Image representing Religious Studies

Religious Studies - BA (Hons)

UCAS code V616

2018

Today, religious issues are everywhere – from current affairs and international events, to the history of ideas, art and literature. An understanding of religions and their influence can help you to make sense of life in the 21st century and give you new insight and perspective on the major issues of the day.

2018

Overview

The Department of Religious Studies is part of Kent’s School of European Culture and Languages. Staff in the department have a range of interests in the field, including expertise in Asian Studies, which means they can offer you an insight into world religions.

Our campus is in Canterbury, a well-known centre in world religion, and the University has strong links with the Cathedral library and archives.

Our degree programme

Religious Studies at Kent is a varied programme covering world religions and also other areas such as psychology and film.

In your first year you take one compulsory module, which asks ‘What is religion?’
You can choose options from introductory modules in Judaism and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity, or assess religion in contemporary society.

In your second and final years, you can choose to study particular world religions in more depth and can also take modules that look at areas such as religion and film or explore how different writers, from ancient times right up to the present day, have read the Bible as a temporal or political code.

At all stages of your degree it is possible to choose ‘wild’ modules from across the Faculty of Humanities. You can also apply to take a placement module, where you can gain teaching experience in a secondary school. The placement modules are subject to a selection process.

Year abroad/placement year

You can apply to spend a year abroad as part of your degree programme. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to discover a new culture and demonstrates to future employers that you have the enthusiasm to succeed in a new environment. It is possible to spend a year or a term abroad at one of our partner institutions. You don’t have to make a decision before you enrol at Kent but certain conditions apply. It is also possible to undertake a placement year in industry. 

See Kent’s Go Abroad pages for more details, or the Placement Year information from the Faculty of Humanities.

Independent rankings

For research quality, Religious Studies and Theology at Kent was ranked 6th in The Complete University Guide 2018 and 6th in The Times Good University Guide 2018.

Of Religious Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2016, 96% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).

Teaching Excellence Framework

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Course structure

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  

On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Modules may include Credits

This module will introduce students to discussions about the definition of religion and to some of the disciplines in which religion is studied, with special reference to the differences between Theology and Religious Studies. Particular consideration will be given in the initial weeks to the phenomenological approach and to the efficacy of Ninian Smart’s dimensions of religion. In the following weeks, the module will be focused on the comparative study of religion (with reference to Eliade), the sociology of religion (with reference to Durkheim, Weber and Marx) and the psychology of religion (with reference to Otto, James, Freud and Jung). The module will also host a study skills session to be run in conjunction with the Student Learning Advisory Service, the aim of which is to equip students with key study skills in the areas of writing essays, referencing and plagiarism-prevention.

Read more
30

The Bible is not a single book, but ta biblia, the library. At the most modest estimate, the literatures of the Bible span a period of over eight hundred years. If we think of the metaphor of a library, the books in the Bible would not just be shelved in the Religion/Theology section, but also, say, Philosophy, Politics and Cultural History/Myth. The influence of these books on ‘Western’ culture has been immense. This is a course for those seeking basic biblical ‘literacy’, which is profoundly useful for studies in other disciplines (e.g. History, or Literature), as well as for students in Religious Studies. It is a course for those who think they already know the Bible (this course will help you read the Bible in different ways, with new questions) and those who have never read a Bible at all. The course gives a basic overview of the story and contexts of the books of the Bible (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and New Testament) from Genesis to the Apocalypse of John, or from Eden to the End of the World.

This course provides a basic introduction to different sections of the biblical ‘library’, combining a general overview with in-depth study of selected passages and books.

NB: As with all Biblical Studies courses at the University of Kent, ‘Bible’ is defined in the broadest sense: the Christian and Jewish canons (73 or 66 books, though we won’t be studying all of them!) apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and also all the ancient and modern intertexts, poems, films and novels, that inform and draw on biblical traditions.

Read more
15

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the study of Christianity, through a consideration of key ideas, texts, symbols, stories, rituals, conflicts and continuities, across contemporary and historical contexts. The course will offer a broad overview of two thousand years of Christian history, and seek to address the question of how the cult surrounding an obscure spiritual teacher from first century Nazareth became the world's largest religion, currently estimated at over two billion adherents. It will address the early church, eastern and western traditions, the medieval church, the Reformation and the relations between Christianity and modernity, as well as focusing on contemporary forms of Christianity, and the rapid growth since the 1970s of churches in the global South. By examining key concepts and practices across a range of historical and contemporary settings, the course will explore how the meaning and significance of these have often been subject to violent contestation, both amongst Christians and in their encounters with other religions. It will therefore encourage students to appreciate how the ideas and convictions that are often used to defend or attack Christianity have themselves been shaped by this history.

