The Study of Religion


Religion is a belief system that focuses on something or someone that is sacred to the people who follow it. Religion also involves moral beliefs and codes of behavior. It can have an impact on health and life expectancy as well as social interaction and community. Psychologists, scientists who study the human mind and brain, say that religion may meet a need in humans for spiritual experience. Some researchers think that the same neural circuitry is used for religious experiences as it is for physical sensations such as pain or pleasure.

The study of Religion is a broad field, encompassing textual, historical, linguistic and philosophical approaches to the subject. In addition to examining the boundaries that cultures have historically placed around what is sacred and profane, the study of religion can help students understand different viewpoints of the world. It can encourage the development of tolerance and respect for others who may be different from them.

Most scholars agree that there are at least four features needed for a religion to be defined as such: a central object of devotion, some kind of metaphysics, a set of rituals, and a set of rules for behavior. These four features are often referred to as the “monothetic model of religion” (Lincoln 2006). However, some critics argue that it is inappropriate to call anything a religion unless it has all of these characteristics. A few scholars have even rejected the notion of thing-hood, arguing that religion is a modern category invented by European colonialism.

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