We could answer the question with one word – no – without further elaboration. However, as the reader, you want and expect more information than a one-word reply.
Using the phrase ‘raised’ infers that the parents or guardians chose which religion you will practice during childhood. Protestant parents attended or practiced in a Christ-oriented church. Jewish children worshipped in a synagogue. Muslim children may have learned to read and study the Quran in its original language of Arabic. In most cases, someone else decided your religion. If your parents switched, you probably did too, particularly at a young age. But, religion is not like eye color that lasts a lifetime. Individuals may change from one place of worship to another or abandon childhood beliefs altogether.
A search of numerous colleges, universities, and seminaries offering degrees in divinity does not specify that applicants must be of a particular religion. However, the assumption is that a Jewish student will not attend a learning institution with a Christian foundation. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, attests that it trains Champions of Christ. Regardless of the discipline, the General Requirements include courses related to Christianity. A Bachelor’s degree in General Biology, for example, has a class in Evangelism and the Christian Life, Biblical Worldview, Old and New Testament Survey, and Theological Survey.
The reasons people change their religion are many. Marriage, divorce, disillusionment, opposition to church doctrines, and moral beliefs are possible influences. An article in Religion News Service in October 2014 stated that 40% of Americans change faiths at some time during their life. A less dramatic shift might be from Baptist or Methodist to nondenominational. Changing from Protestant to Judaism is more significant from the perspective of worship services and beliefs. The latter has different standard service customs, such as wearing the tallit or prayer shawl for men and women. Men may wear the traditional kippah or yarmulke – the head covering.
As previously mentioned, admissions departments do not mandate that they only accept Christian applicants, for example. However, it is unlikely a devout Christian would apply to a Jewish Seminary. For one, Judaism believes that the proposition that the duality of God (Jesus) or Holy Trinity is heretical. The Torah or Hebrew Bible (first five books of the Old Testament) affirms this premise by Deuteronomy’s passage (6:4): Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Many tenets of Judaism strongly contradict Christianity.
It’s of no consequence what religion you practiced growing up. What matters is the religion you have adopted before considering an undergraduate or graduate degree in divinity. According to Religion News Service, the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) is waning in popularity as more students opt for a Master of Arts in Theology, Christian Leadership, Bible Studies, Worship Leadership, or associated subject. By 2021, The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) predicts that enrollment in the M.A. degrees will surpass the M.Div. Generally, the M.A. programs have ten to twelve fewer credit hours; however, the ATS does not see this for the decline in divinity degrees.
Whether you abide by the writings of the Torah, the Christian Bible, or the Quran, the ministry is a vocation. From the late Middle English origin (1400-1450), the word meant a call or summons. These words typify one’s desire to become a messenger and proponent of your religion. This calling is what compels people to seek a career in this field. Unfortunately, the clergy of all faiths face a sharp decline in attendance at churches, synagogues, and mosques. There has been a 20% drop since 1999, according to Gallup. The percentage fell from the 73% attendance rate in 1973 to the current 50%.
Individuals born between 1981 to 1996, known as Millenials, are disenchanted with organized religion. A 2016 report in Baptist News stated that six in ten millennials who grew up going the church are leaving. The departure of so many creates challenges for practicing religious leaders and may deter some from pursuing a degree in divinity or related discipline. More startling is the percentage of individuals with no religion has more than doubled since 1998 to 2018 (8% to 19%: Gallup).
To reiterate – changing your religion at some time in your life is not a deterrent to applying to a school offering divinity degrees. More important is your commitment to your faith, which you and others will have to substantiate in the application process. Many schools ask for an autobiography or spiritual essay to explain why you want to study religion and what it means to you. Letters of recommendation from academics and religious must act as references for your character and demonstrate your church activities’ involvement.