Read more
15

This module provides an historical introduction to the philosophical, religious and cultural traditions of East Asia. It will provide a foundation for understanding the historical development, key concepts and important practices of the major worldviews of East Asia with specific reference to traditions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto and other animist traditions.

Read more
15

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, through a consideration of their key concepts, ideas, texts and practices (such as bhakti, moksha, yoga, dharma). The first half of the module will examine some of the most interesting features of the Vedic and post-Vedic tradition: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the polytheism of the Mahabharata. The second half will examine the contrasting philosophical positions of the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions using materials from the Pali canon and several Sanskrit Sutras. Particular attention will be given to the variety of interpretations of the Buddhist 'No-self' doctrine and concept of enlightenment as well as the meaning and function of the Buddha’s career.

Read more
15

This course investigates the beliefs and practices of Jews and Muslims in the world today. Topics in Judaism include the life and work of the Patriarchs, the concept of the 'chosen people', the Promised Land, the Torah, synagogue, Jewish festivals and the Jewish home. In the case of Islam, topics include the life and work of Muhammad, the Five Pillars, the Qur'an and Hadith, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, Sufism, the Shariah and the Islamic contribution to the arts and sciences.

Read more
15
You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Stage 2

Modules may include Credits

The purpose of this module is to survey some of the most significant 20th century trends in the dialogue between psychology and religion through the writings of depth-psychologists, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists and phenomenologists of religion. The module begins by exploring the varieties of religious experience, especially through the work of William James and Rudolf Otto, after which it examines the contributions of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology to the study of religion, particularly in the work of Freud, Jung and Hillman. This material provides the basis for subsequent discussion of the interdisciplinary literature comparing religious altered states of consciousness (mystical, visionary and paranormal experiences) with other altered states of consciousness (madness, drug induced experiences etc.). The module concludes by discussing the principle issues addressed by transpersonal psychology (particularly in the work of Wilber and Grof): the relationship between western psychotherapies and eastern religious disciplines of spiritual emancipation; competing models of spiritual transformation.

Read more
30

The aim of this module is to enable students to think sociologically about religious life. Whilst addressing key debates within the sociology of religion (e.g. secularization, subjectivization), it seeks to introduce students to core concepts and methods in sociology that will enable them to understand religious life in terms of broader social structures and processes. Examples of issues covered in the module include: the nature of sociology as a discipline, macro and micro levels of analysis, the agency/structure debate and the nature of social structure, individualization, and sociological perspectives on gender, class, emotion, materiality and belief. The significance of intersectionality between different social structures will also be discussed, and useful sources of secondary data (e.g. BRIN) will be explored. The central assessment task for the module – a case study presenting the sociological analysis of the nature and place of religion in a particular individual's life – brings these theoretical and methodological approaches together into a micro-level analysis of lived religion in a way that is informed by broader social and cultural structures. Examples of good writing in this style of sociological research are presented and explored through the module.

Read more
30

The primary aims of this module are to give you a critical grounding in Islamic sources, thinkers and theories relevant to the development of Islamic liberal and fundamentalist perspectives, and it also explores the ways in which these perspectives bear upon contemporary debates and events. It will equip you with the ability to situate current views within their historical and theological context, critically assess them, and constructively apply them to current phenomena. The module will introduce you to key Islamic debates such as those which address textual interpretation, the relation between revelation and human reason, and the nature of political authority. It will familiarise you with key sources such as the Qur'an, Hadith and treatises of key Islamic theologians and jurists, and it will introduce you to classical and modern theorists from Ibn Taymiyyah to Tariq Ramadan. A range of case studies will allow you to apply these sources and theories to contemporary situations. The module draws lessons for critical thinking about the way in which social context and religious premises affect both religious and political theories. These sources and skills will provide a basis for the analytical work that you undertake in your assessed work.

