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The Academic Study of Religion
Many people have experienced and studied religion from the "inside out," that is, they have either grown up in a particular faith tradition or found a faith community as adults and chosen to join it. While such understanding of religion is often deep and meaningful, it is subjective rather than scientific. Academic study of religion seeks to apply methods of other disicplines to religion. Sacred texts are examined using literary criticism rather than for devotion or preaching. Methods of anthropology, philiosophy, psychology, and sociology are used to understand and clarify religious beliefs, practices, and moral codes.
The resources in this guide have an academic approach to religion. If there is another bias in the material, it is the value of tolerance and respect for for the many ways our human family has defined and followed ultimate meaning.
Good general information on world faiths plus geographic and demographic statistics for each group.
Association of Religion Data Archives
Hartford Institute for Religion Research
Academic research, especially of American congregations.
On Common Ground
A product of Harvard's Pluralism Project describing the religious diversity in America.
Religion and Public Life
Based on the extensive polling and analysis of Pew Research Center observations on American religious life.
Wabash Center Internet Guide
Websites reviewed by librarians. Check the starred, top-rated sites.
The Imminent Frame
A blog for scholarly posts and essays on "religion in public life, politics, and culture, the science of religion, and secularism in society."
Reference books are a great place to learn the basics about world faiths. The experts who write on each topic refer you to books and articles that are reliable. Indexes help you refine your research to specific terms.
Encyclopedia of Religion by
Call Number: ONLINE
The most comprehensive reference work on beliefs and practices of world religions. Not only can you search by the name of the tradition, but you can also look for topics such as "marriage" or "ritual" to find a survey of beliefs and practices from most major faith traditions.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practice by
Call Number: ONLINE
Publication Date: 2006
In 1,800 pages across 3 volumes, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices provides information on current religious practices around the world with an emphasis on how religions impact the daily lives of their followers. (Publisher description)
Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices by
Call Number: Ref. BL80.3 .R45 2002
This encyclopedia has lengthy articles and good bibliographies on each of the major world faith traditions. It also has short articles on just about every known sub-group and sect worldwide. Countries have entries with statistics of different religious group memberships in 2000 and projections for 2025 and 2050.
Hammond Atlas of World Religions: A Visual History of Our Great Faiths
Call Number: Clarkston Ref. BL80.2 .H2734 2009
More than just maps, this volume has visual representations of the historic development and expansion of beliefs, timelines, photos, diagrams, and other illustrations of religious stories and practices. Limited bibliography which includes many web resources. Apparently a "project" assembling a variety of visual information, this work has no attribution of authorship but lists a group of editors, editorial assistants, and researchers.
The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions by
Call Number: Ref. BL31 .O84 1997 Clarkston Reference, Dunwoody Reference
Includes bibliographical references and indexes
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