Religious Studies Faculty

Terence Gilheany

Terence Gilheany

Chair, Religious Studies Department, Crew
Jay Hutchinson

Jay Hutchinson

Head Chaplain, Director of Community Service, Religious Studies, Soccer, Lacrosse
Jason Kunen

Jason Kunen

Religious Studies, Self-Defense
Stephen Mufuka

Stephen Mufuka

Religious Studies, Soccer, Tennis

Religious Studies

In keeping with School founder Felix duPont's vision and purpose, St. Andrew's has included religious studies in its academic curriculum since its earliest years. Our core curriculum requirements in religious studies—History of Religious Thought, taken in the IV Form year, and a Philosophy or Religious Studies elective taken the VI Form year—provides an understanding of the major religious and philosophical traditions that have shaped Western civilization. Through course discussions and essays, our goal is familiarize students with the many varied ideas and theologies they will encounter in college, and throughout their lives, while also encouraging students to formulate their own faith practices and make conscious decisions about their value systems.

Sophomores taking History of Religious Thought are asked to rigorously examine the claims of great religious thinkers—from Aquinas to Marx, Avicenna to Freud, Maimonides to Thomas Paine, St. Theresa of Avila to contemporary theologians and philosophers. In dialogue with these writings and with the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Qur’an, students consider differing answers to central religious questions. This course provides an opportunity to analyze the Judeo-Christian worldview in particular, the importance of revelation in Christianity through historical events and persons, and the moral implications of religious commitment within contemporary life.

Sixth Form students spend the first half of the year taking Philosophy, which provides an introduction to central philosophical inquiries, and an exploration of epistemology, ontology, metaphysics, theology, ethics, and aesthetics. In the second half of the VI Form year, students take a religious studies elective that explores world religions and philosophies using a particular critical or topical lens (such as gender, violence, service, or applied ethics); a full list of electives is available below.

Religious Studies Department News

Religious Studies Requirement

In the IV Form year, students must take History of Religious Thought. In the VI Form year, students must take a Philosophy in the first semester and a Religious Studies elective in the second semester.

Religious Studies Courses

History of Religious Thought


IIn this course, students rigorously examine the claims of great thinkers from Aquinas to Marx, Avicenna to Vivekananda, Maimonides to the Dalai Lama, St. Theresa of Avila to contemporary theologians and philosophers. In dialogue with such scholars and with the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, the Qur’an, the Upanishads and Buddhist Scriptures, students consider differing answers to central religious questions such as:

  • Is there a divine? If so, how have people claimed to know the nature of the divine?
  • What is religious experience? What, if anything, happens after death?
  • Why does suffering exist?
  • How shall we act in the world as a result of our views on the divine?

Our studies are informed by classroom visits with imams, rabbis, ministers, and scholars, as well as trips to local places of worship (synagogues, mosques, churches, etc.) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Students write frequent short analytical essays. In conjunction with their work in English Literature 2, they build their understanding of argument, evidence, the difference between an observation and a claim, and how to deal with ambiguity and complexity in an author’s writings. To prepare students for their work in Advanced Study history courses and VI Form philosophy and religious studies electives, students examine their own positions in the context of the wider scope of human history and culture, strengthening their ability to identify a writer’s rhetorical maneuvers and implicit assumptions. About midway through the course, they write and deliver a ten-minute long talk exploring a religious or philosophical conundrum. For their capstone project, students use their shorter writings from the year as the backbone for a ten to twelve page theological analysis, then assess and critique their papers in an oral defense with their teacher and a classmate.

Applied Ethics

Open to VI Form students

This course introduces students to the basic principles of moral reasoning, with the goal of enabling students to engage independently in critical analysis of contemporary ethical issues. Discussion topics include:

  • abortion;
  • euthanasia;
  • cloning;
  • the death penalty;
  • sexual orientation;
  • poverty and welfare;
  • drug legalization;
  • animal rights; and
  • just war theory.

Students prepare short position papers on these issues, and present their viewpoints in class for discussion and debate.

Asian Philosophy & Religious Traditions

Open to VI Form students

Half-credit Elective

What happens when my truth and your truth are not the same? In this class, students explore what it means to live in a world where so many religions and worldviews coexist. As a complement to History of Religious Thought, students study traditions including (but not limited to):

  • Hinduism;
  • Buddhism;
  • Confucianism;
  • Taoism;
  • Jainism; and
  • Sikhism.

The course seeks to understand historical and contemporary expressions of the world's religions through readings, films, current events, site visits, written reflections, and classroom discussions. Students consider why religions exist in the first place, and how, as global citizens, we might enter into a more effective dialogue with various traditions.

The Call to Serve

Open to VI Form students

This course examines the intellectual, moral, and spiritual mandates for community service as an integral part of human development. By participating in service-learning work, students develop a sense of their individual link to the larger world, and a sense of responsibility to care for it. Students explore concepts such as vocation, voluntarism, and the “ethic of care." The aim of the course is to find links between school coursework, opportunities to serve our world, and how students react to those opportunities. Weekly journals reflect on both classroom discussions and various service activities. Guest lecturers—advocates for the homeless and those with disabilities; blood bank executives; United Way representatives; Habitat for Humanity builders—join us in the classroom to share their insights and experiences of serving others.

Religion and Gender

Open to VI Form students

In this course, students explore the relationship between religion and gender, examining the extent to which gender norms impact the formation of religious texts, practices, and leaders, and the extent to which religions influence conceptions of gender in society. Students study the experiences of cisgender and transgender people from an array of racial, economic, and sexually-oriented backgrounds who have come to understand themselves in relation to their particular faith traditions. While exploring feminist and queer theories, students consider the degree to which it is appropriate to distinguish between the experiences of men and women when speaking about God(s) both historically and in our current society. This course includes readings, written reflections, pop culture video analysis, guest speakers, and regular classroom discussion.

Religion and Violence

Open to VI Form students

Throughout history, there has existed an uneasy relationship between religion and violence. In this course, students will critically examine the intersection of religion and violence, studying two central questions:

  • How is it that violent acts are committed and justified in the name of religion? What is, for example, the path from "Blessed are the peacemakers" to the brutality of the Crusades?
  • How have religious movements actually sought to alleviate violent conflict? What role, for example, did religious traditions have in the Civil Rights Movement and the Indian Independence Movement in the 20th century?

Students will look both to historical and present-day examples, focusing on conflicts noted above as well as those located in Latin America, the Middle East, and the Africa.

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