Read more
30

This module will enable students to analyze and understand the development of Christian theology over the last two hundred years. We will be critically evaluating the significance and contribution of a number of leading twentieth century theologians from a variety of denominational backgrounds and endeavouring to understand to a sophisticated degree the changes in Christian thought and practice in a variety of situations in the twentieth century. The module will begin by surveying the main strands of post-Enlightenment Christian theology, including the contributions of Kant, Schleiermacher and Feuerbach. There will be a detailed focus of two of the 'Death of God' theologians from the twentieth century, Thomas Altizer and William Hamilton. We will then critically evaluate the significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his influence (with particular reference to Harvey Cox and John A.T. Robinson); Liberal Protestantism and the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy, with particular reference to Paul Tillich and Karl Barth; Rudolf Bultmann and his programme of demythologization; and an interrogation of the Christian understanding of 'hope' with specific reference to Jürgen Moltmann. The module also involves a study of key theological movements, in particular Liberation Theology, Black Theology and Feminist Theology.

Read more
30

This module will be divided into two parts. First, it will familiarise students with how Continental philosophy has developed in response to methodological and historical questions. Second, it will then show how Continental philosophy applies to the philosophy of religion by discussing traditional religious problems—e.g., the existence of God, the problem of theodicy, the conception of the good life—and seeing how seminal Continental thinkers engage with these issues in diverse ways. The first part of the module will discuss critical, historical-based methodologies in: philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer and Ricoeur), phenomenology (Dupré and Marion) and geneaology (Foucault). The second part of the module will utilise contemporary scholarship consisting in contemporary philosophers applying the aforementioned methodological approaches to religious problems.

Read more
30

The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history and practice of the anthropology of religion through the past 150 years. Students will explore the ‘anthropology of religion’ to provide an historical and contemporary understanding of how anthropological studies of religion enrich knowledge of what it means to be religious. The course will examine and students will practise the anthropological method of rich participant observation and comparative analysis. Course content focuses on foundational and contemporary issues of religious definition, ritual, belief, embodiment, rationality and relationships in both Western and non-western contexts.

Read more
30

This module will explore the theme of ‘Biblical Codes’ from two angles:

1) How has the Bible been read as code?

2) How can we read/ ‘decode’ biblical mysteries (prophecy, apocalyptic, or ‘wisdom’)

Under heading 1) we will be exploring how different writers and groups (some of them inside the Bible, some of them outside it) have read the Bible as temporal or political code. For example, the biblical book of Daniel attempts to decode the book of Jeremiah, which had already become deeply mysterious to ancient readers. Similarly, the New Testament ‘deciphers’ biblical prophecy and motifs by applying them to Jesus or the Roman Empire. At the other end of the time spectrum, we find bestsellers like Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code (1997), Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye’s attempts to decrypt biblical visions of the end of time by way of contemporary global politics, or recent readings of the book of Ezekiel as prophecies about UFO’s. Techniques of decryption are also built into central developments within Jewish and Christian traditions. In fact, what is often called the history of ‘hermeneutics’ could also be described as the history of ‘How not to read literally’. We will be looking at a range of examples of such developments by focusing on readers like Philo of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, or Jewish Kabbalah.

Under heading 2, we will undertake some in-depth readings of prophecy, apocalyptic, or wisdom texts—the ones that readers of the Bible find most difficult to ‘decode’. Texts to be studied will be taken from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Pseudepigrapha. We will be exploring the contexts that produced these literatures and thinking about how to read (decipher?) them across the abyss of time.

Read more
30

Recent cultural and political theories have been haunted by the question of religion, its definitions and functions, its emancipatory capacities, its relation to violence, and its relationship to the history and future of the concept of the secular. The centrality of religion as a topic for these recent interdisciplinary discussions has emerged in relationship to a growing unease about earlier, modern modes of distinguishing public and private life; a ‘return’ of religion as an internationally significant political force in recent decades; and surprising appropriations of religion as a figure for secular Western democracy. Theorists (particularly in the area of postcolonial theory) are questioning naturalized or ahistorical distinctions between religion and the secular (e.g., Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, Saba Mahmood). Many contemporary thinkers attempt to short-circuit the distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’, making possible surprising paradoxes of a “materialist theology” (Slavoj Žižek), an “emptied” religiosity (Gianni Vattimo), or what Hent de Vries calls simply a “political theology”. Once we get down beneath the easily-rehearsed stereotypes, we find that the old religious archives (like the Bible) model competing forms of politics: from messianic anarchism to theocracy. In our political histories—and presents—these have been used (and now are being re-used) in surprising ways.

