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Why I chose religion (Nathaniel Edmonds)

I wanted to study the relationship between religion and politics, but in the religion department I found myself happily immersed in a variety of topics that went beyond my initial interests. I had always been fascinated by both religion and politics because I believed that by understanding those two subjects, I could better comprehend not only what motivated an individual, but also the forces that created a society's structure. I specifically wanted to be a religion major because I hoped that a smaller department would allow me a greater chance to explore all my intellectual passions. It definitely did.

I took a class on Islam that was cross-listed with the Near Eastern studies department and ended up becoming fascinated with the origins of Islam and the way that a religious movement could become thoroughly intertwined with a political movement. In my junior paper I wrote about a 19th-century Sudanese Islamic messianic movement and its political implications. Through the Junior Colloquium and other religion classes, I was exposed to a vast amount of history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and even economics. I continued to explore my interest in the relationship between politics and religion, but used my exposure to different disciplines to write my senior thesis on a completely different topic: depictions of evil in mystical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Value to my career

And what was the logical thing to do after studying about evil in college? Well, as you might expect, I became a lawyer. I can't say for certain that studying evil had anything to do with my eventual selection of a profession that some consider the embodiment of evil. But trying to understand the way that ancient societies combined religion, politics, and law was a perfect foundation for trying to understand the complexities and contradictions of the modern legal structure. I am now a trial attorney with the criminal division of the fraud section of the United States Department of Justice. I am a prosecutor specializing in white-collar crime, and I love what I do.

The religion department allowed me to explore ideas in a way that being part of a larger department may not have. Participating in small seminars, writing weekly papers, and being forced to defend my ideas prepared me for a life as a lawyer. The intimacy of the classes allowed me to gather a broad understanding of ideas, and then allowed me to hone in on the particular themes and concepts that inspired me. That is a skill useful to any profession.

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