There are many approaches to the study of sacred texts. One of these approaches is to interpret the text as a literary object.
Metaphor, thematic elements, and the nature and motivations of the characters are of interest in this approach. The temporal lobe has been of interest which has been termed the "God center" of the brain. Ramachandran, ch. Scientific investigators have used a SPECTscanner to analyze the brain activity of both Christian contemplatives and Buddhist meditators, finding them to be quite similar.
The "origin of religion" refers to the emergence of religious behavior in prehistory , before written records. The psychology of religion is concerned with the psychological principles operative in religious communities and practitioners. William James 's The Varieties of Religious Experience analyzed personal experience as contrasted with the social phenomenon of religion.
Some issues of concern to the psychologist of religions are the psychological nature of religious conversion , the making of religious decisions, religion and happiness , and the psychological factors in evaluating religious claims. Sigmund Freud was another figure in the field of psychology and religion. He used his psychoanalytic theory to explain religious beliefs, practices, and rituals, in order to justify the role of religion in the development of human culture.
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The sociology of religion concerns the dialectical relationship between religion and society ; the practices, historical backgrounds, developments, universal themes and roles of religion in society. The sociology of religion is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that it does not set out to assess the validity of religious beliefs, though the process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent "methodological atheism". It may be said that the modern formal discipline of sociology began with the analysis of religion in Durkheim's study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations.
The works of Max Weber emphasised the relationship between religious belief and the economic foundations of society. Contemporary debates have centred on issues such as secularization , civil religion , and the cohesiveness of religion in the context of globalization and multiculturalism. The sociology of religion also deals with how religion impacts society regarding the positive and negatives of what happens when religion is mixed with society.
At least one comprehensive study refutes this idea. Research has found that secular democracies like France or Scandinavia outperform more theistic democracies on various measures of societal health. The authors explains, "Pressing questions include the reasons, whether theistic or non-theistic, that the exceptionally wealthy U.
Conversely, how do the latter achieve superior societal health while having little in the way of the religious values or institutions? Vogel reports that in the s a new "law and religion" approach has progressively built its own contribution to religious studies. Over a dozen scholarly organizations and committees were formed by , and a scholarly quarterly, the Journal of Law and Religion first published that year and the Ecclesiastical Law Journal opened in As of , major Law and Religion organizations in the U.
Between and , the field saw the publication of some books and scholarly articles. Exponents look at canon law, natural law, and state law, often in comparative perspective. The earliest serious writing on the interface between religion and film appeared in the work of film critics like Jean Epstein in the s. A number of methodologies are used in Religious Studies.
Methodologies are hermeneutics , or interpretive models, that provide a structure for the analysis of religious phenomena. Phenomenology is "arguably the most influential approach to the study of religion in the twentieth century. Phenomenology had been practiced long before its being made explicit as a philosophical method by Edmund Husserl , who is considered to be its founder.
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In the context of Phenomenology of religion however, the term was first used by Pierre Daniel Chantepie de la Saussaye in his work "Lehrbuch der Religiongeschichte" Chantepie's phenomenology catalogued observable characteristics of religion much like a zoologist would categorize animals or an entomologist would categorize insects. His other main conceptual contribution is the idea of the epoche : setting aside metaphysical questions and observing phenomena in and of themselves, without any bias or commitments on the part of the investigator.
The epoche, also known as phenomenological reduction or bracketing, involves approaching a phenomenon or phenomena from a neutral standpoint, instead of with our own particular attitudes. In performing this reduction, whatever phenomenon or phenomena we approach are understood in themselves, rather than from our own perspectives. In the field of religious studies, a contemporary advocate of the phenomenological method is Ninian Smart.
He suggests that we should perform the epoche as a means to engage in cross-cultural studies. In doing so, we can take the beliefs, symbols, rituals etc. Another earlier scholar who employs the phenomenological method for studying religion is Gerardus van der Leeuw. In his Religion in Essence and Manifestation , he outlines what a phenomenology of religion should look like:. The subjectivity inherent to the phenomenological study of religion makes complete and comprehensive understanding highly difficult. However, phenomenologists aim to separate their formal study of religion from their own theological worldview and to eliminate, as far as possible, any personal biases e.
There are a number of both theoretical and methodological attitudes common among phenomenologists: source. Many scholars of religious studies argued that phenomenology was "the distinctive method of the discipline". Segal stating that it amounted to "no more than data gathering" alongside "the classification of the data gathered". Functionalism , in regard to religious studies, is the analysis of religions and their various communities of adherents using the functions of particular religious phenomena to interpret the structure of religious communities and their beliefs.
