Theology and Religious Studies

The multi-disciplinary Master’s in Theology and Religious Studies at Leiden University allows you to focus on either religion, culture and society in general or more specifically on the dynamics of Christianity in its diverse forms. You will be taught theories that you will apply immediately to empirical findings in a comparative approach. Historical, cultural, anthropological, psychological and sociological perspectives equip you with a broad set of academic skills enhancing your career opportunities.

Religion, Culture and Society allows you to study a broad spectrum of religions and their manifestations. Important themes throughout the curriculum are modernization and globalization and their impacts on religion and its place in society.

Christianity: the Dynamics of Diversity focusses on the changing role of Christianity in society, from the early modern period up to the present day. Important themes are the impact of biblical criticism, modern historical scholarship, science and cultural transfers.

Choose Theology and Religious Studies at Leiden University

  • Leiden University is famous for its wide range of specialisms and outstanding scholarship, providing you with an excellent basis for the study of religion from a comparative perspective.
  • 5 specialist staff members support the unique profile in Christianity.
  • Courses consist both of theory and applied practice, offering you hands-on experience; all the necessary research skills, tools and historical sources are made available.
  • A variety of alternating electives gives you freedom of choice. You can specialize in one of many religious traditions, or opt for a methodological approach.
  • The relatively small size of our department allows for an informal atmosphere and approachable staff members. You’ll be provided with individual, personalized guidance.

What makes Religion, Culture and Society unique is the wide scope of the programme. The generalist approach towards the study of religion focuses on skills, tools, methods and theories. Graduates are equipped with everything needed to analyze situations and tackle problems in society at large. Our staff members are specialized in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Religious movements; their expertise is available on site.

What makes Christianity: the Dynamics of Diversity particularly attractive is its non-confessional and comparative approach to the study of Christianity and its diverse expressions in (early) modern history and present-day society. Christianity: the Dynamics of Diversity studies secularizing developments including non-religion, agnosticism, and atheism, and underlines the importance of biblical criticism in the tradition of Erasmus and Spinoza.

Additionally, Leiden University houses a wealth of scholars working in area studies, history and the social sciences, fostering conversations and the exchange of ideas. Its collections are world-famous. Our generalist toolbox, specialized knowledge and the university’s broader setting offer you a programme that is unlike any other in the Netherlands or beyond.

Find out more about the programme:

Master details

  • Degree Master of Arts in Theology and Religious Studies
  • Mode of study Full-time, part-time
  • Duration 1 year
  • Start date September, February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden
  • Croho/isat code 60824

A word from alumna Fatiha

Fatiha Azzarhouni

“After my Bachelor degree in Islamic Theology, enrolling in the MA Theology and Religious Studies was a logical next step. This study enabled me to learn more – and in depth – about religion in general and Islam in the West specifically.”

Leiden Islam Outreach Programme
Following my graduation I became a programme manager of the Leiden Islam Outreach Programme (LIOP) at Leiden University, which I established together with Professor Maurits Berger. This programme provides education and research consisting of consultancy activities and tailor-made courses, aimed at Dutch civil society institutions, specific professional groups (lawyers, diplomats, bankers, etc.), the Dutch Muslim community, and individually interested parties.

A daily benefit
In my line of work I have benefited greatly from the knowledge and skills I’ve attained with this MA. I’ve become well trained in academic writing and critical thinking, which I apply in my work every day.

Religion, culture and politics
Although religions in some parts of the world and specifically in the Netherlands seem to be on the wane, old and new forms of religions still continue to exist or even proliferate. Due to globalisation and migration, religion is something with which everyone is confronted, voluntarily or non-voluntarily. This MA helps you to understand religion and its interplay with other important factors such as culture and politics within a certain ‘zeitgeist’.

Prof. Ernestine van der Wall

Ernestine van der Wall

“Has Christianity served its purpose in our society?”

“What is the role of religion in the modern world? Has Christianity served its purpose in our society? Could it be the victim of its own success? Or is religion taking on new shapes? But how new are these shapes? Millenarian end-of-the-world scenarios, for example, are once again very popular in some circles, but how original are they really?

These are the kind of questions that make the study of Christianity so appealing, particularly in my specialisation with its focus on modern and early-modern Christianity between 1650 and today. This means I look into the debate between conservative and liberal Christians on vital questions such as the authority of the theological and ecclesiastic tradition, the relationship between belief and science, and terms such as ‘orthodoxy’, ‘fundamentalism’, ‘millenarianism’ and ‘heresy’. You can approach such questions not just from the historical perspective but also from the perspective of social sciences.

This already demonstrates that we approach Christianity from different disciplines in our centre. Furthermore, we don’t just look at Christianity in all its different manifestations but also its role and meaning in regions across the world. The diversity of fundamental questions and disciplinary approaches, the attention for cultural, social, political and geographical contexts in which religious phenomena occur, and the national and international manifestations of Christianity are fascinating aspects of the study of this global religion.

In our programme students set to work on their own, preferably with the actual sources. This source study is combined with a thorough study of relevant literature. Regardless of which subject you prefer, you will always see that analysing it gives a surprising view of Christianity today – and of religion in general. This is because comparable questions also arise in other religions. This means that the study of Christianity provides you with an extremely useful frame of reference.”

Find your master's at Leiden University