Skip to main content

Religious Studies

The root concern of religion is the quest for the ultimate meaning of reality. How this Ultimate is understood structures and gives meaning to the human world. Religion is, as such, one of the most important pursuits of humankind, having a profound impact on human history through art, philosophy, politics, and the way societies and groups are organized and behave.

The Religious Studies Program at Purdue University offers students the opportunity to investigate how the different religious traditions of the world seek and understand Ultimate Reality, how this understanding influences human action and belief about the world, and how historical contexts influence religious thought and practice. By learning about the different religious traditions of the world and their historical contexts, students will cultivate a critical appreciation of diverse religious traditions.

Students will have the opportunity to conduct this study from the perspective of different departments at Purdue, such as English, History, Philosophy, and Sociology and Anthropology. Such an interdepartmental approach is designed to help students tailor the program to their special interests.

The Religious Studies faculty is composed of associated faculty in the departments of Anthropology, English, Languages and Cultures, History, Philosophy, and Sociology. The program currently has roughly 50 majors and minors. Faculty members are active with the American Academy of Religion.

News & Events

Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, OP, "How Does God Create through Evolution?"
Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 7:00pm
St. Thomas Aquinas Center Church

FALL 2021
Olga Louchakova-Schwartz (Sophia, U.C. Davis Medical School, and Graduate Theological Union Berkeley) presents a virtual lecture on the phenomenology of religion titled "Lux ex Oriente on an Occidental Luminary: Suhrawardi and Husserl."

All lectures will be virtual

Dr. Ann Astell, "Hallowed History: Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop." March 2nd, 7:30pm 
Ann Astell - Event Flyer

Dr. Tania Checci Gonzales,  “Migrating Images and Ritual Effects: A Mimetic Take on Aby Warburg.” March 22nd, 7:30pm
Dr. Tania Checchi Gonzales - Event Flyer

Dr. Martha Reineke,  "'An Endless Amatory Flirtation:' Jewish Influences on the Theology of Teresa of Avila." April 7th, 7:30pm
Dr. Martha Reineke - Event Flyer 

Fr. Thomas McDermott, O.P., "St. Catherine of Sienna: Doctor of the Catholic Church/Doctor of Friendship." April 22nd

Wednesday, september 25, 2019, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Director's Room, Purdue Memorial Union
Religious Studies Program fall gatheriing

12th Annual Larry Axel Memorial Lecture in Religion
Thursday, October 24, 2019 ~ RAWL 1057 ~ 7:30 p.m.
Gary A. Anderson, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame, "Atonement in the Bible: The Notion and Its Relationship to Easter and the High Holy Days"
Co-sponsored by the Purdue Jewish Studies and Religious Studies Programs

April 2019
spring lecture series
hursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m., BRNG 2280
Sol Neely, Associate Professor of English and Philosophy, University of Alaska Southeast
“Unsettling Translations: Postsecular and Decolonial Contributions Toward an Indigenous Phenomenology”
thursday, april 18, 7:30 p.m., Grissom Hall 103
george dunn, professor of Philosophy and religion,  "Common Humanity, Religious Particularity, and the Virtue of Hospitality" 


Monday, November 12, 7:00 p.m.
Ecumenical Evening

Thursday, November 15, 4:30 p.m., Stewart 314, "Religious Sacrifice and Its Functions: Frazer vs. Girard"
Robert Segal, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Sponsored by: Purdue’s Religious Studies Program, the Metanexus Foundation, the Aquinas Educational Foundation, the St. Thomas Aquinas Center, and the Frank J. Lewis Foundation


Wednesday, October 24, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Director's Room, Purdue Memorial Union
Religious Studies Program Fall Gathering

APRIL 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 7:00 PM, Wetherill Hall 104, "Sacred Violence and Islamic Extremism: A Totalitarian Response to Modernity"
Joel Hodge, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
This lecture is sponsored by the Religious Studies Program and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue, the St. Thomas Aquinas Center, Metanexus, and the Frank J. Lewis Foundations.
This lecture is free and open to the public.

March 2018

Monday, March 26,  4:30 PM, STEW 314, Compunction and Conversion in Henry James's "The Alter of the Dead"
Ann Astell, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Sponsored by the Religious Studies Program and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue, the Thomas Aquinas, Metanexus, and Frank J. Lewis Foundations, and the English Department at Purdue.
This lecture is free and open to the public. 

November 2017

Thurs. 9 November, 5:00 pm, Stewart 279 Medieval and Renaissance Studies Annual Symposium. "The Meaning of the Reformation: A Medievalist and a Modernist Discuss." Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (English, University of Notre Dame) and Thomas Pfau (English, Duke University) will discuss the meaning and significance of the Reformation from both sides of the period divide. Co-sponsored by the Department of English, the Department of History, and the Program in Comparative Literature. 

