Introduction to Religious StudiesBook Contents
One of the most prominent and well-known aspects of religion in the Western world is faith. This term often comes with a variety of associated meanings and implications, but at its root we can say that faith involves belief in a set of doctrines or creeds which provide meaning and direction, often in the absence of empirical evidence.
Since the relationship between religious belief and scientific empiricism has often been contentious, it’s worthwhile looking a little more closely at how people believe in things, and what this means.
There are different types of belief, and not all of them are considered religious; for example, very few of us have examined cells under microscopes, but we are all (I think!) happy to accept the idea that humans are composed of vast colonies of cellular creatures working in chemical harmony. Exceptionally few have been into space, but the image of the world as a floating globe orbiting a fiery nuclear reactor is almost universally taken as fact.
In fact, almost all of the scientific knowledge that is presented to school children, readers of popular science books, and the average person who takes an interest in such matters, is taken purely on faith. Most people simply don’t have the means, skill, or inclination to personally verify all of the claims they would need to ‘fact check’ everything they are told. This faith is placed in the educational establishment, scientific community, and social authority - in other words, in people.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach to gaining knowledge about the world, and there are many checks and balances built into the scientific process to help reduce the ingress of error and personal bias, but it does present an interesting parallel to religious belief. Religious belief is often presented in such a way that it cannot be experimentally verified - even if we had all the resources of a modern university. A good example is the belief that Jesus was the son of God, and that he’s capable of granting spiritual salvation. There is no DNA test that can prove this claim, and no scientific way to test that someone’s soul has been saved (or indeed that one’s soul exists at all). However, this is not entirely true.
Many religions encourage prospective adherents to test their claims through spiritual activities such as the reading of scripture, meditation, or other activities which encourage a religious mindset. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormons) sometimes refer to a passage in the Book of Mormon that instructs individuals to ask God whether the text is true to help resolve any doubts.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The Book of Moroni 10.4, Book of Mormon
We find a similar claim in the Qur’an, which argues that its quality as scripture proves its authenticity, but challenges anyone to produce a work of comparable quality in order to refute it.
Or do they say [about the Prophet], “He invented it?” Say, “Then bring forth a surah like it and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful.”
In the Qur’an, each chapter is called a surah, so the verse here is arguing quite strongly that no one could create something equal to just a small portion of the Qur’an, even if they had help.
In the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text which takes the form of a conversation between the god Krishna and his devotee Arjuna, Krishna outright states that experience will resolve the doubts that come from reading different scriptures, with different ideas and values.
When thy mind leaves behind its dark forest of delusion, thou shalt go beyond the scriptures of times past and still to come.
When thy mind, that may be wavering in the contradictions of many scriptures, shall rest unshaken in divine contemplation, then the goal of Yoga is thine.
Bhagavad Gita 2.52-3 (trans. Mascaro)
And in the Sikh holy book, itself revered as a Guru, we find these comments originally composed by Guru Arjan:
With one-pointed mind, meditate on the One Lord, and the doubts of your mind will be dispelled.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib p. 47 (trans. Khalsa)
So, unlike scientific belief, which rests on evidence that can be tested publicly and repeatedly, religious belief tends to involve evidence that is personal, subjective, and unique to one moment in time - for example a response to a prayer or a moment of spiritual enlightenment.
This absence of scientific evidence does not necessary invalidate the truth claims made by religious traditions, but does change the nature of the relationship between the religious adherent and the truth, purpose, and beauty of their beliefs.
For example, some historians question whether Jesus (whether man or deity) actually existed, since the Gospels were written long after his death, and there are barely any independent references to him from the period in which he lived. Yet, despite this lack of strong material evidence, many millions of people across the world believe in the reality of Jesus, and his life as described in the New Testament; in fact, this belief has become so central to Christianity that it is difficult to define someone as Christian if they don’t believe it, and it’s part of one of the earliest formulations of the Christian religion: the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostles’ Creed
Some atheists and agnostics, who struggle with the the relationship between religious belief and empirical evidence, but who nonetheless were raised in a predominantly Christian culture and identify with some elements of the tradition, prefer to call themselves ‘cultural Christians’ - see for example Alana Massey’s discussion on this and Trevin Wax’s commentary for a Christian perspective.
There is a technical word for describing the way that some people insist on believing the ‘right’ things. Orthodoxy: strict adherence to a set of beliefs and principles.
Just like we found with ‘belief’, orthodoxy can also be used in non-religious contexts, wherever individuals are expected to follow a particular way of thinking or believing. For example, scientific orthodoxy is sometimes used to describe the way that certain ideas are so central to a scientific worldview that they should not be questioned - like the spherical nature of the planet, or the absence of deities in the creation of the universe.
Due to the historical influence of Christianity in western nations, and the importance of orthodox belief structures to Christianity’s success, there is a firm link between the idea of belief and the idea of religion in a western setting. Therefore, it’s often a normal line of enquiry when learning about an unfamiliar religious tradition to ask ‘what do they believe?’
However, belief was not always so central. In her TED talk, My Wish: The Charter for Compassion, author Karen Armstrong makes the point that prior to the 17th Century, the meaning of belief, and the significance it held in religious circles, was much different. It meant only to hold dear, or to prize, and the sense that people should hold a particular set of ideas about reality was not an enforced standard, as it later came to be.
It’s not just pre-modern Christianity that has a more relaxed approach to belief; in many modern religious traditions it’s not seen as important to subscribe to a specific set of ideas, but it often is important to engage in ritual practices or affirm identity with the community. Scholars have historically looked for ways to define religion according to ‘belief’ for the same reasons they have looked for books of religious law and ignored oral traditions, material culture, and lived experience - i.e. they represent a western understanding of Christian-centric religion as it was around the 19th and early 20th century when the science of religious studies was developing.
Though these belief-focused approaches are no longer common, they have nonetheless left a mark on the subject in the wider culture, and people may often think of a religion in terms such as Buddhists believe X rather than Buddhists do Y, or feel Z. It ‘s not that belief isn’t important, it’s just that it’s not the whole story.
If you’d like a watch a summary of these ideas, you can check out this excellent video from Religion for Breakfast: What Does it Mean to Be Religious?
[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