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Unformatted text preview: Ways of Studying Ways of Studying Religion The Academic Study of Religion
The Academic Study of Religion
Assumptions One religion is neither better nor worse than
another religion; they are simply different
There are core similarities that are shared by all
There are differences between, within and
among all religions
Religion is a powerful influence on a person’s
approach and response to life experiences
All individuals have the right to be respected for
their religious heritage
Not all people are religious – they too have the
right to be respected
right The Academic study of religion
The Academic study of religion “is a secondary activity that attempts to discover, describe, and explain the primary expressions of the religious life of a community…” “requires the use of many disciplines and methods…” Theology
Theology “words about [study of] God”
Generally done from within a [theistic] religious tradition (e.g. Christian theology)
To describe and transmit the teachings of a particular religious tradition or community Discuss: difference between studying religion in church vs. in the classroom
But religion is more than just thinking about God Literary Criticism
Literary Criticism Asks questions regarding sacred texts
– Who is the author?
When was this text composed?
Where was it written and to what audience?
What was the author’s reason for writing this?
What type of literature is used?
How has this text been received, edited, interpreted? But religion is more than just what is contained in a sacred text History of Religion
History of Religion
click link to see 5000 years of religion play out in 90 seconds Historians seek to find out “what really happened” – the facts about a given religion Explores how social, economic, cultural or environmental factors may have influenced a religion’s:
– Beginnings, development, spread Using “tools” such as: – Archaeology, geography, demography, population statistics The Anthropological Study of The Anthropological Study of Religion “words about human beings” and human societies… as both creators and creations of cultures Religion, as a part of human culture, is thus studied by anthropologists as a “powerful factor in any culture” Edward B. Tylor (1832 – 1917) Sociology of Religion
Sociology of Religion
“words about social behavior” Generally concerned with the life of
modern , developed, literate societies (in contrast to anthropology) Explores the social origins and function of religion in human society The sociologist studies “the way religion interacts with other dimensions of our social experience” – How human social life changes religion
– How religion transforms human social behavior Max Weber (18641920)
But religion is more than just a fact of social life Psychology of Religion
Psychology of Religion “words about the psyche [mind]”
The psychologist explores the psychological dimensions of religious phenomena
William James (18421910)
Sigmund Freud (18561939) – “religion is an infantile dependency, a neurosis” Carl Jung (18751961) – religion is a projection of “archetypes of the unconscious” But religion is more than just a fact of psychic life Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Religion “Love of wisdom”
Philosophers of religion reflect on the logic, meaning and truth value of religious stories and beliefs
Analyzing religious language
Thomas Aquinas (12251274) (theologian)
Immanuel Kant (17241804) But religion is more than just ideas to be analyzed and often goes beyond the limits of logic Phenomenology
Phenomenology “words about phenomena” – that which appears Concerned only with description Goal: to portray religion in its own terms rather than reduce or explain it in terms of some other discipline Edmund Husserl (18591938) Mircea Eliade (historian of religion) The Phenomenologist
The Phenomenologist suspends judgment, does not seek to explain (as do the other disciplines) must remain detached and impartial to avoid explaining, interpreting or judging what he or she studies remains skeptical of explanatory theories that claim to completely account for the complex origins or nature of religion itself, or of any religious tradition The relationship between the disciplines
Each discipline studies religion from a limited perspective Anthropology
Sociology Phenomenology studies the whole, as it is “insiders” vs. “Outsiders” Hermeneutics: how we “interpret”
The “inside” believer and the “outside” observer understanding of religion will differ
Either may be a partial, distorted or even wrong understanding
These different scholarly disciplines are not mutually exclusive; they may be complementary – each providing insight to both “insiders” and “outsiders” What can the academic study of religion do for you? If religion were a house…
If religion were a house…
Are you an “insider”
(a committed believer)
or an “outsider”? One has to be outside the house to see it as a whole to see the big picture The one who lives inside the house (the committed believer) will know all the nooks and crannies the details up close How might your position affect your study of religion? Review Questions
Review Questions Who studies God?
Who studies sacred texts?
• The historian
Who studies the facts within the larger context of history?
•The literary critic
Who studies religion as a part of human culture?
Who studies the way religion interacts with other dimensions of our social •The philosopher
Who explores the psychological dimensions of religious phenomena
Who reflects on the logic, meaning and truth value of religious stories •The theologian
Who merely describes, without trying to explain, interpret, or judge religion? Which discipline might appeal most to you? (why?) ...
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