Widely used as a primer, a class text, or just a provocation to critical thinking, Studying Religion clearly explains the methods and theories employed in the academic study of religion by tackling the problem of how we define religion. Written for newcomers to the field, its chapters explore the three main ways in which religion is defined and, along the way, also considers a range of related topics, from the history and functions of religion to public discourse on religion, religion in the courts, and the classification of religions. The works of classic and contemporary scholars—from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud to Bruce Lincoln and Wendy Doniger—are analyzed and explored in its readable chapters and detailed supporting materials. Studying Religion represents a shift away from the traditional world religions approach and, instead, invites readers to consider how they divide up, name, and come to know the world around them.

Thoroughly revised throughout, this second edition now includes a significantly expanded glossary, summaries of technical terms and global case studies at the end of each chapter, and additional biographies of key scholars mentioned. This book will be invaluable to all students of religious studies—whether in the introductory class or as an example of an alternative way of approaching the field.

chapter |12 pages


What is the study of religion?

chapter 1|12 pages

What’s in a name?

chapter 2|11 pages

The history of ‘religion’

chapter 3|18 pages

The essentials of religion

chapter 4|16 pages

The functions of religion

chapter 5|11 pages

The resemblances among religions

chapter 6|14 pages

The public discourse on religion

chapter 7|13 pages

Religion and the insider/outsider problem

chapter 8|12 pages

Religion and classification