This course considers important moments in the Western history of political theology in order to understand modern and contemporary discussions of secular politics. These moments will be considered in relation to comparable instances of politically imagined theology (or theologically imagined politics) from other religious traditions as well. Students will:

- examine key topics in the modern formation of these discussions (e.g., distinctions between public and private; secular spheres; religion as extra-political ideal; fanaticism; politicized evaluations of Western religion as exceptional in relation to the ‘others’; religion and political revolution)

- map important similarities and differences between Western and non-Western modelling of the relationship between religion and politics

- critically evaluate recent presentations of the inherent violence of religions, the inevitability of the clash of civilizations, and the usefulness of religion in ‘making globalization work’

Read more
30

This course explores the central teachings, practices and sacred texts of Mahåyåna Buddhism and will focus upon the first 500 years of its history in India. It will examine the rise and development of Mahåyåna Buddhism in India through analysis of its key sacred literature and philosophical schools as well as its subsequent spread to East and North Asia.

Read more
30

This module explores the cultural specificity and diversity of Asian cultures, traditions, social and political systems and literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The topic of Asia will be approached on a thematic basis but with particular emphasis on an understanding of the historical and interpretive challenges to inter-cultural understanding between Asia and Europe/ the West.

Read more
30

This module will evaluate and critique a range of historical, philosophical, theological and secular perspectives on death and the afterlife, beginning with the way the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Qu’ran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Upanishads conceptualize the nature and destiny of humankind, including such concepts as sheol, moksha, purgatory, eternal life, heaven and hell. This will be followed by a discussion of the interplay in western theological and philosophical traditions between competing notions of the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the body as well as an evaluation of what various Christian thinkers, including Augustine and Origen, believed that an eternity in heaven or hell might be like. The module will then investigate the range of eschatological teachings that different traditions have offered, including in Christian thought the diversity of realized and future forms of eschatology, as well as the tenability of purported testimony surrounding the possibility of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and mind-dependent worlds, and the way in which such endeavours have been sustained or critiqued in the light of scientific and historical advances. The module will conclude with a detailed study of the way in which filmmakers and novelists have approached eschatological and apocalyptic teachings and reconceptualised them, with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt’s work on the desacralization of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990s Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

Read more
30

This module will examine the theme 'Global Christianities' through the lenses of the anthropology of Christianity and the sociology of religion. We will explore the ways in which we can see Christianity as a cultural product, and how Christianity has shaped different cultures and societies globally, as well as how the religion has been shaped by and through encounters in different local settings. We will look at the history of the globalization of Christianity, and consider the historical, political and economic effects of local missionary encounters. The course will examine the processes of conversion to Christianity in different contexts, both at the level of individual and broader social group, and how these have been understood in relation to concepts of ‘modernity’.

The course will draw attention to the relatively recent emergence of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to the broader disciplines of anthropology as a discrete area of study and how this relates to the study of Christianity as a global phenomenon within sociology. We will consider the ways in which these disciplines have constructed and objectified ‘religion’ as an object of study in ways that has historically occluded the social scientific study of Christianity in different global contexts.

The course will address some of the main debates in the anthropology of Christianity, deepening understanding of global Christianities through exploring studies of Christian cultures in diverse ethnographic contexts. The topics addressed will include: culture and conversion; globalization and localisation; interrelations between Christianity, subjectivity and language; embodied and emotional forms of different Christianities; concepts and experiences of God; mediation, immanence and transcendence; coherence and fragmentation; gender, sexuality and the family. Through engaging with readings on these areas, we will explore the socio-religious power-dynamics of Christianity in relation to both culturally dominant and marginal traditions.

Read more
30

This module will examine the main doctrines and practices of early Indian Buddhism as seen through the Theravada Buddhist literature of the Pali canon (in translation). The module will examine what we might know about the figure of the historical Buddha and the central concepts and doctrinal themes in his teachings as represented in these materials, with particular attention paid to their historical and social context and the philosophical, soteriological, ethical and socio-political ideas expressed within early Buddhist literature in the period 500 BCE to 500 CE. The module will also consider the rise of "Theravada" and modern developments within this tradition of Buddhism.

Read more
30
You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Year in industry

You have the opportunity to undertake a placement year, either at home or abroad, between the second and final year of your degree and to receive credits and a dedicated award for this achievement.

