The study of Religion is an interdisciplinary field that uses textual, historical, linguistic, and philosophical approaches to examine the social meaning of beliefs and practices. It is an academic discipline that originated in the 19th century but has continued to develop through the 20th century.
The concept of Religion did not originally refer to a social genus or cultural type; it was adapted from the Latin term religio, which approximates “scrupulousness,” “devotedness,” or “felt obligation.” In western antiquity, people recognized that some individuals worshipped different gods with commitments that were incompatible with each other.
In modern times, the concept of religion has come to be used as a neutral description. It is the belief that all beliefs and practices are similar enough that they can be categorized together as a family of “religious” practices.
Researchers have also suggested that religion provides a cohesive force in societies. Emile Durkheim, for example, claimed that religions establish a collective conscience and help social integration. Others have pointed out that religions can both comfort and frighten us (Xygalatas and Butler 2011).
A variety of intellectual disciplines are involved in the study of Religion, including history, sociology, anthropology, literary criticism, philosophy, psychology, and many other areas. These disciplines have each formulated their own methods and theories regarding the history and functions of religions.
A number of scholars have taken up a reflexive turn to the study of religion, arguing that the concept of religion is a product of its time and place. This critique of religion is an important part of a broader scholarly tradition that has examined how modernity shapes the ways in which people define, think about, and use objects previously taken for granted.