Alternative perspectives, due to their absence in mainstream texts and dismissal by historical scholars, are sometimes difficult to hear over the sound of traditional narratives – but this is increasingly changing for the better. Where we can open ourselves to these voices, we can improve our understanding of the history of religion, but also our understanding of contemporary religious practitioners as well.
Female academic perspectives on religious literature, contesting or challenging male interpretations, have been developing over a long period of time. Towards the end of the 19th century, Elizabeth Cady Stanton published The Woman’s Bible, an academic translation and commentary on passages from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that relate to women, both in order to challenge popular (male) interpretations of the texts, and to shed light on problematic, misogynistic elements of the original material.
They [Stanton’s translation committee] flag such passages to raise awareness about the pernicious influence of biblical misogyny on the culture of their own day.
Urubshurow, 2008, p. 120
…investigate the complex and at times contentious relationships that exist between rape culture and religion, considering the various ways religion can both participate in and contest rape culture discourses and practices.
Shiloh Project (http://shiloh-project.group.shef.ac.uk/about/)
We also find a similar challenge to misogynistic interpretations of religious texts in the first translation of the Qur’an to be completed by an American Muslim woman – The Sublime Quran by Laleh Bakhtiar. One of the notable changes here is to verse 4.34, which has historically been used to justify domestic abuse and violence against wives. The Sahih International translation offers:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Whereas Bakhtier, with some strong justification renders the key word wadriboohunna as ‘to go away’ rather than ‘to beat’. Her version in full reads:
Men are supporters of wives because God has given some of them an advantage over others and because they spend of their wealth. So the ones (f) who are in accord with morality are the ones (f) who are morally obligated, the ones (f) who guard the unseen of what God has kept safe. But those (f) whose resistance you fear, then admonish them (f) and abandon them (f) in their sleeping place, then go away from them (f); and if they (f) obey you, surely look not for any way against them (f); truly God is Lofty, Great.
Postcolonial and feminist thinkers have helped to dismantle some of the assumptions that helped to reinforce the erasure of alternative perspectives, but it’s still common to talk about religions without exploring or appreciating these voices. As we explore religion, we should be mindful of our own biases and the biases in the material or societies we’re learning about.
Not only has the western definition of religion often ignored or marginalised women and indigenous people, it has also focused on the types of behaviour expected by those raised in Christian Europe. This cultural background has placed greater emphasis on religious texts and orthodoxy (‘right belief’), than on practice, community, or alternative perspectives from marginal groups in a society. In particular, racism, sexism, and religious chauvinism have sometimes been woven into the fabric of the academic field, and this is not always clear from looking at the surface, but nonetheless shapes how people think about and engage with religion in the world.
When it comes to examining and challenging the racism that has been implicit in the formative period of religious studies (an era of colonialism and empire), Malory Nye points out that it’s not enough to simply listen for alternative voices – our entire approach to the field needs to be grounded in a recognition of where its key concepts and ideas came from, and why certain voices are alternative in the first place.
There should be no doubt that religious studies needs to go through a process of decolonization. But what does this involve, and how can this process get started?
To get started, though, we need to realise that decolonisation is not the same as diversifying. The aim for diversity is to accommodate (‘find room’) for ‘alternatives’ and differences within an existing scheme which largely remains unchanged.
Decolonization is about change. It is about responding to changes that are taking place well beyond the classroom — and also changes that should be taking place. And it is about changing how people think, talk, and act through a radical engagement with a plurality of voices and perspectives that have been historically marginalised and silenced. Decolonization is not about ‘finding room’ at the table, it is about changing the room.
Stacey Swain notes that, when it comes to the existence of ‘religion’ outside of the European context in which it developed, the category is essentially forced over existing cultures, and only where these cultures fit the mould of Christianity were they recognised as religion.
…colonial era Europeans often characterized non-European societies as “primitive,” or lacking “religion” qua Christianity and thus civilization; the territories that they inhabited was therefore terra nullius, empty land available for “discovery.” After occupying various territories for many years and despite the lack of a correlating native concept, Europeans and Euro-Americans also eventually “discovered” what became known as “Indigenous Religion(s)” in the areas in question. Such “discoveries” most often operate(d) through a logic of comparison to Christianity, and relative to the amount of control that colonial governments exert(ed) over Indigenous populations.
We can see a real-world example of this in the December 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR), where the cover photo was a naked sadhu (Hindu holy person), who was having his feet touched by a woman. J. E. Llewellyn made the observation that this photo may have been selected more for its shock value than for its alignment with the article it ostensibly supports (https://religion.ua.edu/blog/2018/12/20/note-from-the-field/), noting that it is ‘…a bit of an orientalist image’ because the vast majority of sadhus are not habitually naked.
