3rd Edition

Studying Religion An Introduction

By Russell McCutcheon Copyright 2024
    304 Pages
    by Routledge

    304 Pages
    by Routledge

    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 scholars define and then study religion. Written for all newcomers to the field, its brief chapters explore the three main ways in which religion is defined and, along the way, also consider a range of related topics, from the history and functions of religion to its public discourse, religion in the courts, and the classification of diverse groups into world religions.

    The works of classic and contemporary scholars—from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud to Bruce Lincoln and Naomi Goldenberg—are analyzed and explored in readable chapters and detailed supporting materials. Studying Religion represents a shift away from the traditional descriptive and comparative approach and, instead, uses the study of religion to invite readers to consider how they divide up, name, and come to know the world around them.

    This edition also includes a new final chapter, Identification Matters, adding to the case studies included throughout this book to present a collection of contemporary instances where different approaches to defining and studying religion make it possible to study other issues of contemporary relevance, including those involving gender, race, and the rights of indigenous peoples. The new chapter makes explicit the practical topics of identity and status that have always been implicit throughout the entire book, bringing into the classroom a wide variety of timely and relevant topics that can be better understood by its approach. This book therefore remains invaluable to all students of religious studies—whether in the introductory class or as an example of an alternative way of approaching the field.

    Preface to the 2nd Edition

    A Word About the 3rd 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 Resemblance 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 Scholar

    Chapter 7

    The Insider/Outsider Problem

    Example: Under the Academic Microscope

    Summary of Vocabulary and Scholar

    Chapter 8

    Religion and Classification

    Example: The World Religions Paradigm

    Summary of Vocabulary and Scholar

    Chapter 9

    Identification Matters

    Case Study 1: Good Religion and Bad Religion

    Case Study 2: Religion and Gender

    Case Study 3: Religion and Race

    Case Study 4: Religion and Indigeneity

    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








    Russell T. McCutcheon, a widely published scholar also producing a variety of resources for students, is University Research Professor and, for 18 years, was the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, USA.

    Praise for the Previous Edition:

    "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