How to Study Religion


Religion is a social phenomenon that is incredibly complex and difficult to define. In general, it involves people making claims about spiritual beings or afterlife. Moreover, it usually involves values that people hold and value more than other values. It is also often accompanied by practices that are very structured. Finally, it is often a source of community and strength for individuals and societies.

There are many ways to study it, and different approaches use slightly different definitions of religion. However, there is a broad consensus that it has to do with beliefs and values. There are also various methods for studying it, including ethnography and participant observation. The most important thing to remember when researching it is to try and understand the meaning of people’s beliefs and values. This means that you have to push past what they are saying and observe their actions. It is also helpful to learn the language and culture of the group you are studying.

Many scholars have taken a functional approach to religion, looking at the way that it binds people together. This includes the work of Durkheim and others who look at how people’s social relationships create solidarity. Other scholars have adapted the analytical framework of Verstehen, which seeks to understand social worlds as they are understood by social actors.

There is also a growing tendency to use an open polythetic approach to the concept of religion, rather than a monothetic one. This moves away from the classical view that every instance of a term will share exactly one property that distinguishes it from other terms.