The cry is all but universal across the types of institutions and regions of the country: colleagues (outside the field) and administrators “do not understand what we actually do … their image of the academic study of religion is ‘wrong’ or inaccurate.”
— Ray L. Hart
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, unive r s i t i e s admitted many new categories of knowledge and created departments to teach them. English literature wa s added in the late nineteenth century. In the twentieth century unive r s i t i e s added most of the social sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, economics and geography. In recent years, specialized, often multidisciplinary programs such as women's studies, Asian studies, international development studies and environmental studies have been added. As unive r s i t i e s added departments and programs, others were reduced or eliminated. Thus, for the most part, the study of Christian theology as part of academic training for the Church's ministers and priests, has been moved out of the faculties of arts in universities and into seminaries.
Within the evolution of universities in the modern era, the nature and eve n the validity of the study of religions have been much debated. Some university faculty find it difficult to imagine that there could be valid research and teaching on the subject of religion. Religion, to such sceptics, is best understood as superstition, against which the rationality of the scientific methodologies stands as the guardian of authentic knowledge. Such prejudices about the subject of religion have thankfully diminished ove r time as the discipline has shown the worth of its research and teaching. That human beings have been religious throughout history is an empirical fact. That this dimension of what it is to be human is an appropriate subject of inquiry and of university instruction goes without saying.