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The study of religion refers to research into religious beliefs, practices, and institutions. The field of religious studies seeks to describe, compare, interpret, and explain religion.

Religious studies is an inquiry into religious behavior and beliefs from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, drawing from multiple disciplines, such as anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and historical.

Theology is the term given to the study of one's own religion. Theologians are concerned with the beliefs themselves, whether they are true or false, and with people's response to them. Theologians try to determine the meaning of the doctrines that have developed over the years, and the manner in which the doctrines were determined, whether from scripture the various schools of tradition. Theology also leads to the application of this knowledge, and the manner in which this is shown in standards of ethics, liturgy, or other acts of worship.

Theology then, is the study of religion from the inside. It assumes that the faith is true, and seeks to explore it more fully.

A number of methodologies are used in theology and religious studies. Methodologies are interpretive models, known as hermeneutics, that provide a structure for the analysis of religious phenomena.

A scholarly approach to religion is a neutral form of study that examines the form of a religion without trying to determine whether or not it is true. This should not be seen to imply that religious people are incapable of adopting an intellectual approach to religion.

Anthropologists describe religious beliefs and practices as they find them in living communities, studying the patterns of human behavior that are often provided by religion, as well as the human needs that may be provided by religion.

In their studies of religion and religious communities and individuals, psychologists tend not to be objective observers, as they generally begin with the consensus that the basis of religion is false. Freud, for example, was convinced that religious positions were no longer useful to man, and William James found value in religion only insofar as it provided comfort to an individual.

The sociology of religion is interested in the analytical relationships between religion and society, such as the practices, historical backgrounds, developments, and roles of religion in society. Sociologists emphasize the recurring role of religion in societies throughout history, but without assessing the validity of religious beliefs.

The philosophy of religion refers to the examination of the central themes and concepts in various religious traditions, and is related to many other branches of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Religious historians research the ways in which religions have developed through their historical phases. They may take a broad view of religion in general, or they may look at the development of a specific religion or religious tradition.

For the purpose of categorization, the Religious Studies category, or its subcategories, will refer to the study of theology as well as the study of religion through the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, or history. Those dealing with hermeneutics are also appropriate to this category.

Studies of specific denominations or associations should be submitted to the category representing that religious group, however. For example, sites dealing with the study of the Particular Baptists should be submitted to that category, and those dealing with Baptists, in general, should be submitted to the Baptist category, while those dealing with religion in general or with multiple religions may be submitted to this category.

Sites representing local, brick-and-mortar schools, colleges, and seminaries should be submitted to the Local & Global category representing the city or town in which they are located.

Online schools of religious studies may be submitted to this category when they include the study of multiple religions, or to religion in general. When their focus is on the theology of a specific religion, they should be submitted to the category representing that denomination or association.

The idea is to list the site in the category that is the most specific to the topic of the site. If you are unsure, submit it to the category that seems appropriate to you and we will move it if necessary.


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