October 2017

Tues. 31 October, 3:30-5:00, Stewart 278 CLA Faculty Forum on the Reformation. Faculty members from across the CLA will speak about the significance and meaning of the Reformation.   Presentations from: James Farr (History), Ashley Purpura (English), Jacqueline Marina (Philosophy), Stuart Robertson (Religious Studies), and Thomas Ryba (Religious Studies)

September 2017

Tuesday 3 - 4 PM - Reformation Roundtables in BRNG 1284

5 September: Introduction & Chapter 1
19 September: Chapters 2 & 3
3 October: Chapter 4 & 5
17 October: Chapter 6 & Conclusion
Join us for reading and discussion of Brad S. Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.  Coffee and refreshments provided by the Religious Studies Program RSVP to Ashley Purpura, all are welcome!

Tuesday, September 26: 7:00 PM - Krannert Auditorium Axel Memorial Lecture in Religion 
"Why the Reformation Matters, Whether We Like It or Not"
Brad S. Gregory (Department of History, Notre Dame)
The Protestant Reformation began 500 years ago with Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses, and the changes it set in motion continue to influence the present in multiple ways that affect everyone--most of which Luther and other Reformation leaders would have deplored. From a man, to a German movement, to an era of European history, to Western modernity as a whole, this lecture spans half a millennium and arguesfor the Reformation era's enduring and unavoidable significance.

March 2017

Monday, March 6: "Mouride Muslims in South Africa" Exhibition opens at the Black Cultural Center.  Ms. Iris Parker's series 'Mouride Muslims in South Africa' documents a celebration of Chaikh AamaduBakke by one of the Mouride Muslim Mosques in Johnnesburg.  Parker seeks to demystify this particular branch of Islam, provide insight into their religious practices, and unpack the xenophobia they face as immigrants. 

Tuesday, March 7: 5:30-6:30 PM - Honors College STEAM Lab Join Iris Parker in 'The Kiss Series' using Gustav Klimt Painting - The Kiss- to contextualize and compare the historic social movements of resistance, love, and coming together.  Focusing on The Peoples' Pride movement in South Africa, Ms. Parker documents groups with diverse interests uniting to strive for equality and respect.  She will also address working overseas and using photography as a medium for social change.

Wednesday, March 8: Gallery Talk with Iris Dawn Parker 4:00 PM and Documentary photography workshop at 6:30 PM at the Black Cultural Center

Thursday, March 23: 3:30 - 4:30 PM ~ Jerry S Rawls Hall, Room 1071 'The Case for Stability, Alasdair Macintyre, the Benedictine Tradition and Qualitative Research on Catholic Parishes'.  Dr. Gwendolen Adams recently conducted a study at three Catholic parishes in the Diochese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, exploring parish life and the experience of long-term members. 


There are two primary ways to contribute to the vitality of the Religious Studies Program: 1) funding and 2) active participation. We hope you contribute in both ways.

What Your Financial Gift Can Do

Any gift, no matter how small, will make a difference to the program and will be greatly appreciated. Together, small gifts add up and enable us to do things we would not have been able to do otherwise. You may contribute online or send your gift to Purdue University, Program in Religious Studies, c/o Interdisciplinary Studies Business Office, 100 North University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2098 (make check payable to the Religious Studies Program).

Here are some ways in which your gift can benefit the program.

  • Ten $15 gifts enable us to host a colloquium with a speaker from Purdue.
  • $150 will enable us to host a reception so that interested students can get to know the Religious Studies faculty as well as majors and minors already in the program.
  • $200 gift would provide for a single undergraduate writing award.
  • $250 will allow us to provide a forum where undergraduate students can present their best work.
  • Five $200 gifts, or one $1,000 gift will enable the program to bring an outside speaker to present a public lecture to the campus community and to interact with students.
  • A $4,500 gift could provide the endowment for an annual undergraduate writing award.
  • A $5,000 gift could provide a new course development grant.
  • A $10,000 gift could provide for a summer faculty research grant.
  • A $30,000 gift could provide an endowment for four annual faculty colloquia.
  • A $60,000 gift could provide the means for a visiting scholar to teach and research at Purdue for one year.
  • A $1.5 million gift could create a permanent, named faculty position that would allow the program to expand its coverage.
  • A $2 million gift could create a named professorship for attracting new world class faculty to the university.

What You Can Do

The Religious Studies events page lists upcoming events of special interest to its faculty and undergraduate majors and minors. But all are welcome: faculty, students, and staff with or without Religious Studies affiliation, as well as community members. Please check the events page regularly for new information, or join the "Friends of Religious Studies" by emailing the program director, Ashley Purpura at "Friends of Religious Studies" will receive reminder emails close to event dates, and will be tapped to provide input on future programming, both on and off campus.