Religious studies is a subject that students and academics deal with at universities.
- At best Religious studies is an academic subject dealing scientifically with religious belief taking into account sociology, anthropology and many other subjects, even neuroscience.
- At worst Religious studies is taught as part of a theology course and is as unscientific as all religious faith.
Advice to those considering doing religious studies
Below is what I originally wrote, I was probably partly wrong:-
Young atheists considering doing religious studies at university are advised to consider very carefully. A high proportion of lecturers and students in religious studies departments have some kind of religious faith. In English speaking countries that probably means Christianity but Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions may also be represented. There may well be a few atheist lecturers at a religious studies department. Atheists are sometimes interested in religion so that they want to study it and teach it. Also believing lecturers in religious studies departments sometimes come to see religion is unreasonable and become atheists. Despite this atheist lecturers in religious studies departments are likely to be atheist accommodationists, i.e. people who don't personally believe in religion but think religion is basically good.
Atheists who strongly oppose religion like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris,Daniel Dennett and PZ Myers wouldn't fit in at a religious studies department and are unlikely to work in one. Atheist students at religious studies departments risk being under continual pressure either to convert to Christianity or at least to become convinced that Christianity and religion generally is good. Students who resist such pressure risk low grades.
- Atheists strongly opposed to religion are advised to look round carefully for Religious studies departments where people are comfortably with their views. I don't personally know of any but there may be a few.
- Alternatively atheists strongly opposed to religion could consider doing related courses like general sociology or general psychology with religious studies perhaps as a subsidiary.
Take care before you risk spending 3 years of your life at a place where most of the people you meet oppose you.
I asked for tactful advice about this and others disagreed tactlessly with me.
I added some of the text to the RationalWiki article on Religious studies as WaitingforGodot seemed so sure I was talking off the top of my head. Godot became less sure about what she had written and took what I had added out. So now I don't know one way or the other how safe atheist students are on religious studies courses. Where did I get my concern about Religious studies? I got it from the way Godot is regularly tactless, calling critics of religion childish and the like, here's just one example here's another, do you want to be compared to a "12 year old throwing a fit"? Is she the same with her students? I have no idea. Is she representative of Religious studies lecturers? I have no idea.
If you are an atheist and want to do religious studies ask round at atheist forums and atheist websites, get first hand information from students and former students and choose a place that suits you.