A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion  book cover
2nd Edition

A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion

ISBN 9780415419932
Published May 3, 2017 by Routledge
214 Pages

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Book Description

A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion introduces the key concepts and theories from religious studies that are necessary for a full understanding of the complex relations between religion and society. The aim is to provide readers with an arsenal of critical concepts for studying religious ideologies, practices, and communities. This thoroughly revised second edition has been restructured to clearly emphasize key topics including:

  • Essentialism
  • Functionalism
  • Authority
  • Domination. 

All ideas and theories are clearly illustrated, with new and engaging examples and case studies throughout, making this the ideal textbook for students approaching the subject area for the first time.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments to the Second Edition

Acknowledgments to the First Edition


1 Religion and the Problem of Definition

2 Functionalism and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

3 How Society Works: Classification

4 How Society Works: Essentialism

5 How Society Works: Structure

6 How Society Works: Habitus

7 How Religion Works: Legitimation

8 How Religion Works: Authority

9 How Religion Works: Authenticity

10 Case Study: What Would Jesus Do?




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Craig Martin is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at St. Thomas Aquinas College, USA.


The best textbook for teaching an introductory course in religious studies has just gotten better with a new edition. Martin’s ability to make critical theory not only understandable, but also useful, to beginning students, is the primary strength of his book. His choice of examples, illustrating the complex theoretical issues he addresses, guarantees student learning will be both significant and – dare I say it – enjoyable. Charles William Miller, University of North Dakota, USA 

A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion provides key strategies for disentangling the category "religion" and examining religious traditions as complex social phenomena. The text is an effective introduction to explanatory socio-functional approaches, which enable students to ask new sets of questions of their subject. The second edition is a comprehensive model for a new vision of Religious Studies. Kristian Petersen, University of Nebraska Omaha, USA