The placement year enables you to gain work experience in a professional environment, and to develop employment-related skills and qualities such as independent thought, personal responsibility and decision-making.

The placement can be either paid work or an internship. Tuition fees for the placement year are greatly reduced, and employers may offer expenses or a salary. The year is assessed on a pass/fail basis through employer feedback and a written report that you submit.

Year abroad

Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally.  You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.

You can apply to add a Year Abroad to your degree programme from your arrival at Kent until the autumn term of your second year.  The Year Abroad takes place between Stages 2 and 3 at one of our partner universities.  Places and destination are subject to availability, language and degree programme.  For a full list, please see Go Abroad.

You are expected to adhere to any academic progression requirements in Stages 1 and 2 to proceed to the Year Abroad.  The Year Abroad is assessed on a pass/fail basis and will not count towards your final degree classification.

Stage 3

Modules may include Credits

This module will examine the main doctrines and practices of early Indian Buddhism as seen through the Theravada Buddhist literature of the Pali canon (in translation). The module will examine what we might know about the figure of the historical Buddha and the central concepts and doctrinal themes in his teachings as represented in these materials, with particular attention paid to their historical and social context and the philosophical, soteriological, ethical and socio-political ideas expressed within early Buddhist literature in the period 500 BCE to 500 CE. The module will also consider the rise of "Theravada" and modern developments within this tradition of Buddhism.

Read more
30

This module will examine the theme 'Global Christianities' through the lenses of the anthropology of Christianity and the sociology of religion. We will explore the ways in which we can see Christianity as a cultural product, and how Christianity has shaped different cultures and societies globally, as well as how the religion has been shaped by and through encounters in different local settings. We will look at the history of the globalization of Christianity, and consider the historical, political and economic effects of local missionary encounters. The course will examine the processes of conversion to Christianity in different contexts, both at the level of individual and broader social group, and how these have been understood in relation to concepts of ‘modernity’.

The course will draw attention to the relatively recent emergence of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to the broader disciplines of anthropology as a discrete area of study and how this relates to the study of Christianity as a global phenomenon within sociology. We will consider the ways in which these disciplines have constructed and objectified ‘religion’ as an object of study in ways that has historically occluded the social scientific study of Christianity in different global contexts.

The course will address some of the main debates in the anthropology of Christianity, deepening understanding of global Christianities through exploring studies of Christian cultures in diverse ethnographic contexts. The topics addressed will include: culture and conversion; globalization and localisation; interrelations between Christianity, subjectivity and language; embodied and emotional forms of different Christianities; concepts and experiences of God; mediation, immanence and transcendence; coherence and fragmentation; gender, sexuality and the family. Through engaging with readings on these areas, we will explore the socio-religious power-dynamics of Christianity in relation to both culturally dominant and marginal traditions.

Read more
30

This module will evaluate and critique a range of historical, philosophical, theological and secular perspectives on death and the afterlife, beginning with the way the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Qu’ran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Upanishads conceptualize the nature and destiny of humankind, including such concepts as sheol, moksha, purgatory, eternal life, heaven and hell. This will be followed by a discussion of the interplay in western theological and philosophical traditions between competing notions of the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the body as well as an evaluation of what various Christian thinkers, including Augustine and Origen, believed that an eternity in heaven or hell might be like. The module will then investigate the range of eschatological teachings that different traditions have offered, including in Christian thought the diversity of realized and future forms of eschatology, as well as the tenability of purported testimony surrounding the possibility of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and mind-dependent worlds, and the way in which such endeavours have been sustained or critiqued in the light of scientific and historical advances. The module will conclude with a detailed study of the way in which filmmakers and novelists have approached eschatological and apocalyptic teachings and reconceptualised them, with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt’s work on the desacralization of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990s Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

Read more
30

This module is aimed at those students who would like to follow a career as Primary or Secondary School teachers, but is also suitable to those who would like to combine an academic course with work experience. Placements in a school environment will enhance the students' employment opportunities as they will acquire a range of skills. It will also provide the students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of Religious Education and Philosophy in the primary or secondary school context. The university sessions and weekly school work will complement each other. Therefore, attendance to university sessions is crucial as it will also give the students the opportunity to discuss aspects related to their weekly placement and receive guidance. The student will spend one half-day per week for ten weeks in a school where each student will have a designated teacher-mentor who will guide their work in school. They will observe sessions taught by their designated teacher and possibly other teachers. Initially, for these sessions the students will concentrate on specific aspects of the teachers’ tasks, and their approach to teaching a whole class. As they progress, their role will be as teaching assistants, by helping individual pupils who are having difficulties or by working with small groups. They may teach brief or whole sessions with the whole class or with a small group of students where they explain a topic related to the school syllabus. They may also talk about aspects of University life. They must keep a weekly journal reflecting on their activities at their designated school.

