Why Study Religion?

Understanding Humanity's Pursuit of the Divine

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This brief primer explains why Christian students should study religion, how they should go about it, and why it is important in our contemporary, pluralistic context. Terry Muck, who has been a scholar of religion for over thirty-five years, introduces the discipline and explains how the study of religion can be approached by Christian students. He explores the contemporary significance of studying religion in a complex, multicultural world, which requires engaged Christians to develop an understanding of other religions and religious movements along with their adherents. Muck concludes by addressing the skills and perspectives students must bring to the study of religion in the twenty-first century.

Why Study Religion? explores how committed Christians can be excellent "objective" students of religion, active and accepted in the academic guilds of religious studies scholarship without shortchanging their own deeply held religious beliefs. Written in accessible prose suitable for undergraduates, it can be used to supplement any standard religion textbook in an introductory religion course.

Contents

Study Aids
Introduction
Part 1: Why?
1. The Study of Religion
2. The Student of Religion
Part 2: Why Now?
3. Changing Societies: Radical Differentiation
4. Complex Individuals: Hybrid Personalities
5. Clashing Religions: Contestation, Consilience, Confession
Part 3: How?
6. The Scholarly Skills: Studying Texts, Collecting Ethnographic Data, Comparing and Contrasting
7. Perspectival Objectivity: From Premodern to Modern to Postmodern
8. New Trajectories for the Study of Religion
Conclusion
Appendix 1: Classic Books in the Study of Religion
Appendix 2: Classic Essays in the Study of Religion
Appendix 3: Categorizing Religious Traditions: An Assignment
Appendix 4: Twelve Guidelines for the Study of Religion
Index


Endorsements

"At a time when knowledge of religion is critically important but sadly deficient, it is crucial that students and scholars have a book that properly introduces readers to religious studies. There are few scholars better equipped to do this than Terry Muck. This book is clear, incisive, and engaging--perfect for courses in the study of world religions."

Gerald R. McDermott, Beeson Divinity School

"More than any other subject in the university curriculum, the study of religion and religious life should be at the forefront of our required courses. Terry Muck has provided us with an introduction to this field that can be picked up by skeptic and believer alike. When we ask religious questions--with the newspaper in our hands and our religious affections in our hearts--we will be well advised to ask Muck for guidance. This volume is a marvelous guide for the beginner, whether religious zealot or secularist. This is not, however, a book that is for the West only; it should be translated into Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, and Arabic to create a global conversation about what it means to be religious and to study the religious life of others."

Scott W. Sunquist, dean, School of Intercultural Studies, professor of world Christianity, Fuller Theological Seminary

"An engaging, necessary, and significant book that advocates for the study of religion with sensitivity and rigor. Any scholar interested in religion will find this book an impressive and enlightening study enriched by Muck's broad Christian perspective, which invigorates his call to take religion seriously. Framed by four defining contours of religion, the book is indispensable for those interested in teaching or research in religious studies."

Charles E. Farhadian, professor of world religions and Christian mission, Westmont College

"Why Study Religion? is as timely as it is poignant. There can be no contesting the importance of religion in twenty-first-century life. Terry Muck weaves an intriguing tale filled with first-rate scholarship and insightful testimonials to help readers understand critical changes occurring in religion in the contemporary era and how religion can bring people together for the flourishing of life. Though written to offer a framework for understanding religion, Why Study Religion? possesses broad appeal across multiple disciplines. It's a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and engaging in religious fervor in the twenty-first century."

Gregg Okesson, dean, E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary

"One cannot understand our world today without appreciating the role of religion in global affairs. Drawing upon a rich background in teaching religious studies and interreligious engagement, Terry Muck offers wise, perceptive, and helpful guidance for studying religious traditions. This is a terrific treatment of a crucial subject."

Harold Netland, professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Why study religion? Senior scholar and statesman Terry Muck answers this question, drawing on his years of teaching, research, and dialogue with diverse religious practitioners. Ideal for classroom use, this well-rounded, practical, and clearly written text is timely in its import as those living in North America must learn to navigate astutely the waters of our vital and volatile religiously plural culture. Highly recommended."

Paul Louis Metzger, Multnomah University; author of Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths


The Author

  1. Terry C. Muck

    Terry C. Muck

    Terry C. Muck (PhD, Northwestern University) has been a religious studies scholar for more than thirty-five years. Prior to his retirement, he served as executive director of the Louisville Institute after teaching for many years at Austin Presbyterian...

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