Why Study Religion? with PhD Student Elise Robbins

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 Elise Robbins, PhD Student in the Department of English, think it’s important to study religion? Watch the video below to find out!

Transcript: “So in my Masters, I had a professor tell me, when I expressed that I was interested in studying religious literature, he told me, ‘OK, well you better be ready for people to argue with you.’

And I think that’s why, for me, the study of religion is so important. It’s because it is so high stakes for so many people, and people have feelings about it. I have feelings about it!

So, my main area of interest is the intersection of English literature and Christian religions in the Renaissance, which is an incredibly formative time for our modern culture. I mean, our country probably wouldn’t exist without the Protestant Reformation and what came out of that.

And, so if I had to sum up in one word why I think it’s so important to study religion, it would be the idea of “inheritance.” This idea that our past is not really our past. It informs our present and will continue to inform our future. And we can just let it take us on that ride, or we can be more critically aware abut how we shape the future coming out of the past.

So, I’m really interested in creating these connections between past individuals and religious communities to help us better understand ourselves and our very religiously steeped culture. For me, I’m particularly speaking about the Protestant-majority United States, which is my world, which has been incredibly shaped by our religious past. I think being able to understand that makes me and makes others critically aware citizens of this religiously informed community, whether we’re practitioners of religion or not. And for me personally, it helps make me a more critically aware reader of religious texts and practitioner of religion myself.

I think being able to intervene critically and see these traditions as not things that have to be the way they are but that can be changed—that originated in a specific moment in time and therefore can be different than they are—helps us to hold some things a little more loosely. And that can help us assess and evaluate these past inheritance and decide what beautiful parts of those inheritances we can hold onto and what harmful aspects of those inheritances we can—to borrow a biblical metaphor—prune in order to grow towards a more just and loving society.”

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