GCSE Religion Revision
About Religious Studies
Religious studies, also known as the study of religion, is an academic field devoted to research into religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.
While theology attempts to understand the transcendent or supernatural according to traditional religious accounts, religious studies takes a more scientific and objective approach independent of any particular religious viewpoint. Religious studies thus draws upon multiple academic disciplines and methodologies including anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and history of religion.
Religious studies originated in the nineteenth century, when scholarly and historical analysis of the Bible had flourished, and Hindu and Buddhist texts were first being translated into European languages. Early influential scholars included Friedrich Max Müller in England and Cornelius P. Tiele in the Netherlands. Today religious studies is practiced by scholars worldwide.
In its early years, it was known as "comparative religion" or the science of religion and, in the US, there are those who today also know the field as the History of religion (associated with methodological traditions traced to the University of Chicago in general, and in particular Mircea Eliade, from the late 1950s through to the late 1980s).