Read more
30

This course explores the central teachings, practices and sacred texts of Mahåyåna Buddhism and will focus upon the first 500 years of its history in India. It will examine the rise and development of Mahåyåna Buddhism in India through analysis of its key sacred literature and philosophical schools as well as its subsequent spread to East and North Asia.

Read more
30

Recent cultural and political theories have been haunted by the question of religion, its definitions and functions, its emancipatory capacities, its relation to violence, and its relationship to the history and future of the concept of the secular. The centrality of religion as a topic for these recent interdisciplinary discussions has emerged in relationship to a growing unease about earlier, modern modes of distinguishing public and private life; a ‘return’ of religion as an internationally significant political force in recent decades; and surprising appropriations of religion as a figure for secular Western democracy. Theorists (particularly in the area of postcolonial theory) are questioning naturalized or ahistorical distinctions between religion and the secular (e.g., Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, Saba Mahmood). Many contemporary thinkers attempt to short-circuit the distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’, making possible surprising paradoxes of a “materialist theology” (Slavoj Žižek), an “emptied” religiosity (Gianni Vattimo), or what Hent de Vries calls simply a “political theology”. Once we get down beneath the easily-rehearsed stereotypes, we find that the old religious archives (like the Bible) model competing forms of politics: from messianic anarchism to theocracy. In our political histories—and presents—these have been used (and now are being re-used) in surprising ways.

This course considers important moments in the Western history of political theology in order to understand modern and contemporary discussions of secular politics. These moments will be considered in relation to comparable instances of politically imagined theology (or theologically imagined politics) from other religious traditions as well. Students will:

- examine key topics in the modern formation of these discussions (e.g., distinctions between public and private; secular spheres; religion as extra-political ideal; fanaticism; politicized evaluations of Western religion as exceptional in relation to the ‘others’; religion and political revolution)

- map important similarities and differences between Western and non-Western modelling of the relationship between religion and politics

- critically evaluate recent presentations of the inherent violence of religions, the inevitability of the clash of civilizations, and the usefulness of religion in ‘making globalization work’

Read more
30

This module will explore the theme of ‘Biblical Codes’ from two angles:

1) How has the Bible been read as code?

2) How can we read/ ‘decode’ biblical mysteries (prophecy, apocalyptic, or ‘wisdom’)

Under heading 1) we will be exploring how different writers and groups (some of them inside the Bible, some of them outside it) have read the Bible as temporal or political code. For example, the biblical book of Daniel attempts to decode the book of Jeremiah, which had already become deeply mysterious to ancient readers. Similarly, the New Testament ‘deciphers’ biblical prophecy and motifs by applying them to Jesus or the Roman Empire. At the other end of the time spectrum, we find bestsellers like Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code (1997), Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye’s attempts to decrypt biblical visions of the end of time by way of contemporary global politics, or recent readings of the book of Ezekiel as prophecies about UFO’s. Techniques of decryption are also built into central developments within Jewish and Christian traditions. In fact, what is often called the history of ‘hermeneutics’ could also be described as the history of ‘How not to read literally’. We will be looking at a range of examples of such developments by focusing on readers like Philo of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, or Jewish Kabbalah.

Under heading 2, we will undertake some in-depth readings of prophecy, apocalyptic, or wisdom texts—the ones that readers of the Bible find most difficult to ‘decode’. Texts to be studied will be taken from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Pseudepigrapha. We will be exploring the contexts that produced these literatures and thinking about how to read (decipher?) them across the abyss of time.

Read more
30

The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history and practice of the anthropology of religion through the past 150 years. Students will explore the ‘anthropology of religion’ to provide an historical and contemporary understanding of how anthropological studies of religion enrich knowledge of what it means to be religious. The course will examine and students will practise the anthropological method of rich participant observation and comparative analysis. Course content focuses on foundational and contemporary issues of religious definition, ritual, belief, embodiment, rationality and relationships in both Western and non-western contexts.