Russell McCutcheon takes this argument further (https://religion.ua.edu/blog/2018/12/22/note-from-the-field-a-comment/), pointing out that the description applied to the image in the caption goes beyond mere description, and applies interpretation to the woman’s intentions and experiences that it’s extremely unlikely the editor was aware of (the photo was taken from Wikimedia Commons - here’s the original: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Naga_Sadhu_and_Devotee_-_Gangasagar_Fair_Transit_Camp_-_Kolkata_2013-01-12_2799.JPG). The editor’s comments, according to McCutcheon, reinforce the idea that it’s appropriate for observers to interpret the real motivations behind religious activity, but this is inappropriate and speaks over - without ever admitting it - the legitimate voice of the people under study.
…I think it would be highly unlikely to hear this caption come from the mouth of the woman being depicted and whose actions are being decoded for the viewer via this misleadingly simple caption…
Do you think the journal cover would have had the same impact if they had used this image (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Naga_Sadhu_and_Devotees_-_Gangasagar_Fair_Transit_Camp_-_Kolkata_2013-01-12_2797.JPG) of the same scene from a different angle and with different poses? Why not? What is being communicated in each image?
An example of how ownership of religious traditions, and knowledge about those traditions, can be reclaimed by indigenous people can be found in the Strehlow Research Centre, Australia. This organisation holds a vast library of digital resources relating to the native Aranda culture in Central Australia – access to which is restricted to those who have a background in that culture, and who understand the importance and significance of that knowledge.
In 2005 a change to the Strehlow Research Centre Act allowed for the return of sacred objects from the collection to their custodians. This could occur where custodians could be identified and there was evidence to substantiate the claims of ownership. That evidence relies on a mix of archival research and extensive community consultation with the Central Australian Aboriginal community. Aranda customary law is governed by a complex system of rules based on kinship and country.
The Aranda community are active participants in the repatriation process and several culturally qualified people are employed at the Strehlow Centre as Indigenous Research Assistants. Appropriate access to the collection is mediated through the Strehlow Research Centre Board and the senior custodians from the Aranda community.
Strehlow Research Centre
You can watch a presentation from Shaun Angeles Penangke, the Artwe-kenhe (Men’s) Collection Researcher at the Strehlow Research Centre, where he talks about the way that the centre operates, how it helps to support indigenous people, and the significance of the knowledge itself
Another example of the relationship between race, religion, and colonial history can be found in the case of the Easter Island ‘heads’ (actually full statues that were buried). The British Museum has held one of these moai statues for 150 years, and has not yet agreed to its return to the native Rapa Nui people, even though it was taken without permission in the late 1800’s as a gift for Queen Victoria, and represents one of the Rapa Nui ancestors.
Ultimately, the concept of religion comes with considerable historical baggage; we need to restructure our approach to religion and religious studies if we hope to be able to understand religious practitioners and traditions in a variety of contexts around the world. In the next section, we’ll look more closely at the roots of religion.
You can watch a recording of the 2016 Frederick A. Shippey Lecture conference panel Decolonizing the Study of Religion: Future Directions from the Work of Karen McCarthy Brown: https://livestream.com/DrewU/Shippey16
You can also read these articles:
For a discussion on the category of ‘indigenous religion’ and what this may represent both in terms of contemporary approaches and historical narrative, you can also listen to this podcast from The Religious Studies Project: https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/what-do-we-mean-by-indigenous-religions/.
[Podcasts] #She Too A seven-part podcast series exploring some of the texts that include violence against women in the Bible.
[Reports] A Report into Anti-Sikh Hate Crimes The All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs 2020 [sikhi sikhism hate crime discrimination]
[Reports] A Report on the State of Hinduism in Religious Education in UK Schools Insight UK 2021 [hinduism religious education]
[Online Courses] A spiritual revolution? Wicca and religious change in the 1960s This free course looks at the 'crisis' of traditional religion in the Sixties in the Western world. It explores the process of religious renewal, looking at the development of Wicca, the prototypical form of modern Paganism. [wicca 1960s paganism]
[Figures] A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [stub iskcon hinduism vaishnavism bhakti]
About the project Understanding Religion is a website aimed at providing easy access to information about the study of religion. Always free, written clearly for a wide audience, grounded in academic study and supported by references for those who want to dive deeper.
