Analysis of Donald Wiebe's Article, Why the Academic Study of Religion?

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In the article Donald Wiebe’s article “‘Why the Academic Study of Religion?’ Motive and Method in the Study of Religion” he argues that the study of religion must be something you are called to do. Studying religion academically has to be a “critical study of human cultural phenomenon, not a quest for ultimate meaning or truth,” one cannot be searching solely for the true meaning. Wiebe compares the scientific study of religion to a “scientific naturalist with a concern 'to collect', describe and classify the phenomena observed” (409). By this he means that students of religion are not meant to define or explain religion but instead they are to describe and learn about them. He argues that religions cannot be scientifically explained and that faith is an essential part of all religions, therefore it cannot be studied without bias. Through out this article Wiebe attempts to answer why people study religion academically. Students of religion can come from all sorts of backgrounds, from Evangelical Christians to Atheists. It is not important what you believe but instead that you keep those beliefs out of your research. That is to say, do not let your judgements colour your perceptions. A student of religion must not be solely focused on finding absolute truth but instead be looking to understand the marvel of religion. While many students of religion begin their studies in order to find the final truth it cannot cloud their research. They must be open to all the possibilities and truths, not just the final one. The academic study of religion cannot simply be a sheet of observations, it must be scientific. There are rituals and practices to study, as well as holy books and ceremonies and countless other aspects to every religion. Just like many sciences, the study of religion is the study of  “important public facts” (207). It is important that it is done with serious intent and interest in...
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