Religion and religious studies: an introduction
Religion is a subject that nearly everyone feels comfortable identifying without much trouble because it seems so apparent. When people attempt to define its nature, however, they find that it is difficult to execute this task in a way that everyone can recognize the subject of the definition. Moreover, the difficulty of defining the nature of religion is even more evident when a person attempts to apply the term and its definition to cultures outside of one’s own religious milieu. An excellent example of such a problem is shared by Robert Ellwood. While on his way to Japan during a sabbatical leave, a person asks him why he is traveling to Japan. Ellwood responds that he is going to Japan to study its religion, to which the other person replies that Japan does not have any religion. What this casual encounter exemplifies is that the term “religion” does not have cross-cultural applicability in many cases. But until something better arrives, it is this inadequate term from a cross-cultural perspective that we have at the present time.