Religion is one of those topics that can stop or start a conversation depending on who you are talking to. In part this is because people have many different understandings of what religion is. Anyone who has spent time thinking about what religion is will find that it is a notoriously difficult thing to define. Some cultures do not even have an indigenous word for the thing we call “religion.” So, how does one go about studying religion if there is no agreed upon definition?
The answer to that question was answered in an oft-cited article by Jonathan Z. Smith entitled, “Religion, Religions, Religious.” The term “religion” as used in scholarly discourse, is defined by scholars for their own intellectual purposes. Defining the boundaries of what one studies is the first step of study; however, we must keep at the forefront of our minds that our definitions have the potential to distort our view. Our definitions are arbitrary at some level and so we must proceed recognizing the usefulness and limitations of our definition, and be ready to change it when our subject matter demands it.
Courses in Religious Studies at DYC teach students the essential skills necessary to understand sympathetically yet critically the world’s religions—their practices, sacred texts, and beliefs—and to explore the phenomenon of religion itself as a prominent component of human life, culture, and history. The Religious Studies student will develop analytical, writing, and communication skills, as well as religious literacy—essential knowledge of the religious world of which we are a part.
Links to Online Resources
Sites Dedicated to the Study of Religion
http://pluralism.org Website of the Pluralism Project housed at Harvard University. Addresses many issues related to religion in contemporary society.
http://www.pewforum.org Pew Research Center forum on Religion and Public Life. Great for statistics and polls on issues related to religion in the United States and around the world.
https://www.ifyc.org Interfaith Youth Core addresses issues of interfaith cooperation on campuses and beyond.
Translations of Sacred Texts
General Site for Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions
The Internet Sacred Texts Archive https://www.sacred-texts.com/ collects scriptures from around the world together with older scholarly works on them. The texts available are largely older translations that are in the public domain.
The Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament minus the Apochrypha) has been translated by Jewish scholars for use by the Jewish community. One of the most well-known is the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. The older version (published in 1917) is available for free online at the following link: http://www.breslov.com/bible/
A variety of websites with many translations of the Bible into English are available. These translations include the Old Testament in two main forms as well as the New Testament. The more ancient Christian form of the Old Testament includes what is variously called the Deuterocanonical books (“second canon”) or Apochrypha. These are included in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Canons, but not in the Protestant Canon. Some translations include these (such as the Douay-Rheims, RSV, NRSV), while other translations made by Protestant groups (NIV, NASB, ESV, etc.) do not include them. Among the easiest of the available sites to use is the BibleGateway https://www.biblegateway.com/
As a general rule, Islam does not refer to translations of the Qur’an because the only Qur’an is in Arabic. That does not mean that Muslims do not read the Qur’an in other languages, but it does mean that they are regarded as interpretations. A number of websites with the Qur’an in English exist, but do not disclose where the translation is coming from, so I have not listed them below. Several commonly used English translations/interpretations, such as the Yusuf Ali version, or the A. J. Arberry interpretation can which can be found along with other translations at http://tanzil.net/#1:1 Some translations can also be found at https://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/index.htm
Sites of Scholars of Religion
https://jamestabor.com/ Site of Religious Studies professor, James Tabor (UNC, Charlotte)
http://www.johnhick.org.uk/jsite/ Site of the British philosopher of religion John Hick (d. 2012). Access to many interesting articles and addresses.
http://www.robertbellah.com/index.html Site of the American sociologist of religion Robert N. Bellah (d. 2013). Links to articles, interviews, and lectures. See especially the articles on Civil Religion and Religious Evolution.
More to come. . .