2nd Edition

Introduction to the Study of Religion

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    Why do people study religion? How have they studied it in the past? How do we study religion today? Is the academic study of religion the same as religious education? These and many other questions are addressed in this engaging introduction to the discipline of religious studies. Topics include:

    • Definitions of religion

    • Perspectives in the study and teaching of religion

    • How religion began to be studied: Traditional perspectives—philosophical and theological

    • How people experience religion: Perspectives in the study of religious consciousness and perception—phenomenological and psychological

    • Studying religion within communities: Social and cultural perspectives—anthropological, sociological, political, and economic

    • Judging religion: Critical perspectives—feminist approaches, the interaction of popular literature and religion

    • Contextual perspectives—historical and comparative

    • Themes, theories, and current directions

    This thoroughly updated second edition encourages students to think critically about the theories and methods presented. Students will find arguments for the strengths and limitations of these approaches, understand connections among religious studies and other intellectual movements, and develop their own ideas of how they might want to go about the study of religion. Summary boxes, discussion questions, a glossary, a chronology of key figures and texts, and other pedagogic aids help students grasp key concepts.

    1. Introduction

    2. How religion began to be studied: Traditional perspectives

    3. Studying religion within communities: Social and cultural perspectives

    4. How people experience religion: Perspectives in the study of religious consciousness and perception

    5. Judging religion: Critical perspectives and evaluations

    Select websites

    Chronology of select significant persons and seminal texts




    Hillary P. Rodrigues (he/him) is Professor Emeritus in Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. A recipient of that institution’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2000) and a Board of Governors Chair in Teaching, he formerly chaired both the Anthropology and Religious Studies departments. His books include Introducing Hinduism (2006, 2016), Studying Hinduism in Practice (2011), and The Study of Religion: A Reader with John S. Harding (2013).

    John S. Harding (he/him) is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. He is the founding Coordinator of its Asian Studies Program and coordinated the Global Citizenship Cohort. His books include Studying Buddhism in Practice (2012), The Study of Religion: A Reader with Hillary P. Rodrigues (2013), and Buddhism in the Global Eye: Beyond East and West with Victor Sōgen Hori and Alexander Soucy (2020).

    "Students and teachers of religion in colleges and universities have needed a book like this for a long time – and never more urgently than today when religious discourses are growing in influence on a global scale and when a cultural ethos of politically correct toleration and a hardening religious insistence on religious rights and correctness work together to protect religion and the religions from hard-headed analysis and criticism in the public sphere. This protectionism also plagues the scholarly study of religion, where it is compounded with a historic tendency of religion scholars and teachers to play a caretaker role when it comes to religion.

    One of the dearest prices paid for this tendency is a predilection for curricula and pedagogical practices that not only permit but encourage an idiot savant mode of approaching religion by relegating theoretical and conceptual thought on religion to a mere option or by introducing students to theories of and analytic approaches to religion as a final exit or capstone requirement. The great virtue of this book is that it refuses to agree to all this.

    Without much ado the authors assume that students are members of the academy from day one and that from day one the study of religion is an exercise in thought for which an earlier rather than later or optional introduction to the intellectual lineages and theoretical discourses on religion is indispensable.

    Accessibly, clearly, firmly, and kindly written, this book reliably introduces students to the history of the study of religion, focusing on its most defining approaches and controversies and highlighting the difference between "insider" knowledge of religion(s) and "outsider" study of religion. A substantial chapter that surveys the recent spate of popular books by detractors of religion and supporters of religion adds to the book’s timeliness and clarity of argument. This book is a fine introduction to the study of religion that manages at the same time to be an important intervention in how that study is widely practiced."

    Willi Braun, Director of the Interdisciplinary Program of Religious Studies, University of Alberta, Canada

    "Rodrigues and Harding give an overview of the study of religion that is at once inclusive and accessible. This book will help orient undergraduates to the field of Religious Studies, and will be a handy reference for graduate students and scholars of religion."

    E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania, USA

    "What exactly is "religious studies"? What is its relationship to theology? What about those pesky "new atheists"? Rodrigues and Harding provide a critical overview of various approaches to the study of religion, past and present, that is as insightful as it is accessible. This still largely undefined field would benefit greatly from its wide adoption in its undergraduate (and graduate) courses of study."

    Luther H. Martin, Professor of Religion, The University of Vermont, USA