Of course, the idea of understanding religion and religious individuals resonated strongly with me, a professor of religious studies at a liberal arts college.
But I believe the reasons for this sentiment are lost in the public discourse around both education and religion in the contemporary United States.
But the most important attribute that the academic study of religion offers to our students is even more vital and far more concrete: the ability to understand others.
In a world in which we are increasingly exposed to difference of all types, what could be a more vital skill for navigating the future?
It also equips our graduates with agile minds that can solve problems and understand perspectives that we are yet to encounter.
In an environment that increasingly stresses skills that are immediately marketable, humanities departments often feel that we must justify our existence and our usefulness to employers.
Those actions can have positive effects on the world, such as social outreach or providing a sense of community to adherents, or negative ones, including violence against rivals or intolerance for others.
The fact remains, however, that their actions are often rooted in religious ideals, or their worldview.
Nevertheless, this contextualization does not give license to disregard the religious angle as superficial or otherwise unimportant.
Whether we like it or not, individuals and communities are inspired by their religious identities to take action in the world.