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Meet Your Peer Advisor: Ben Davidson

We have a fantastic and unique cohort of majors whose interests and perspectives are varied as they are deep. Who are our students? What drew them to major in Religious Studies? What are their specific interests in the field and motivations to delve deeper into exploring them? If you are considering declaring and have some of these questions, reach out to our peer advisor, Ben Davidson!

Why did you choose to major in Religious Studies; what's unique about this program?
Religious Studies classes and faculty have, more than those in any other department, challenged me not only intellectually but personally. Education is not just the transfer of knowledge but involves the engagement and growth of people, and I've grown a great deal both as a scholar and as a person thanks to the Religious Studies department's understanding that learning can take any shape.

What is your favorite class in Religious Studies and why?
"Perspectives on the Good Life" (RELIGST 12N) made Emily Dickinson talk to an eighth-century Chinese man about the value of poetry, then made that man talk to James Baldwin about what it's like to witness the slow death of a civilization, and so on. I had never taken a Religious Studies class before and with no idea what to expect, I was thrown headfirst into dozens of impossible questions that confused, overwhelmed, and intrigued me—and now that I knew that those questions existed, I found that I couldn't ignore them.

What is your honors thesis about?
I'm studying Buddhism, Shinto, and Christianity in Japan from 1912-1945: their support for or criticism of the state, war, and imperialism, the relationships between those traditions, and the political and theological issues that emerge. I hope to come away with a better understanding of how religious traditions change and compromise, the relationship between religion and the state, and what the role of religion in life is.

Any plans with the degree?
Starting in the fall, I'll be pursuing a Master's degree in Divinity with the long-term goal of becoming an interfaith chaplain.

Graduation Year2021