Thinking About Religion

  • Faculty: Elena Kravchenko
  • Schedule: Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. OR 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Course Number: L57 RelPol 102

Nearly everyone has had some experience with something they would call “religion,” from at least a passing familiarity through the media to a lifetime of active participation in religious communities. But what do we actually mean when we use the word? What is a religion? What does it mean to call something a religion, or “religious”? And what does it mean to study religion, given the slipperiness of the concept itself? This course offers an introduction to the academic study of religion through a consideration of these questions: What is religion, and how can we study it? Do we need an answer to the first question to pursue the second? Why, and toward what ends, might we undertake such study? We will also consider what is at stake in our investigation and inquiry into religion-for the inquirers, for the subjects of inquiry, and for society more broadly-and what kind of lens the study of religion offers us on ourselves, our neighbors, and society, in turn. To these ends, we will discuss major theoretical approaches to the study of religion and significant work on religions and religious phenomena, toward a better understanding of what “religion” might be and how it might be studied today. No prior knowledge or experience of religion, religions, or anything religious is expected or required. This course is required for Religious Studies majors and minors.