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Religious Studies – Resources

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‘Religious Studies’, also called the Study of Religion, is a field of study that focuses on religious institutions, beliefs, behaviors, and specifically any religious viewpoints.


What are Religious Studies?

A program in ‘Religious Studies’ typically comprises understanding both the history and nature of religious communities. The study further extends to understanding the rituals performed and also the written forms of expression. Thus, the Study of Religions field is broad as it encompasses many religions and how these have evolved over the course of time.

In studying the religious beliefs, essentially one aims to understand the fundamental elements of human society and culture as this is the foundation for understanding religious beliefs and practices. Furthermore, the study of religion is incomplete without understanding the religious institutions and practices.


How Theology differs from Religious Studies

Although the fields of Theology and Religious Studies are closely related, they vastly differ in terms of scope and purpose. While Theology focuses on understanding the divine nature of God, the Study of religion, on the other hand, focuses on religious beliefs and institutions. The Study of Religions has a much wider scope as it studies different religious institutions and their associated beliefs.


Theology, in contrast, has a limited scope as it concentrates on the study of God and specifically the Protestant and Roman Catholic sectors.

Another major difference is that Theology students are expected to have faith, even if it is to a small extent. The study of religions, on the other hand, does not require the students to have faith. Moreover, Theology students may not be religious at all because the field has a more spiritual focus in understanding God’s nature.


Benefits of the Study of Religions

In the globalized world, having knowledge of the world’s religions is a benefit. The study of different religions provides one with an understanding and appreciation of the different religious communities and their cultural viewpoints and perspectives.

Thus, a person with a Religious Studies major would be viewed as having an ‘open mind’, is in sharp contrast to someone who may have never attempted to study another religion. ‘Religious Studies’ encourages students to increase their intellectual, ethical, and sociopolitical thinking with respect to the world’s religions.


Religious Studies Important

Some topics include but are not limited to religious sacrifices, rituals, practices, religious traditions, and mindsets. As can be seen, it is an intellectually engaging field that exposes one to different thoughts.

Furthermore, it is an added benefit for young people to be able to converse with people from other countries on the nuances of religion. Some universities even offer a study abroad program for students to experience the culture apart from the contemporary religious viewpoint.


What Can I do with a Religious Studies Degree?

Several universities offer a Bachelor’s degree with a major and minor in the field. Others offer Master’s degrees in the Study of Religions. Alternatively, a student majoring in say, Liberal Arts can also pursue a minor in the field.


A Religious Studies graduate may explore career options as an archivist, clergy member, charity fundraiser, counselor, advice worker, and a community development worker, among others.

Thus, there are different paths to pursue with a Religious Studies major, apart from the opportunity to explore different countries.

    • Sites of interest for Religious Studies


      Based at Strathclyde University, BUBL provides links to all academic subject areas, including religion (please note this resource has not been updated since April 2011).
      Gallup: Religion


      This site based in the US provides an interesting insight into themes such as church attendance, religious tolerance and religion in the context of current affairs.
      Internet for Religious Studies


      A free teach yourself tutorial on Internet information skills for religious studies. The tutorial is particularly useful because it introduces key internet resources in the field of religious studies as you work through it.
      Internet Sacred Text Archive


      This site describes itself as ‘a freely available archive of electronic texts about religion, mythology, legends and folklore, and occult and esoteric topics’.
      Overview of World Religions


      An excellent encyclopedia which can be accessed by world religion or region. The site includes flow charts showing how particular religions have developed into subgroups. It is the result of a collaborative project undertaken by the Museum of World Religions in Taiwan and the Department of Religion and Social Ethics at St Martin’s College, Lancaster.
      Religious Worlds


      As well as providing links to web sites on the main world religions, this site includes resources on a variety of topics, such as religion and film, and religion and science.


      Internet resources on individual religions. A very good list of links to web sites on the major religions.

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