Dialogue Ireland welcomes Study of Religions at UCC

We have come along way since the formation of the Queen’s Colleges in the C19 which excluded denominational religious education of any kind. Cardinal Newman had written his Book on the Idea of a University which viewed Theology as the queen of the Sciences. Here we have the study of religion which Dialogue Ireland welcomes and has campaigned for, for years. It is unfortunate that our history has precluded the study of World Religions, comparative religion and religious studies which other European states have had since the C18. We have faculties of denominational Theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth,  Trinity College Dublin, Union College, Belfast, Moira, Co Down and Judaism Studies TCD.

This what I wrote at the end of my thesis in 2006:




Due to the general religious and cultural conditions pertaining at the time of Irish independence, and the homogenous Catholic nature of Irish society until recently, the conditions for the study of world religions pertaining in more pluralist democracies did not exist. Not surprisingly, this paucity of academic reflection appears to have influenced the political class who do not see the relevance of this issue for policies in regard to education, justice, and children’s rights. Lessons also need to be learnt in regard to the cultist, fundamentalist and spiritual abuse of children. There is an urgent need for the Church and child advocacy organisations to attend to their responsibilities in such contexts in a transparent and accountable fashion. Dealing with cultist and fundamentalist abuse is one step in a wider prophetic task of identifying dangerous mentalities and their impacts on the lives of people and on the Church as such.[1]

These and related questions are politically as well as religiously pertinent and require political as well as religious responses. For example, six years ago Dialogue Ireland attempted to draw the Taoiseach’s attention to the fact that Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that have not had a parliamentary report on the presence of NRMs in the country. Nor has Ireland responded to the Council of Europe’s call to member countries to respond to the challenge posed by NRMs and set up observatory groups or research centres.[2] Some form of NRM research and education which is consistent with our Constitution is needed. This present study of the MMM further highlights this gap.

The recent arrival of cultist Islamists as well as the growing presence of other Christian and non-Christian cultist NRMs in our midst underlines this point.  Some form of State response to such new movements in Ireland seems required. For example, what sort of approach is being taken to support moderate Islam and work for integration into Irish society? The role of the world religions is increasing in importance in Ireland, and yet there is as yet no chair funded for such studies in this country. Milltown represents an obvious venue for such a chair and its related functions. Some of these issues, especially those to do with extremist groups, are also of particular relevance to the security of the State.[3] An early response to cultist NRMs by the Churches and civil society is urgent. In the meantime, the lack of an informed response means that many people are being affected, and may well represent collusion with and empowerment of such groups.

[1] See for example J. Berry and G. Renner, Vows of Silence (New York, Free Press, 2004).

[2] http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/AdoptedText/ta99/erec1412.htm#1 (accessed May 25, 2006). Report on  the Cultist NRM situation in Europe with one of the notable exceptions being Ireland by H de Cordes, President of CIAOSN Belgium, Cultic/Sectarian Deviations in Europe : Policies that Differ unpublished paper in private email communication (September 7, 2005).

[3]Dialogue Ireland submission to the Minister of Justice December 2005.









College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
Study of Religions
What is the Study of Religions?

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the Study of Religions. Feel free to mail your questions to Prof. Brian Bocking b.bocking[at]ucc.ie so that this page can be improved.

Why study Religions?

A short answer is that many religions worldwide are, for good or ill, powerful forces in today’s global society. As with politics, society, economics, literature, music and art, we need a reliable understanding of religions – in all their various manifestations – in order to make sense of our changing world and prepare for a future career.

… For more on this topic click here

Study of Religions and Theology: What’s the difference?

Broadly speaking, theology is concerned with the intellectual development of a particular faith; in Europe this has traditionally meant Christianity.

Study of Religions, as an academic discipline, takes the view that ‘religion’ is far bigger than any one tradition. Study of Religions actively encourages the serious study of a variety of religious traditions, including e.g. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc..

The Study of Religions approach is ‘multi-aspectual’. All aspects of religion including beliefs, practices, myths, social organisation, gender roles, etc. are given serious attention.

In a Study of Religions department you can expect to find the following distinctive features:

  • A variety of religions studied to some depth; none having priority
  • Staff with in-depth knowledge of a range of very different religious traditions

  • A diverse student body attracted to the academic study of religions, regardless of personal religious views (if any).
  • Open-ended academic exploration not restricted by historic connections with particular religious traditions.
  • No presumption that religion is a good (or bad) thing, only that it is worth studying.
  • Students who are interested in knowing more about religions, not studying for a career in religion.

What is involved in the Study of Religions at UCC?

In the first year students are introduced to the teachings and practices of a range of religions and to major theories, methods and concepts encountered in the study of religions. Key issues such as the ‘truth’ of religions, and whether the ‘insider’ or the ‘outsider’ can best understand religion are addressed. Students who progress to years 2 and 3 can study selected religions (such as Buddhism or Islam) in depth, and take modules such as ‘religion and globalisation’, ‘sacred texts and their interpretations’ and ‘religion and politics’, with case studies drawn from a range of religions. The year 3 Independent Study Project gives students the opportunity to research in depth a topic of their own choosing.

Is the Study of Religions a subject within an Arts Degree?

Yes. It may be taken as one of your four subject choices in First Year. In Second and Third Years you choose two subjects. You may study these in equal proportions (‘Joint Honours’) or as major and minor subjects. Study of Religions is currently (2008) available as a major, joint or minor subject in UCC.

What other subjects can be taken with Study of Religions at UCC?

It is normally possible to take Study of Religions with any of the following: Applied Mathematics, Archaeology, Celtic Civilisation, Chinese Studies, Folklore, Irish/Gaeilge, German, Greek and Roman Civilisatison, History of Art, History, Hispanic Studies, Italian, Latin, Mathematics, Mathematical Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology, Studies in Music, Studies in Psychology.

Is the Study of Religions an interesting subject to study?

It certainly is! Most students find themselves intrigued by the ideas, practices and images they encounter and find that through the study of religions they have a chance to think differently about themselves and about the world. Study of Religions is a truly cross-cultural subject, so it constantly challenges our ‘common sense’ notions about the nature of human beings, the universe, society – and of course, the nature of religion. Different religions offer radically diverse views on the meaning and purpose of human existence, so Study of Religions reaches the parts that other subjects do not…

What are the job opportunities for me with a degree including Study of Religions?

Religions exist because people are religious, and people have very different religious backgrounds and expectations.  To understand more of what it means to be Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh or indeed Atheist or Humanist, etc., is to understand more about people.  As societies in Ireland and across the world become  simultaneously more culturally diverse and more closely interlinked, understanding different religious beliefs and practices becomes increasingly important for teachers,

civil servants, NGO/development workers and other professionals, for those in the media, in business and in commerce, in health care and in human resources, to name just a few examples.  In fact the study of religions helps prepare you for any career which involves dealing with people (and all of them do!). In addition to helping you develop many of the valuable transferable skills found in Arts/Social Sciences subjects, Religions and Global Diversity will give you insights into religion and culture which you will be able to draw upon in the workplace and when seeking employment, no matter what career path you may choose.

Feel free to mail your questions to Prof. Brian Bocking b.bocking[at]ucc.ieso that this FAQ page can be improved.

Contact: Professor. Brian Bocking, Study of Religions Dept., College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, University College Cork (UCC), Cork, Ireland.   Email: b.bocking[at]ucc.ie


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