The Study of Religion


From the swearing in of witnesses in court to the Pledge of Allegiance, religion is a part of daily life. Studying different types of religion teaches us about people from around the world and helps you understand global complexity.

In our study of Religion, we will begin by examining the different degrees of importance that Americans assign to religious beliefs and practices. We will also look at views of God, Scripture, miracles, worship and other congregational activities. Finally, we will explore how exclusive people are in their claims to salvation as well as beliefs about morality.

Religion is the largest and most complex of all human institutions, with many different traditions claiming to teach universal truths. This makes it difficult to pin down a definition of the word. Scholars often define religion functionally as the beliefs and behaviors that generate social cohesion or provide orientation in life. This view of religion is problematic in that it assumes that all cultures must have the same beliefs and practices to be considered a religiosity.

A more sophisticated approach to understanding the concept of religion is to use a polythetic definition. This approach allows scholars to recognize multiple properties that are common among religions without committing the fallacy of monothetic identification, where an evolving social category is said to have a single ahistorical essence. However, polythetic definitions can lead to ethnocentric conclusions as well. As such, some scholars have sought to avoid this problem by employing what is known as a realist perspective.