Studying spirituality and religion asks for a certain skill set if the end goal is doing it effectively. The skills required for such a process are quite diverse, just like religion is. Some of the activities included in studying religion and spirituality are the use of anthropology, theology, historiography and even literary criticism. So, let us get to the core of each of these disciplines.
Anthropology and Sociology
Why anthropology and sociology? Well, these sciences study individuals and institutions and how these influence a certain community’s life. The religion of a certain community can shape their culture and also morality. So, a good question to be posed when studying these two is to what extent are our religious beliefs shaped by the society we live in? In order to study these as a part of religion, one would have to conduct and analyze social surveys and analyze different cultural aspects.
Among the most important questions, theology asks are the ones about the logic of spirituality, religious theories, religious truth claims and much more. Also, can these religious truth claims be categorized? When learning religion through theology, the religious sacred texts or maybe some more traditional methods, are used to examine both cosmology and ontology – if we are speaking of the existence of the entity that is God. Theology is the most resourceful discipline in the study of religion and spirituality – especially when speaking about the diversity of books.
Studying sacred texts is an essential part of studying religion and spirituality. Realizing how to approach literary criticism of these texts depends on several factors. For example, to study them one must question where they came from, who was the author, are there more manuscripts, or even what kind of genres are used in it. Anyhow, literary criticism in religion as three parts:
- The sacred text
- The origin of the sacred text
- The literary style and text characteristics
When studying spirituality and religion through psychology we need to focus on two main motivations – extrinsic and intrinsic. the first one is concerned with the value of the religion for a person. The second one is concerned with individuals who have embodies their spiritual beliefs. Published studies, as well as some personal interviews, could be helpful in learning psychology of religion.
When speaking about phenomenology, it actually studies spirituality and religion as they are. Furthermore, this discipline is trying to define religion and spirituality without taking into account internal or external factors. For example, the phenomenology of praying would include describing how an individual prays taking into account the posture, emotions, words and more. Observing the behavior of religious people is a great way to study religion through phenomenology.
Logically, this discipline is concerned with the history of religion. One of the questions useful for historiography in religion is related to the elements that influenced the development and creation of the religion. These elements include political, social and geographical factors that influenced the religion. Additionally, studying archeology could help answer some historiographic questions.