The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion


Religion, broadly defined as a set of beliefs and practices concerning the supernatural, has a major impact on the lives of most Americans. In fact, it is the framework that people use to make sense of their own lives and their place in the world. It is an important influence on their values, ethics and morality. Religion is also the basis for their relationships with others, and it motivates many people to work for social change. In addition, it is the source of many stories that have become part of Western culture.

The study of religion is an interdisciplinary one, encompassing studies in sociology, history, psychology, political science, and anthropology. The field has developed around several themes and paradigms, including the emergence of religions, the role of religion in society, how it changes over time, religious conflicts, and new religious movements.

The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (JSSR) is an essential source of scholarship in these areas. For over forty years it has been a premier publication for research in the area of religion. JSSR is edited and published by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, which is composed of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including religion, sociology, politics, history, anthropology, economics, philosophy, and psychology, who share an interest in studying religious phenomena.

Traditionally, scholars have sorted the world’s religions into categories such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. While these categories provide useful ways to organize the diverse religions, there is a danger that they also lead to stipulative definitions of what makes a religion. These stipulative definitions have no room for critique and force scholars to accept them as descriptively accurate.

As a result, the stipulative definitions of religion limit how we can understand it. Some scholars believe that this limitation is a result of the way we define “religion” as a mental state or a set of psychological states. They argue that to treat religion as something in the head is a Protestant bias and that we should instead focus on the institutional structures that produce it. These arguments are problematic because they neglect the fact that, as Luhrmann notes, religions are about more than just beliefs. They are about how gods and spirits become real for people and what that does for them.

Other scholars are more skeptical about these critiques and take a more realist view of how we can study religion. They point out that while social kinds emerge through language, they can exist prior to the development of that language. They look at the historical record and see that, while it is true that religions have varied across cultures, some common patterns are apparent. They take this as a strong argument for the value of a functional approach, such as that of Durkheim, which defines religion as whatever dominant concern serves to create solidarity among members of a group. This view is more flexible than the stipulative ones because it allows us to examine not only the functions of religion but also the underlying realities that it depends on.

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