[Websites] Access to Insight A freely available compendium of translations from the Pali Canon, along with a selection of other Theravada Buddhist texts. [buddhism theravada pali canon suttas]
[Scholars] Agnieszka Halemba
[Texts] Ahadith The ahadith are texts containing reported stories about Muhammad, and are frequently used to fill in details about the life of the prophet; they also provide guidance on points not directly addressed by the Qur'an. [islam stub]
[Traditions] Ahmadiyya Muslim Community [islam stub]
[Figures] Ahura Mazda The supreme deity in Zoroastrianism. [zoroastrianism deities stub]
[Concepts] Akashic records The Akashic records are a non-physical storehouse of information, proposed by Theosophists to contain a record of all thoughts, words, and actions in the past and future. [stub]
[Figures Scholars] Alan Watts [stub]
[Figures] Allah The supreme deity in Islam. [islam deities stub]
[Perspectives] Alternative Perspectives Alternative perspectives, due to their absence in mainstream texts and dismissal by historical scholars, are sometimes difficult to hear over the sound of traditional narratives – but this is increasingly changing for the better.
[Podcasts] An A-Z of Believing From Atheism to Zealotry, join Dr Ed Kessler, for a 26-week crash course on religion and society.
[Youtube Channels] Angela's Symposium [magic demonology paganism occultism]
[Concepts] Animism Animism is a term based on the Latin word for 'soul', which frames all religious belief in terms of how it imbues the natural world with agency and personality, but more recent scholarship has developed this understanding to focus more on the relationships and responsibilities which typically define animist perspectives. [indigenous]
[Online Courses] Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present Join 50 leading scholars in exploring antisemitism, from its roots to its contemporary forms. [antisemitism hate]
[Practices] Austerities A category of difficult, often painful, practices which may include restricting intake of food or water, or engaging in challenging rituals. [stub]
Authors Contribitors and editors.
[Entheogens] Ayahuasca A drink prepared by indigenous groups in the Amazon, containing a number of psychoactive chemicals. It is often used in groups to facilitate healing, visions, and insight. [dmt shamanism indigenous religion]
[Videos] BASR 2020 Worldviews in RS and RE Panel [religious studies religious education]
[Websites] BBC Bitesize BBC [religious studies religious education]
[Websites] BBC Teach BBC [religious studies religious education]
[Books] Be Love Now Ram Das 2010 [hinduism yoga]
[Concepts] Belief Religious systems often include beliefs about the world (both seen and unseen), which describe (or dictate) how the world operates. Subscribing to a set of beliefs (orthodoxy) is not always essential for belonging to a religion.
[Texts] Bhagavad Gita A popular Hindu text, part of the larger Mahabharata, which contains a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. [stub hinduism]
[Places] Blaauboschkraal stone ruins A series of stone circles in South Africa. [megaliths south africa stub]
[Places] Bodh Gaya The site of Buddha's enlightenment. [buddhism stub]
[Figures] Bodhisattva A figure in Buddhist traditions who is on the path to enlightenment. [buddhism mahayana theravada]
Books A collection of pages, organised around themes and topics, free to use and share.
[Figures] Brahma The Hindu deity of creation. [stub deities]
[Figures Concepts] Brahman A Hindu deity and philosophical principle, viewed by some as the supreme reality, or by others as the creative effulgence of another deity. [deities]
[Figures] Brahmin A Hindu holy person, often officiates ceremonies. [stub]
[Journals] British Journal of Religious Education [religious education]
[Traditions] Buddhism Buddhism is a family of traditions which trace their lineage back to a figure known as Siddartha Gautama, a man who discovered a means of escape from the suffering of existence. It is said that he became 'awakened', and this is the meaning of his title: Buddha. [buddhism india china tibet japan]
[Books] Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction Damien Keown 1996 Provides a good overview of the essential points of Buddhism. [buddhism]
[Books] Buddhist Yoga Anonymous 1995 A translation of the Sandhinirmochana-sutra (Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries) - a classical sourcebook of Buddhist yoga. [buddhism yoga]
[Traditions] Candomblé [stub]
[Entheogens] Cannabis Cannabis is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical or recreational purposes, however it can also be used for spiritual purposes. [marijuana weed pot herb ganja]
[Traditions] Caodaism Caodaism emerged in Vietnam during the 1920s and based its structure on that of the Roman Catholic Church, but drew its principles and practices from Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and Confucianism. [vietnam new religious movements]
[Perspectives] Capitalist Spirituality A term used to describe the use of religious ideas, practices, and materials in the support of capitalist ideologies, for example the promotion of meditation in the workplace in order to boost productivity.
[Scholars] Carl Jung A Swiss psychologist who helped introduce and develop ideas about the human unconscious.
