Religious Studies

Research Methods in the Study of Religion

Phenomenology of Religion
Phenomenology of religion, methodological approach to the study of religion that emphasizes the standpoint of the believer. Drawing insights from the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, especially as exemplified by Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), it seeks to uncover religion’s essence through investigations that are free from the distorting influences of scholarly or traditional values and prejudices.

Anthropology of Religion

Sociology of Religion
Sociology of Religion is the study of the beliefs, practices and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic and census analysis) and qualitative approaches such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical and documentary materials

History of Religions

Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the themes and concepts involved in religious traditions as well as the broader philosophical task of reflecting on matters of religious significance including the nature of religion itself, alternative concepts of God or ultimate reality, and the religious significance of general features of the cosmos (e.g., the laws of nature, the emergence of consciousness) and of historical events (e.g., the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the Holocaust). Philosophy of religion also includes the investigation and assessment of worldviews (such as secular naturalism) that are alternatives to religious worldviews. Philosophy of religion involves all the main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory (including moral theory and applied ethics), philosophy of language, science, history, politics, art, and so on.

Psychology of Religion
A modern field of study in which the concepts and methods of psychology are applied to religious experience and behaviour. One of the first to investigate such possible applications of psychology was W. James; he studied the experience of well-being or of conflict in human response to God, and the experiences of religious conversion and of saintliness and mysticism. Many of the writings of S. Freud (1856–1939) on psychoanalysis contributed to the psychological study of religion, though his critical and reductionist views of religion no longer command assent. Similarly the conclusions of C. G. Jung (1875–1961), though by contrast tending to assign an almost indiscriminate validity to religious phenomena in human experience, have in turn led to restatements of permanent value for the psychology of religion. Since the early 1960s more sophisticated methods of analysis have been developed. Religious behaviour and experience have been studied in relation to age, to cognitive style and other personal characteristics, and also with reference to pathological and drug-induced conditions. Merely psychological methods, however, cannot fully answer questions about the validity of religious behaviour and experience, even if they can account for some aspects of both in non-religious terms.