Religions have functioned throughout human history to inspire and justify the full range of agency from the heinous to the heroic. Their influences remain potent at the dawn of the twenty-first century despite modern predictions that religious influences would steadily decline in concert with the rise of secular democracies and advances in science.
The Master of Religion and Public Life degree (MRPL) is a one-year graduate degree program designed for experienced professionals in primarily (but not exclusively) “secular” arenas whose work is focused on having a positive social impact and who are inspired by a vision of just peace. The degree provides an opportunity for journalists, government officials, humanitarian aid workers, educators, artists, health care professionals, businesspeople, lawyers, and other practitioners to develop in-depth knowledge of the complex ways religion influences public life relevant to their arenas in ways that will advance their own vocational aims.
Why Religion and Public Life?
Despite the power of religion, there are few places where citizens and professionals can develop the kind of robust understanding of religion that is essential for active citizenship and innovative leadership. Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School (RPL) stands apart in its explicit normative commitments to advancing just peace in collaboration with professionals in a variety of vocations.
As the only nondenominational program of its kind in the United States, RPL provides a way to understand religion in context, with special attention to questions of power, peace, and conflict. Our approach is nonsectarian and academic. By this, we mean that we do not situate ourselves within any particular religious tradition and we promote the broad study of religion in “service of a just world at peace” in keeping with the vision statement of HDS.
The MRPL degree is a main component of RPL which has many other dimensions, including a Certificate program for MTS and MDiv students, professional and lifelong learning opportunities, and a range of programs open to the public.