An Introduction to Religion & Religious Studies
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

What Is "Religion"? - The answer may not be as obvious or intuitive as you may think:

Defining "Religion"

What are "Religious Studies"? - There are many different ways of "studying" the human phenomenon we call "religion":

Asking Questions / Seeking Understanding - How are Religion and Religious Studies related to Theology, Philosophy, etc.?

Religious Questions: Asking some of the "ultimate" questions human beings have:

Religious Studies Questions (What?): Investigating the history, belief, practices, and structures of particular religions:

Religious Studies Questions (Why?): Investigating the phenomenon of religion in general, from various academic perspectives:

Classifying the Religions of the World:

"Religion" in the Bible and the Qur'an:

Questions for Group Discussion and/or Personal Reflection:

  1. What is religion? How would you personally define “religion”? Is yours an "essential" or a "phenomenological" definition?
  2. Can things like sports or entertainment be a "religion" for some people?
  3. What are the most important aspects of the study of religion? How is the study of religion done differently by insiders or by outsiders?
  4. In what ways is religion important/influential in our world today? your country? your community? your own family?
  5. What are some of the positive effects or benefits of religion? In what ways has religion helped people and/or improved our world?
  6. What are some of the negative effects or downsides of religion? In what ways has religion harmed people and/or impaired life?
  7. In which religion were you raised, if any? How well do you understand it? How actively do you still practice it?
  8. Have you chosen a different religion? What aspects of your former religion did not satisfy you? What aspects of the new religion most attracted you?

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