Introduction to Religious Studies | Welcome

Page author: Luke Burns

This page published on: 22/02/2020

Last modified: 22/02/2020

Table of Contents

Hi there, welcome to Introduction to Religious Studies!

In this online course we’ll be exploring the fundamental basics of what a religion is, how and why people study religion, and also discussing some real world examples of religious thought, tradition, and practice.

The course is open to absolute beginners; you don’t need to know anything about religion or religious studies before we start, but if you already have some experience then you’ll definitely find useful material and ideas as we move forward.

Religion, I would argue, is a key part of everyone’s lives; even if they don’t identify as religious, they will live in a culture that is steeped in religious history and surrounded by contemporary religious phenomena. Therefore it’s important to understand what religion is, and isn’t, and to demystify some of the technical vocabulary that might be thrown around both in the media and in popular culture.

For instance, what does it mean for Muslims to follow shariah in the West? What does karma mean in the context of suffering? Is yoga a religious act? Why is homosexuality considered sinful? What does kosher food have to do with God?

Understanding religion in a respectful, but critical, way is essential to improving our understanding of society as a whole, and our place within it. We hope to give you the skills to engage meaningfully with religious ideas and traditions, to study them academically, and to build up a religious literacy that means you’re better equipped for dealing with popular discussions about religions and worldviews no matter where you encounter them.

Style and content

My aim, in writing the course material, is to present information in as clear a style as possible - so I might sound fairly conversational - but occasionally you’ll see an academic reference thrown in like this (Smith 2013, pp.23-6).

Don’t worry if that’s gibberish, it’s just there in case you want to read more from the original source of information. You don’t have to!

Some quotes will be more substantial, and will stand out like this. Bumble bees are quite lovely, aren’t they?

Burns, 2020, Online

The references are in the Harvard Style, and will usually have the name of the author I’m referring to, the year that whatever they wrote was published, and the page (or pages) that I took the material from. This is called an in-line reference, in case you’re curious.

To find out more about the original source, just scroll down until you see a heading that says References, where the authors will be in alphabetical order and more details are available.

You will sometimes encounter instructions or activities - they will look like this. Just follow the directions provided and then move on to the next section or lesson.

Click the 'Forward' button below to move onto the next page in this book.

This article is part of the following books:

Introduction to Religious Studies

Book Contents