Why are religious studies and philosophy classes required at NMH?

The importance of religious studies and philosophy at Northfield Mount Hermon hails from the progressive educational vision of NMH founder D.L. Moody, one of the most prominent Christian preachers of the late 19th century. We have a long tradition of asking students to examine their inner lives and to explore the role of religion in history, art, politics, and culture.

As the school evolved, we continued to value Moody’s legacy of social justice. This is encompassed in our school’s mission, which states “Northfield Mount Hermon engages the intellect, compassion, and talents of our students, empowering them to act with humanity and purpose.” We want our students to become effective contributors to their local and global communities. In order to accomplish this, they need both the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of religious traditions and the sophistication to understand complex ethical and moral dilemmas.

Will I be told what to believe?

We will not promote or ask you to take on any particular faith or belief. Our academic study of religion and philosophy differs from the kind of doctrinal or devotional approaches you might find in a religious school or through NMH’s chaplaincy office. We do ask that you take responsibility for your own worldview, and we’ll train you to articulate that perspective with confidence. At the same time, we will ask you to listen carefully and respectfully to the beliefs of others so that you may engage in dialogue with people of other perspectives.

What will I learn that I couldn't learn elsewhere?

In our classrooms, you will explore big questions—questions of meaning and purpose, worldview and personhood, faith and belief. You will come to understand how various religious and philosophical traditions evolved over time and have shaped and been shaped by the world. You will do this with teachers who have been carefully trained to lead open discussions of complex issues, allowing students of all backgrounds to learn from one another.

What is the teaching style in these classes?

Our students and teachers learn from each other. In our classrooms, you are likely to sit in a circle facing each other. You’re also likely to get up and move around the classroom. You will learn to read deeply and annotate well. You’ll watch films and view art with the eyes of an investigator. You’ll gain research skills that will help you in other classes and in college. You’ll be asked to create a dramatic skit and deliver public presentations. You’ll have time for reflection and contemplation. You’ll work on your own and in groups. In short, you’ll be asked to learn from all sides of yourself.