Can religion be studied academically? Discuss the importance and different ways of studying religion.
The academic study of religion isn’t a means of just learning scriptures or passages from a sacred text like the Bible. It is a more complex process and can be considered multidisciplinary – it can include art, literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology and much more. Religion can’t be studied without knowing what we are trying to study, and while some would argue it just doesn’t exist, the similarity among the diverse religious belief systems around the world are strong enough to justify a comprehensive field study encompassing the factors listed above, some of which fall into Livingstone’s ‘seven ways of studying religion’. However, to effectively study religion in an academic way, it is important to include critical analysis, which means it is important not to be biased towards your own beliefs. By doing this you can become more culturally aware of other faiths and beliefs, and thus obtain a greater understanding of religions.
Literary criticism plays an important role in the academic study of religion. Religion in the theological way is all about the teachings of a particular sacred text. The Bible for Christianity, the Quran for Islam and Sutras for Buddhism, for example, all contain the teachings and laws of the respective religions, which is essentially how people can understand religion in the first place. Livingstone, in his theories on religion, says questions are the key to studying and understanding the meaning of sacred texts. Is it reliable; who was the author; when was it written and where; how has the work been received, interpreted and passed on? These are the questions that need to be answered before a true understanding of religion can be obtained, and who better to answer them than a literary critic, according to Livingstone. The relationship between religion and language also relates to this idea of literary...
References: Livingston, J. (2009). Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion. New Jersey: Peason/Prentice Hall Upper Saddle
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