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The Western Epistemic Tradition and the Scientific Study of Religion

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This book provides an account of how a science of religion was able to emerge from the devotional, catechetical, theological, and philosophical forms of ‘religious studies’ that have generally characterized this field of scholarship. Although elements of the scientific study of religion can be found in the scholarly engagement with religion in the academy today, it is still primarily associated with religious and nonscientific humanistic quests for meaning, and the foundations for a flourishing existence. The idea of a scientific study of religion first emerged some 2500 years ago with the ancient Greeks but this history will show that the conditions for a strictly scientific study of religion didn’t emerge until the end of the nineteenth century. The purpose of this new science, like that of the natural and social sciences, is to seek objective knowledge about religious thought and behaviour for its own sake. For that reason, it is argued, the scientific study of religion ought to be established in the curriculum of the modern research university.

This book is intended for students who are enrolled in religious studies programs, their teachers, university administrators, and others who are simply curious about the character of the study of religion most appropriate in the context of the modern research university.

Published: May 1, 2023