[Scholars] Catherine Bell An American religious studies scholar who specialised in the study of Chinese religions and ritual studies. [ritual chinese religion china]
[Practices Sounds] Chanting A vocal practice in which words or sounds are repeated, either alone or in a group.
[Articles] Chemically-Induced Visions in the Fourth Book of Ezra in Light of Comparative Persian Material Vicente Dobroruka 2006 [entheogens]
[Occasions] Chinese New Year [china]
[Traditions] Christianity Christians follow the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a man born around the beginning of the first century in the land which is now Israel. [christianity israel jesus]
[Places] Church The term 'church' can refer to subtraditions within Christianity, or a place of worship for Christians.
[Perspectives] Cognitive Theories
Commentary Pages These commentaries provide the glue which holds together pages into books.
[Videos] CRPL Seminar 15th October - Buddhist Responses to Sexual Misconduct [buddhism sex abuse sexual abuse]
[Objects] Crucifix A physical representation of Jesus dying on the cross, used by Christians as a reminder of Jesus's death and resurrection; the crucifix is used in a variety of contexts, often as a focal point within a church.
[Concepts] Cults One of the key aspects of religion – particularly in public discourse – is the relationship between 'organised religion' and small groups of devotees lead by charismatic individuals, commonly referred to as cults.
[Journals] Culture and Religion [religious education]
[Concepts] Dharma The Hindu concept of law, righteousness, or way of life.
[Scholars] Dimitris Xygalatas An anthropologist and cognitive scientist studying ritual and cooperation. [ritual anthropology cognitive science]
[Entheogens] DMT A chemical substance that occurs in many plants and animals and which has historically been prepared by various cultures for ritual purposes as an entheogen. [N,N-Dimethyltryptamine]
[Scholars] Douglas Marshall A scholar of religion and ritual.
[Articles] Early Christians Might Have Been High on Hallucinogenic Communion Wine Ed Prideaux 2020 A discussion on the early use of hallucinogenic chemicals mixed with alcohol to form so-called 'spiked' wine. [entheogens wine]
[Traditions] Eastern Orthodox Church
[Occasions] Eid-e-Shuja’ Eid-e-Shuja’, also known as Eid-e-Zahra, is a ritual festival observed by most Twelver Shi‘a Muslims. It marks the end of the two-month mourning period after the events of the Karbala massacre, which occurred in 680 AD. [islam]
[Figures] El The name for any god or deity in the ancient Near East, is also the name of specific deities in that region. [deities]
[Figures] Elohim [deities]
[Podcasts] Encounter Encounter is a discussion podcast produced by the Woolf Institute and presented by its Founder Director Dr Ed Kessler, exploring the relationship between religion and society.
[Practices Food] Eucharist
[Texts] Gathas A collection of 17 hymns, believed to have been composed by Zarathustra – the Gathas represent the core of the Zoroastrian liturgy (the Yasna). [zoroastrianism]
[Places] Glastonbury A town in Somerset, United Kingdom, which acts as a site of pilgrimage for many. [united kingdom somerset pilgrimage christianity pagan]
[Online Courses] Governing Religion: Global Challenges and Comparative Approaches Explore the relationship between religions and governments and learn how religions have come to be governed across the world. [diversity]
[Scholars] Graham Harvey
[Figures] Guru Amar Das
[Figures] Guru Angad
[Figures] Guru Arjan
[Figures] Guru Gobind Singh
[Figures] Guru Har Krishnan
[Figures] Guru Har Rai
[Figures] Guru Hargobind
[Figures] Guru Nanak
[Figures] Guru Ram Das
[Figures] Guru Tegh Bahadur
[Scholars] Gwilym Beckerlegge
[Figures] Hassan al-Banna Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is alternately praised as a leading social reformer, and decried as laying the foundations for modern Islamic terrorist groups. [islam egypt]
[Concepts] Henotheism Henotheism means the worship and veneration of one god, in a world where many gods exist – for example the worship of Artemis within the Greek Pantheon.
[Traditions] Himalayan Institute Of Yoga Science And Philosophy The Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy was founded by Swami Rama, and is dedicated to sharing so-called Himalayan Yoga. [hinduism india]
[Books] Hindu Myths Wendy O'Flaherty 1975 A collection of Puranas - stories about Hindu deities and mythological figures. [hinduism india mythology]
[Traditions] Hinduism A diverse range of Indian religious systems, which regard the Vedas as authoritative scripture. [india]
[Books] Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction Kim Knott 1998 [hinduism]
[Books] History of Western Philosophy Bertrand Russell 1946 [philosophy greece catholicism]
[Scholars] Hugh Beattie
[Practices Sounds] Hymns
[Reports] Improving Religious Literacy: A Contribution to the Debate The All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education 2016 [religious education religious literacy]
[Books] Indian Philosophy: Volume 1 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1923 This volume of Radhakrishnan’s two-volume work on Indian philosophy goes into detail on the Rig Veda and Upanishads, Jainism, Buddhism, and the theism of the Bhagavad Gita. [india philosophy buddhism hinduism jainism]
[Podcasts] Inside Fundamentalism Four-part podcast series reflecting on aspects of strictly observed religion.
