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Religious Studies

This guide provides an overview of resources for the academic study of religion.

Theoretical/Methodological Approaches

Use the tabs under "Approaches to Religion", on the left, to find some reading suggestions for each of the major academic approaches to the study of religion. These include anthropological, phenomenological, psychological, and sociological approaches, which trace their roots back to the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment

During the European Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries), important thinkers reworked the intellectual understanding of religion.  No longer strictly a matter of theological and devotional study, religion came to be investigated by philosophers and scientists seeking to uncover "positive knowledge" of the human motivations for religious beliefs and behaviors that were increasingly thought to be irrational.  The Enlightenment paradigm—whereby religion would fade away as empirical knowledge about nature increased—set much of the tone for various other social scientific approaches to religion, and indeed for much of social science as a whole. It fostered a series of new epistemologies focused on knowledge of various aspects of human life—social, psychological, and political—that were increasingly being divorced from earlier theological forms of knowledge.  It may prove useful to consider the Enlightenment's reformulations of religion as you develop your own research.