What is Religion? - RSST3410

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module will introduce students to discussions about the definition of religion and to some of the disciplines in which religion is studied, with special reference to the differences between Theology and Religious Studies. Particular consideration will be given in the initial weeks to the phenomenological approach and to the efficacy of Ninian Smart's dimensions of religion. In the following weeks, the module will be focused on the comparative study of religion (with reference to Eliade), the sociology of religion (with reference to Durkheim, Weber and Marx) and the psychology of religion (with reference to Otto, James, Freud and Jung). The module will also host a study skills session to be run in conjunction with the Student Learning Advisory Service, the aim of which is to equip students with key study skills in the areas of writing essays, referencing and plagiarism-prevention.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30

Method of assessment

Annotated Bibliography (1,000 words) – 15%
Essay (3,000 words) – 35%
Examination (3 hours) – 50%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Crawford, R. (2002). What is Religion? Introducing the Study of Religion, London: Routledge
Herling, B.L. (2017). A Beginner's Guide to the Study of Religion, London & New York: Bloomsbury
Hinnells, J. (ed.), (2005). The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, Abingdon: Routledge
Paden, W.E. (1992). Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion, Boston: Beacon Press
Pals, D.L. (2006). Eight Theories of Religion, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Rodrigues, H. & Harding, J.S. (2009). Introduction to the Study of Religion, London: Routledge
Segal, R. (ed.), (2006). The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion, Oxford: Blackwell

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate an appreciation of religion in phenomenological terms.
Assess the work of phenomenologists, sociologists and psychologists in the field of the study of religions.
Demonstrate an ability to use and appropriate the rudimentary language used in the phenomenology, sociology, and psychology of religion.
Apply a methodological, phenomenological, sociological and psychological perspective to the study of religion.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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