Academic Study of World Religions

world religions pie chart

The academic study of world religions is an exciting arena where students of religions are challenged to uncover the history, beliefs, doctrines and functions of world religions as they are practiced today.  Students explore indigenous religions, organized religions and new religious movements by cultivating both empathetic understanding and sympathetic understanding.  Moreover, students are indulged in the study of religions through several social scientific methodologies such as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology, historiography, and archaeology.  Livingston (2009) summarizes the benefits of such a study: “The honest exploration of others’ beliefs usually will lead to a deepening and broadening of our own, but this is not a foregone conclusion. Honest exploration of a variety of religious beliefs and practices not only may cause us to reconceive our own religion in new ways, but also may force us to a painful reevaluation of long-held and deeply felt convictions and perhaps to a change of allegiance. It is a risk, but it is the risk of being educated and of living in a dynamic world of competing beliefs and values. The philosopher Nietzsche was correct when he said that real courage is not the courage of our convictions but the courage to examine our convictions” (p. 12).


Livingston, James C. Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction of Religion. (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

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