The Importance of Studying Religion


Studying Religion can be an important way for students to understand the cultural beliefs of their friends, coworkers or new family members. It can also open them up to spiritual ideas that they never knew existed and lead to a greater level of happiness and contentment in life. The study of religion is a highly interdisciplinary endeavor that draws on textual, historical, linguistic, philosophical and many other approaches.

The semantic range of practices now said to fall within the concept of religion raises two philosophical issues. One involves whether this social taxon can be understood as a category that has necessary and sufficient properties. The other concerns whether the concept of religion names a real thing, a form of life that exists in the world.

A realist approach would accept that the concept of religion does name a kind of life, even if the definition is not precise enough to allow for all the forms of life one might compare it to. This view meshes well with the theoretical work of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who argues that religion evolved to bind people into large moral communities.

The study of religion can help us understand its functions for society and the ways it can reinforce or perpetuate inequality and social conflict. It can also give us tools to counter the prejudice and hostility that often stem from religious differences. In this spirit, NCSS encourages school districts to adopt policies and learning standards that promote high quality, rigorous teaching in the study of religion.

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