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Reasons for Studying Religion

Reasons for Studying Religion


This lesson will discuss both the motivation for, and the benefits of, studying religion.

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Source: Intro music and images by David Dillard-Wright

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Religion has been a part of human life from the beginning. All the way back to the oldest cave paintings, like this one from Lascaux, perhaps 30,000 years ago. People have been obsessed with where they came from. Where they were going. If there were some higher beings or higher power.

And they wanted to learn their place in the universe. The interesting thing about Lascaux is that, they haven't found evidence in the cave that shows that people actually lived in the cave. They seemed to have use it only for ritual purposes.

Since there have been humans, there has been religion. And religion has been a part of everything. From birth to death.

From how we treat each other to how we get married. To how we die. To how we treat each other along the way. Religion has been a part of the human story.

So if we want to understand society and what makes it run. If we want to understand humanity, we have to understand religion. But why study religion from a secular perspective? Why study religion in universities?

Well, does the fish understand the water? Can the religious person by themselves understand religion? If we want to understand religion we have to get outside of it.

Of course from what I just said, it should be clear that we can never get outside of it entirely. But hopefully our theoretical perspectives help us to bring a little bit more distance between religion and the study of religion. So that we can hope to understand this phenomenon that has shaped humanity from the beginning.

Especially in today's global context, where religion plays an important part in conflicts around the world. Where increasingly, society can be divided over religion. And where religious beliefs mix with politics and economics to create difficult and often, very toxic and violent states of affairs.

So the study of religion is one of the most important areas for people in the coming centuries to focus their attention. As it has everything to do with how we will continue to live together as the human species in years.

The terms for this lesson are the transcendent-- that which is beyond the ordinary. And humanity-- a term used to refer to all human beings collectively.

Terms to Know

A term used to refer to all human beings collectively.


That which is beyond the ordinary.