[Online Courses] Interfaith Dialogue for Combating Extremism among Young People Explore the role of interfaith education in preventing forms of violent extremism and building resilient communities. [interfaith extremism young people violence]
[Reports] Interim Report: Religious Education for All The Commission on Religious Education 2017 [religious education]
[Books] Introducing World Religions Victoria Kennick Urubshurow 2008 A textbook on religious studies, surveying traditions from around the world. [religious studies world religions]
Introduction to Religious Studies Explore the world of religion with this in-depth course and develop a thematic understanding of contemporary religious studies.
Introduction to Religious Studies | Welcome
[Figures] Isaiah Shembe
[Traditions] Islam A monotheistic tradition that developed during 7th century Arabia, and which traces its roots back to the one god of the Hebrews. [arabia muhammad]
[Traditions] Jainism The Jain religious tradition focuses on liberation from the suffering of rebirth, and in this sense has common ground with its near geographic neighbours - Hinduism and Buddhism. [india]
[Scholars] James George Frazer
[Figures] Jehovah [deities]
[Figures] Jesus The founding figure of Christianity, Jesus was a Jewish mircle-worker and teacher who proclaimed a divine message in the 1st century CE.
[Scholars] Jonathan Z. Smith
[Places] Kanniyakumari A town in southern India, named after Kanya Kumari, a Hindu goddess. Also the site of a memorial to Swami Vivekananda. [india hinduism tamil nadu vivekananda]
[Scholars] Karen Armstrong
[Practices Concepts Food] Kashrut Jewish dietary law.
[Podcasts] Keeping it 101: A Killjoy's Introduction to Religion Aimed at a general audience who want to get to grips with contemporary religious studies, this podcast explores a range of topics, including the concept of religion as category, and the significance of race, gender, and sexuality.
[Practices Sounds] Kirtan
[Figures] Korean Martyrs
[Practices Concepts Food] Kosher Food which is appropriate to eat in Jewish traditions.
[Texts] Lankavatara Sutra
[Figures] Lao Tzu
[Youtube Channels] Let's Talk Religion [islam sufism philosophy religious studies]
[Scholars] Linda Woodhead
[Perspectives] Liquid Religion
[Perspectives] Literary Bias Texts (of all kinds) are controlled and mediated by people, and therefore restrictions can sometimes be made about which texts are preserved and shared, and which are ignored or destroyed. This can lead to an erasure of certain material from a religious tradition, or from the public understanding of that tradition, particularly if the material disagrees with the perspective of those in positions of power. [texts scripture bias]
[Perspectives] Lived Religion
[Podcasts] Living in Harmony The role of music in religious practice and interreligious encounter across the Middle East.
[Texts] Lotus Sutra
Luke Burns Luke Burns is the founder and director of the Online Centre for Religious Studies.
[Occasions] Mabon Mabon is a pagan festival that takes place on the autumnal equinox, during which foods are harvested and thanks is given to the Earth.
[Occasions] Maghi This is an annual festival commemorating the forty Sikh martyrs who originally deserted Guru Gobind Singh, but later returned to fight alongside him at Muktsar.
[Traditions] Mahayana Buddhism A form of Buddhism which is focused on attaining liberation for all beings out of compassion for the suffering of the world. [buddhism india]
Main Pages Information about the site.
[Practices Sounds] Mantra
[Scholars] Marion Bowman Marion Bowman is a scholar of religion at the Open University
[Scholars] Mary Douglas A British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism, whose area of speciality was social anthropology. [culture symbolism anthropology]
[Perspectives] Material Religion
[Entheogens] Mescaline Cacti
[Scholars] Mircea Eliade
[Figures] Mohandas Gandhi A figure of Indian independence against British rule, Gandhi was a revered Hindu activist. [hinduism india]
[Figures] Muhammad Muhammad is the revered prophet of Islam, who was active during the 6th Century in Arabia.