Read more
30

This module will enable students to analyze and understand the development of Christian theology over the last two hundred years. We will be critically evaluating the significance and contribution of a number of leading twentieth century theologians from a variety of denominational backgrounds and endeavouring to understand to a sophisticated degree the changes in Christian thought and practice in a variety of situations in the twentieth century. The module will begin by surveying the main strands of post-Enlightenment Christian theology, including the contributions of Kant, Schleiermacher and Feuerbach. There will be a detailed focus of two of the 'Death of God' theologians from the twentieth century, Thomas Altizer and William Hamilton. We will then critically evaluate the significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his influence (with particular reference to Harvey Cox and John A.T. Robinson); Liberal Protestantism and the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy, with particular reference to Paul Tillich and Karl Barth; Rudolf Bultmann and his programme of demythologization; and an interrogation of the Christian understanding of ‘hope’ with specific reference to Jürgen Moltmann. The module also involves a study of key theological movements, in particular Liberation Theology, Black Theology and Feminist Theology.

Read more
30

The purpose of this module is to survey some of the most significant 20th century trends in the dialogue between psychology and religion through the writings of depth-psychologists, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists and phenomenologists of religion. The module begins by exploring the varieties of religious experience, especially through the work of William James and Rudolf Otto, after which it examines the contributions of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology to the study of religion, particularly in the work of Freud, Jung and Hillman. This material provides the basis for subsequent discussion of the interdisciplinary literature comparing religious altered states of consciousness (mystical, visionary and paranormal experiences) with other altered states of consciousness (madness, drug induced experiences etc.). The module concludes by discussing the principle issues addressed by transpersonal psychology (particularly in the work of Wilber and Grof): the relationship between western psychotherapies and eastern religious disciplines of spiritual emancipation; competing models of spiritual transformation.

Read more
30

The primary aims of this module are to give you a critical grounding in Islamic sources, thinkers and theories relevant to the development of Islamic liberal and fundamentalist perspectives, and it also explores the ways in which these perspectives bear upon contemporary debates and events. It will equip you with the ability to situate current views within their historical and theological context, critically assess them, and constructively apply them to current phenomena. The module will introduce you to key Islamic debates such as those which address textual interpretation, the relation between revelation and human reason, and the nature of political authority. It will familiarise you with key sources such as the Qur'an, Hadith and treatises of key Islamic theologians and jurists, and it will introduce you to classical and modern theorists from Ibn Taymiyyah to Tariq Ramadan. A range of case studies will allow you to apply these sources and theories to contemporary situations. The module draws lessons for critical thinking about the way in which social context and religious premises affect both religious and political theories. These sources and skills will provide a basis for the analytical work that you undertake in your assessed work.

Read more
30

This module will be divided into two parts. First, it will familiarise students with how Continental philosophy has developed in response to methodological and historical questions. Second, it will then show how Continental philosophy applies to the philosophy of religion by discussing traditional religious problems—e.g., the existence of God, the problem of theodicy, the conception of the good life—and seeing how seminal Continental thinkers engage with these issues in diverse ways. The first part of the module will discuss critical, historical-based methodologies in: philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer and Ricoeur), phenomenology (Dupré and Marion) and geneaology (Foucault). The second part of the module will utilise contemporary scholarship consisting in contemporary philosophers applying the aforementioned methodological approaches to religious problems.

Read more
30

Students are required to identify a viable research focus or question for their project which they will then pursue, with supervisory support, in order to submit their final dissertation. In the summer before joining the module, students will be given advice on how to identify their research focus, and by the start of the autumn term in which the module begins they will be expected to have produced a single side of A4 summarising key literature or other sources relevant to their specific project. Individual supervision will begin from the autumn term onwards. Initially this is likely to focus on clarifying the research focus or question, and situating it more deeply in existing literature and debates. Following this a clearer outline plan for conducting the research will be developed, with students then undertaking work necessary to meet each phase of this plan. If the project involves original fieldwork, the student will be expected to submit a research ethics application form for Faculty approval. As the project develops, chapter drafts will be submitted for review and discussion with the supervisor. Supervision contact time is likely to vary according to the project and student need, but will not exceed a total of 6 hours per student (including face to face supervision or time spent writing written feedback to electronically-submitted drafts). Supervisors will provide feedback on chapter drafts, which will need to be submitted to supervisors in good time before supervision meetings, but will not provide feedback on whole draft manuscripts once chapters are completed.