The approach was introduced by British anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. An example of a functionalist approach is understanding the dietary restrictions contained in the Pentateuch as having the function of promoting health or providing social identity i. Lived religion is the ethnographic and holistic framework for understanding the beliefs, practices, and everyday experiences of religious and spiritual persons in religious studies. The concept of lived religion was popularized in the late 20th century by religious study scholars like Robert A.
Orsi and David Hall. The study of lived religion has come to include a wide range of subject areas as a means of exploring and emphasizing what a religious person does and what they believe. Today, the field of lived religion is expanding to include many topics and scholars. Western philosophy of religion, as the basic ancestor of modern religious studies, is differentiated from theology and the many Eastern philosophical traditions by generally being written from a third party perspective.
The scholar need not be a believer. Theology stands in contrast to the philosophy of religion and religious studies in that, generally, the scholar is first and foremost a believer employing both logic and scripture as evidence. Theology according to this understanding fits with the definition which Anselm of Canterbury gave to it in the 11th century, credo ut intelligam , or faith seeking understanding literally, "I believe so that I may understand".
The theologian then has the task of making intelligible, or clarifying, the religious commitments to which he or she subscribes. The scholar of religious studies has no such allegiances. A group of scholars have criticized religious studies beginning in the s as a theological project which actually imposes views onto the people it aims to survey.
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Prominent voices in this critical view include Jonathan Z. Oddie, Richard E.
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King , Russell T. McCutcheon , and Daniel Dubuisson. Their areas of research overlap heavily with postcolonial studies. In , Jonathan Z. Smith wrote a chapter in Critical Terms for Religious Studies which traced the history of the term religion and argued that the contemporary understanding of world religions is a modern Christian and European term, with its roots in the European colonial expansion of the sixteenth century. Fitzgerald argues that this theological agenda has not been overcome by more recent efforts in religious studies to move beyond comparative religion.
Much of the latest scholarship appears in the scholarly journals, which also typically review and evaluate new monographs. There are a large numbers of peer-reviewed scholarly journals in the discipline of Religious Studies. Many journals focus on historical or sociological topics or concentrate on particular religious traditions, such as Judaism or Islam.
Religious studies journals have been laggard in gaining accessibility through the Internet, but libraries specializing in religious history have started to catch up. By Martin Steven. Christianity and Party Politics aims to discuss and evaluate the contemporary relationship between party politics and religion. The book focuses on the important role of the Church in both electoral politics and public policy formulation in the twenty first century, and argues that contrary to the…. By Carsten Anckar. This important new study empirically assesses the relationship between religion and democracy, looking at the global, regional and individual country picture.
By Steve Bruce. This important new volume seeks to provide significant contribution to our understanding of religion and politics, demonstrating through comparisons with other countries the unusually complex nature of the interaction of religion and politics in the United Kingdom. Bruce provides a detailed and…. By Jeff Haynes. This book brings together many of his most influential essays, offering a….
Religion, Conflict and Post-Secular Politics 1st Edition By Jeffrey Haynes This book identifies and examines the political activities of selected religious actors, in both domestic and international contexts, in relation to democracy, human rights and civilisational interactions, and asks why, how and when do selected religious actors seek to influence political outcomes? Religion in the Era of Postsecularism 1st Edition Edited by Uchenna Okeja Exploring the viability of new perspectives on secularisation and the idea of postsecularism, this book reflects on their relevance when considered in the context of different societies within and outside the West.
Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics
The topic of secularisation has been recently reconsidered by prominent theorists,… Hardback — Routledge Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics. From the Rushdie affair and the Danish cartoon affair to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and draconian legislation… Hardback — Routledge Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics. Contested Holy Cities The Urban Dimension of Religious Conflicts, 1st Edition Edited by Michael Dumper Examining contestation and conflict management within holy cities, this book provides both an overview and a range of options available to those concerned with this increasingly urgent phenomenon.
In cities in India, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, we can see examples where religion plays a… Hardback — Routledge Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics. Hoover This comprehensive collection offers a concise introduction to the institutional framework of the Holy See, conceptualizing papal agency and positions from a range of international theory perspectives. The authors — international scholars from political science, history, and religious studies —… Hardback — Routledge Routledge Studies in Religion and Politics.
Religion and the Realist Tradition From Political Theology to International Relations Theory and Back, 1st Edition Edited by Jodok Troy This volume picks up a rather uninvested field of international relations theory: the influence of religion on Realism as well as the power of Realism to address religious issues in world politics.