Studying Religion : An Introduction book cover
2nd Edition

Studying Religion
An Introduction

ISBN 9780815353638
Published November 20, 2018 by Routledge
290 Pages

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Book Description

Widely used as a primer, a class text, or just a provocation to critical thinking, Studying Religion clearly explains the methods and theories employed in the academic study of religion by tackling the problem of how we define religion. Written for newcomers to the field, its chapters explore the three main ways in which religion is defined and, along the way, also considers a range of related topics, from the history and functions of religion to public discourse on religion, religion in the courts, and the classification of religions. The works of classic and contemporary scholars—from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud to Bruce Lincoln and Wendy Doniger—are analyzed and explored in its readable chapters and detailed supporting materials. Studying Religion represents a shift away from the traditional world religions approach and, instead, invites readers to consider how they divide up, name, and come to know the world around them.

Thoroughly revised throughout, this second edition now includes a significantly expanded glossary, summaries of technical terms and global case studies at the end of each chapter, and additional biographies of key scholars mentioned. This book will be invaluable to all students of religious studies—whether in the introductory class or as an example of an alternative way of approaching the field.

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2nd Edition



What is the Study of Religion?

Example: ‘…, But Not Specially Defined’

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 1

What’s in a Name?

Example: Fruit or Vegetable?

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 2

The History of ‘Religion’

Example: ‘Religion’ on the Colonial Frontier

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 3

The Essentials of Religion


Example: ‘He’s Your Father!’

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 4

The Functions of Religion


Example: ‘People Started to Come to Her for Healing’

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 5

The Resemblances Among Religions


Example: ‘Not an Easy Task’

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 6

The Public Discourse on Religion

Example: Public Muslim Cemeteries in France

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 7

Religion and the Insider/Outsider Problem

Example: Under the Academic Microscope

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars

Chapter 8

Religion and Classification

Example: The World Religions Paradigm

Summary of Vocabulary and Scholars


The Necessary Lie: Duplicity in the Disciplines

by Jonathan Z. Smith

Honesty Is the Best Pedagogy

by K. Merinda Simmons






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Russell T. McCutcheon is University Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, USA.


‘If you find yourself teaching a course on the study of religion or need to get a brief history and recent thinking on the subject, this expanded edition of Studying Religion has you in mind. This book is both practical and, as Lévi-Strauss might say, good to think with.’

- Suzanne Owen, Leeds Trinity University, UK

"Those who want to explore religion as part of culture should start here."

- Matthew Recla, Boise State University, USA, Reading Religion