Supervisors will only provide supervisory support during term-time. Once the project has been agreed and a supervisor allocated in the autumn term, students will not normally be allowed to change their fundamental focus of their project (although their specific questions are likely to change as the project develops) or change their supervisor unless in highly exceptional circumstances.

Read more
30

The aim of this module is to enable students to think sociologically about religious life. Whilst addressing key debates within the sociology of religion (e.g. secularization, subjectivization), it seeks to introduce students to core concepts and methods in sociology that will enable them to understand religious life in terms of broader social structures and processes. Examples of issues covered in the module include: the nature of sociology as a discipline, macro and micro levels of analysis, the agency/structure debate and the nature of social structure, individualization, and sociological perspectives on gender, class, emotion, materiality and belief. The significance of intersectionality between different social structures will also be discussed, and useful sources of secondary data (e.g. BRIN) will be explored. The central assessment task for the module – a case study presenting the sociological analysis of the nature and place of religion in a particular individual’s life – brings these theoretical and methodological approaches together into a micro-level analysis of lived religion in a way that is informed by broader social and cultural structures. Examples of good writing in this style of sociological research are presented and explored through the module.

Read more
30

Teaching and assessment

You are usually taught in small groups, with most modules involving either two or three hours per week in class, plus individual consultations with teachers as well as sessions on computing and library skills.

Stage 1 modules are normally assessed by 100% coursework. At Stages 2 and 3, some modules are assessed by 100% coursework (such as essays), others by a combination of formal examination and coursework.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • increase knowledge of religious ideas and institutions as found in a diversity of cultural settings both past and present
  • explore and discuss religious ideas and institutions, through texts and historical data as well as direct observation of the contemporary world
  • develop critical understanding of a sympathetic insight into the diversity of religious life, both as it has shaped and been shaped by, other factors within culture and history.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the place, role and influence of religion, and religions, in human culture - particularly the culture of Europe
  • the role and significance of religion within human experience
  • the relationship between the study of religion and other branches of the humanities and social sciences
  • the main approaches and methodologies characterising the critical study of religion, and its influences, as defined by the secular context of the University.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual abilities:

  • evaluation of empirical data
  • analysis and interpretation of relevant textual resources
  • assessment of alternative theories and interpretations
  • ability to construct and defend arguments and conclusions in a coherent manner.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

  • sensitive and critical evaluation of religious data within their proper historical and cultural contexts
  • sympathetic appreciation of the ideas and practices of other groups and individuals
  • ability to articulate the multiple connections between experiences, ideas, practices and institutions in the appreciation and understanding of religion and religions.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • research and writing
  • computing and IT
  • effective formal and informal communication
  • working creatively and flexibly, on your own or with others
  • time management, especially under pressure
  • performance evaluation.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates have gone into areas such as:

  • teaching
  • publishing
  • travel
  • advertising
  • personnel
  • diplomacy
  • social work
  • journalism
  • media
  • marketing
  • the legal profession.

Many of our students choose to move on to further study at Master’s or PhD level.

Help finding a job

The School of European Culture and Languages runs its own employability programme to help you develop your professional skills. This includes paid and voluntary work opportunities.

The University also has an award-winning Careers and Employability Service, which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Career-enhancing skills

As well as an excellent grounding in your subject, you also develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for. These include:

  • excellent communication skills
  • organisational and research skills
  • the ability to analyse problems
  • teamworking.

You can also gain additional skills by signing up for our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a new language or volunteering.

If you choose to take the year abroad option, you further increase your skills by gaining experience of living and studying in a different culture.

Those who decide to take a placement year gain valuable workplace experience, which will impress prospective employers.

Independent rankings

Of Religious Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2016, 96% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
A level

BBB

Access to HE Diploma

The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances.

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall or 15 points at HL

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9250 £15200
Part-time £4625 £7600

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Fees for Year in Industry

For 2018/19 entrants, the standard year in industry fee for home, EU and international students is £1,385

Fees for Year Abroad

UK, EU and international students on an approved year abroad for the full 2018/19 academic year pay £1,385 for that year. 

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status. 

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

For 2018/19 entry, the scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

Full-time

Part-time

The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. 

Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.