[Objects] Murti Used by Hindus, a murti is a physical representation of a deity, which that deity can inhabit, and through which the deity is worshipped. [hinduism]
[Online Courses] Muslims in Britain: Changes and Challenges Develop your understanding of Muslims and their faith through an exploration of communities in Britain. [islam muslims britain united kingdom]
[Places] Nabta Playa An ancient North African megalith. [megaliths]
[Podcasts] Naked Reflections Reflecting on recent science news stories and current events, authoritative thinkers unpack the implications for society.
[Scholars] Nancy Ammerman
[Traditions] Nazareth Baptist Church
[Figures] Neem Karoli Baba
[Perspectives] New Animism
new religious movements
[Texts] New Testament
[Podcasts] New Testament Review Influential works of New Testament scholarship discussed by two Duke PhD candidates.
[Scholars] Ninian Smart Smart was a Scottish writer and educator who developed the field of academic religious studies, and helped to distance it from theology. He took the investigation away from which religion was 'true', and instead looked at the lived experiences of religious adherents. [phenomenology religious studies]
[Podcasts] NT Pod Podcast about the New Testament and Christian Origins. Condensed comment from an academic perspective for everyone interested in historical approaches to the New Testament. By Mark Goodacre, Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University.
[Occasions] Obon A Japanese celebration of people's ancestors, which developed out of Buddhist and Confucian traditions. [japan buddhism confucianism]
[Texts] Old Testament
Pages All pages, all categories
[Concepts] Panpsychism The belief that the universe is one, collective intelligence or consciousness.
[Concepts] Pantheism The belief that everything is god.
[Figures] Paramahansa Yogananda
[Scholars] Pascal Boyer
[Practices] Pilgrimage Pilgrimage is a practice of journeying to a significant location, but the location, method of travel, and meaning attached can vary widely. There is often a close relationship, or even overlap, with tourism.
[Concepts] Polytheism Polytheism is any system of belief involving multiple deities.
[Practices] Practice Religious practices are those behaviours and actions that have religious meaning for those who perform them; there are many different types and examples of such practices, including pilgrimage to holy sites (such as the tomb of Imam Husayn for Shi'ite Muslims), prayer, and song – to name a few.
[Texts] Principia Discordia The Principia Discordia is a semi-satirical work on the nature of divine chaos. [discordianism eris fnord stub]
[Entheogens] Psilocybin Mushrooms [magic mushrooms shrooms cubes]
[Books] Psychology and Religion G. S. Spinks 1963 A detailed review of the psychological study of religion, touching on the theories of Freud and Jung, and exploring the psychology of prayer, worship, and mystical experiences. [psychology]
[Figures] Ram Dass
[Occasions] Ramadan Ramadan is the period of fasting and contemplation undertaken by Muslims in the ninth lunar month of the year. [islam]
[Texts] Ramayana The Ramayana (literally Rama's travels) is about the character Rama, prince of a kingdom called Ayodhya (and later its king), but Rama is actually the god Vishnu who has taken birth in a human form, or avatar. [hinduism india]
[Traditions] Rastafari Movement
[Traditions] Ravidassia religion A tradition with roots in Sikhi, which reveres Ravidass as Guru. [sikhi]
[Figures] Regina Jonas
[Podcasts] Rejected Religion Discussions on religious topics typically viewed as alternative, forbidden, or heretical. [religious studies hermeticism occult esotericism alternative religion]
[Online Courses] Religion and Conflict Understand and analyse the role of religion in conflicts and peacebuilding in present-day societies, with this free online course. [violence terrorism]
[Reports] Religion and Worldviews: the way forward. A national plan for RE The Commission on Religious Education 2018 [religious education]
[Podcasts] Religion Bites This is a podcast by Malory Nye on the study of religion.
[Youtube Channels] Religion for Breakfast [religious studies]
[Online Courses] Religion, Radicalisation, Resilience Understand religious radicalisation and violence and learn strategies to build resilience in communities and schools. [violence radicalisation terrorism]
[Online Courses] Religions From The Inside: Improving Interreligious Dialogue Explore the value of cooperation between faiths and learn how the five main world religions’ core beliefs relate to each other. [interreligious dialogue]
[Online Courses] Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures Learn how to better understand the rich and complex ways that religions function in historic and contemporary contexts. [religious literacy]
[Books] Revelations of Divine Love Julian of Norwich 1966 [christianity women mystic mysticism religious experience]
[Scholars] Richard King Co-author of 'Selling Spirituality'
[Practices Concepts] Ritual Some religious practices have specific rules about how they are performed, these practices are sometimes called rituals. There is no hard line between 'religious practice' and 'ritual', but practices with more rules can be described as more ritualistic. [ritual order meaning]
[Scholars] Robin Horton An English social anthropologist and philosopher, he carried out specialised study in comparative religion which challenged and expanded views in the study of the anthropology of religion. [anthropology philosophy africa indigenous religion magic myth ritual]
[Scholars] Ronald Grimes A ritual theorist who founded the interdisciplinary field of ritual studies. [ritual anthropology american religion media]
[Scholars] Rudolf Otto
[Youtube Channels] Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen [nordic animism denmark animism]
[Traditions] Santo Daime
[Experiences] Satori An experience of enlightenment within Zen Buddhism. [zen buddhism enlightenment]
[Perspectives] Self-Religion Self-religion is a term used by scholars to describe the modern phenomenon of highly individualised religious practice, which draws from diverse spiritual traditions in order to create a unique form of religion that is acceptable to the individual.
