Intro to Religion: Why Study Religion?

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 2, 2010 in Intro to Religion

intro to religion why study religion

Welcome to my Intro to Religion course.

Why should we study religion? Most people will not need an answer. If you are a member of homo sapiens, chances are good you are deeply interested in religion. But let us consider some good reasons for studying religion:

  • To better understand our species. Few things are more fundamental to the human experience than religion. To understand religion is to understand ourselves.
  • To better understand each other. For billions of people, religion is the most defining aspect of their lives. And yet we typically know very little about the religion of our neighbors. Studying religion can help us understand our neighbors, what is most important to them, and “what makes them tick.”
  • To better understand human cultures. It is impossible to understand religious cultures in general without understanding their religious histories in particular. Even today’s largely non-religious cultures are greatly shaped by their religious pasts – for example Christianity in Scandinavia and Shinto in Japan.
  • To better engage the global society. The world is connected as never before. Many interactions succeed or fail on the basis of our understanding of each other. For example, the failure of the U.S. government to understand the religious dimensions of conflicts in Southeast Asia or Iran helps explain many of their errors in judgment in recent decades.
  • To help formulate our own philosophy of life. Studying religion can help us reflect on the similarities and differences between our own worldview and others. Few students study religion without eventually maturing or even changing their own philosophy of life. Even those who finish a course on religion with exactly the same views as when they began will at least possess more informed views.
  • To get a job. Worldwide, millions upon millions of people make their living as an educated religious authority (priest, pastor, etc.) or as an educated religious researchers (sociologist, anthropologist, etc.).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

svenjamin January 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm

What? You are saying I could actually get a job with my religious studies degree?! If only that were true..

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lukeprog January 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm

svenjamin,

Well, maybe if you want to be a pastor.

Maybe. :)

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sam January 20, 2010 at 4:19 am

Just to give a different view on the subject, one might say “why study humans silly superstitions that is religion”.

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