, especially recently with the legal battles playing out in the Supreme Court, that’s not the case. Religion plays such a fundamental part in our lives. It informs for many of us in the United States a core part of our identity. And that, in turn, impacts how we vote. It impacts how we think about the major issues in our lives. It impacts our stances on key political questions and stuff like that. So, for me, the study of religion has allowed me to really think critically about the question of why do people do what they do? Why do they think what they think? Especially in our current moment being as divisive as it has been.

Also, religious studies is such a fundamentally interdisciplinary study that the answers that I’ve gotten when asking these questions about what people do and why they do it have been more rounded than, say, if you were only to take a psychological lens or only to take a social science lens. I’m able to get a more complete picture of how social groups form, how power operates, and what really is the role of religion in forming who we are and what we do.”

Interested in sharing with us what brought you to the academic study of religion? Send us an email at religion@osu.edu!