[Concepts] Seva Within the Sikh religion, one of the important practical aspects is seva or selfless service, which takes the form of charitable actions.
[Perspectives] Seven Dimensions of Religion The seven dimensions of religion are a framework for exploring and understanding religion, developed by the Scottish scholar of religion, Ninian Smart. [phenomenology religious studies]
[Practices] Shechita A form of ritual slaughter in Jewish traditions.
[Figures] Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha) The founder of Buddhism. [buddhism india nepal]
[Scholars] Sigmund Freud
[Traditions] Sikhi (Sikhism) Sikhi is the name of a religious tradition which emerged in the Punjab, initiated by Guru Nanak, and led by a series of Gurus who acted as divine intermediaries between God and humanity. The final human Guru bestowed spiritual authority onto the community's scriptures and the community itself. [punjab india]
[Concepts] Six Articles of Faith Within Islam, there are three aspects which are generally agreed upon - these are islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (perfection). In this article, we're going to focus on iman and see how it is understood in relation to Islam as a religious tradition, but it's clear from this threefold division that faith by itself isn't the whole story. [islam]
[YouTube Channels] SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies: YouTube Channel Run by SOAS University, the Centre of Yoga Studies researches and shares information about yoga practices and history.
Sources Useful articles, books, and online resources.
[Texts] Sri Guru Granth Sahib The Sikh holy text, revered as a guru.
[Figures] Swami Vivekananda
[Traditions] Sámi indigenous religion [indigenous]
Terms and Conditions The boring bits...
[Podcasts] Text Talks Text Talks provides teachers and students (and anyone else who’s interested) with weekly podcasts and resources based around the GCSE and A Level Syllabuses for Buddhism and Hinduism. [hinduism buddhism religious education gcse a level]
[Texts Concepts] Texts Although the word 'texts' might imply a written document, the term has a wider scope in the field of religious studies. [texts scripture art material religion]
[Texts] The Bible The Christian holy text, which includes accounts of the creation of the world and God's dealings with humanity.
[Podcasts] The Classical Ideas Podcast The goal of The Classical Ideas Podcast is to empower students with the core knowledge of major world religions to improve citizenship and agency in a diverse society.
[Websites] The Database of Religious History The world’s first comprehensive online quantitative and qualitative encyclopedia of religious cultural history.
[Podcasts] The Faith and Belief Forum: Podcast Produced by the Faith and Belief Forum, an organisation dedicated to building good relations between people of different identities.
[Books] The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion James George Frazer 1922 [comparative religion mythology]
[Books] The Indian Theogony Sukumari Bhattacharji 1970 A work on comparative mythology, focusing on Indian deities and mythologies - particularly with reference to the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. [hinduism india comparative mythology]
[Traditions] The International Church of Cannabis The International Church of Cannabis is a religious group based in Denver, Colorado, USA, which uses cannabis during its ceremonies in order to help members have a better understanding of themselves. [stub entheogens]
[Journals] The Journal of Religion, Nature and Culture [religious studies social science cognitive science nature]
[Books] The Last Days of Socrates Plato 1954 A collection of Plato's writings, centered around the life and death of Socrates, including Euthyphro, The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. [greece philosophy]
[Books] The Life of Milarepa Rechung 1928 An abridged version of Evans-Wentz’s translation, telling the life story of the Tibetan Buddhist monk Milarepa. [tibet buddhism biography]
[Podcasts] The Panpsycast Philosophy Podcast A weekly philosophy podcast inspiring and supporting students, teachers, academics, and free-thinkers worldwide.
