Mission Statement


Religious Studies (Religionswissenschaft) is a fairly young discipline within higher education. Tracing its origins as an independent academic field in the nineteenth century onward, it is fundamentally a discipline that is focused on the Comparative Study of the religious phenomena, across time and space. In contrast to Theology, which as a discipline presupposes the existence of the transcendent (or its non-existence, which is the case occasionally made by philosophers of religion), Religious Studies does not engage with questions of religious truth. It treats all religions (but also atheistic worldviews) on a par, mainly exploring the anthropological, doctrinal, historical, political, psychological, and sociological dimension of the religious phenomenon across the globe and throughout human history, drawing on a vast arsenal of methodologies and theoretical avenues, while appreciating the need to work with the original languages. Key aspects of research include, but are not limited to: ritual and rites within diverse religious phenomena past and present; the human understanding of religion; the notion of belief and the various factors associated with the cognitive mechanisms and the end-results of religious faith and belief; religious texts, myths, ideas, and agents; systematised worldviews; the history and evolution of religious movements; the origins and function of religion as a panhuman category; the implicit and/or explicit relationship between religious ideas and socio-political ideologies and entities; the underlying motives that urge people to act religiously in both past and present; the role of religious creeds and institutions in the formation and development of human societies from antiquity to the present; the social and cultural factors that affect and are affected by religious ideas and ideologies.

By definition an interdisciplinary field, Religious Studies is a key discipline in the understanding of human actions and ideas, as well as social and global formations that are more often than not related to religious sentiments and beliefs. The centrality, often implicit but nevertheless strong, of religious ideas on prevailing legal, moral, existential, individual, social, and political ideas in cultures around the globe indicates the importance and uniqueness of the religious phenomenon, which makes the discipline of Religious Studies a key actor in the study of the human existence and a critical player within higher education. Religious Studies can contribute actively to the various ongoing intense social issues that take place 'in the field,' such as the problems of violence, abuse, and discrimination (primarily linked to gender, ethnicity, race, social class, and age), more often than not being legitimised and reinforced by religious or crypto-religious ideologies. The discipline's ability to address such issues can contribute to human welfare, by intervening on topics pertaining to ethics, intercultural peaceful co-existence, social equality, health and medicine, and death and mourning.

Religious Studies at the University of Vienna recognises all this as its identity and mission, attempting to fully represent the diversity of the subject. In this regard, the Department offers courses and supervision related to a substantial scope of subdisciplines, numerous themes within the systematic study of religions, and a plethora of specific religious groups/traditions across time and space. Moreover, the academic staff employ a wide range of scientific methodologies that stem from disciplines like anthropology, cultural studies, economics, history, politics, psychology, and sociology, thus offering a detailed and sound array of courses and expertise that corresponds to virtually every personal interest that exists and future students might have. Consistent with and embracing the overall mission and principles of Religious Studies as a distinct academic discipline within higher education around the globe, the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Vienna welcomes enquiries and expressions of interest from potential undergraduate and postgraduate students who wish to delve into the fascinating field of religion and specialise into any of its subfields.