[Texts] The Pañcadaśī The Pañcadaśī is a Hindu philosophical text, in the tradition of advaita vedanta, also known as non-dualism. [hinduism vedanta]
[Podcasts] The RE Podcast [religious education]
[Books] The Religious Experience of Mankind Ninian Smart 1969 A comprehensive survey of religious experiences from around the world. [comparative religion]
[Podcasts] The Religious Studies Project The Religious Studies Project (RSP) is an international collaborative enterprise producing weekly podcasts and resources on the social-scientific study of religion.
[Podcasts] The Sacred Listen to Theos in conversation, and interviewing other thought leaders, about Christianity and faith in the world today.
[Books] The Science of Self-Realization A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada 1977 A collection of essays on Vaishnavite devotional yoga, or bhakti. [bhakti yoga vaishnavism iskcon]
[Books] The Serpent Power Sir John Woodroffe 1918 An introduction to the concept of laya yoga, along with translations of two Sanskrit works - the Sat-Chakra-Nirupana and the Paduka-Pancaka. [yoga kundalini hinduism india]
[Online Courses] The Sharia and Islamic Law: An Introduction Discover Sharia and Islamic law, and learn more about some of the diverse roles they play in Muslim life. [islam sharia fiqh]
[Books] The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods George D. Chryssides and Ron Greaves 2007 [religious studies world religions]
[Books] The Upanishads Anonymous 1965 Mascaró presents a selection of the Hindu Upanishads in English translation. [hinduism]
[Books] The Varieties of Religious Experience William James 1902 Published at the beginning of the twentieth century, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a far-ranging exploration of the psychology and philosophy behind different kinds of religious experiences. [religious studies world religions religious experience]
[Perspectives] The World Religions Paradigm When the category of religion is used to describe 'world religions', it is often in a way that turns multiple diverse traditions, philosophies, and practices, into one single entity for the sake of simplicity. [religious studies]
[Books] Theogony and Works and Days Hesiod 1988 [greece mythology]
[Traditions] Theravada Buddhism Theravada is a form of Buddhism that venerates the Buddha but does not deify him, follows the teachings of the old scriptures (the Pali Canon), and values the aspirational figure of the arhat. [buddhism india]
[Figures] Thomas Aquinas
[Practices] Trimarga The trimarga are three methods of liberation found within Hindu traditions.
[Concepts] Trinity The so-called 'holy trinity' is a Christian formulation of the order or structure of god, comprised of the father, the spirit, and the son.
[Occasions] Tu BiShvat A Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the 'new year of the trees'. [new year trees judaism israel]
[Traditions] Vajrajana Buddhism
[Traditions] Wana people [indigenous]
[Scholars] Wendy Doniger
[Questions] What is religion? Although at first glance, you might think that religion is an easy to understand concept - it becomes very difficult to pin down, the more you look at it. There are lots of possible definitions, but none of them are 100% right.
[Questions] What is religious literacy? Religious literacy is a term that has become more popular in recent years, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about it? [religious studies religious literacy]
[Questions] What is religious studies? Religious studies is the academic study of religion - but what does that really mean? [religious studies]
[Questions] What makes a place sacred? To claim that a location, structure, or geographical feature is sacred is to assert that it is set apart and regarded with special reverence, yet there are many ways to understand this sacrality, where it comes from, and how it is expressed by different groups of people. [sacred place geography]
[Questions] Who creates religion? The modern study of religion, beginning in the 19th Century, has been traditionally driven by male European scholars, who have carried their own cultural biases and assumptions - some unconscious, others less so. [religious studies]
[Online Courses] Why Religion Matters: Religious Literacy, Culture and Diversity A free online course from the Open University, exploring the importance of religious literacy. [religious studies religious literacy]
[Podcasts] Wise Studies Podcast
[Podcasts] Woolf Research What's the leading research in the field of religion and society? And how are we contributing to it?
[Reports] Worldviews in Religious Education Theos Think Tank 2020 This report interprets and develops the idea of worldview and explores its implications for the classroom. [religious education]
[Videos] Worldviews in Religious Education launch This is a recording of 'What are worldviews and why should schools teach them?' on 21st October 2020. [religious education]
[Reports] Worldviews: A Multidisciplinary Report Céline Benoit, Timothy Hutchings and Rachael Shillitoe 2020 As part of the Worldview Project, the REC commissioned a multidisciplinary academic literature review on the worldview concept. This was prepared by three academics working in different disciplines in different universities. [worldviews religious education]
[Traditions] Yazidism Yazidism is a monotheistic tradition, which believes that the universe was created by a single deity, Xwedê, and is governed by seven angels.
[Videos] Yoginī temples and their antecedents: reassessing the textual evidence A live recording of an online talk and Q+A via zoom on 21st October 2020 for the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies. [yoga]
[Scholars] Émile Durkheim