Societies are never ordered in ways that serve everyone’s interests equally. If we understand religious traditions as creating, reproducing, and even contesting our social orders, then to study religion effectively is to examine who benefits and who does not from the way society is organized. We must also explore how social structures are legitimated, maintained and contested by religious beliefs, actions, and institutions.
A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion explains the key terms and methods in the study of religion and demonstrates how they can be used. The aim is to provide students with a tool-kit of critical concepts for studying the role of religion in society. The critical concepts draw on sociological, cultural and anthropological thinking and include: classification and essentialism; naturalization and mystification; legitimation and social reproduction; habitus and normalization; and repression and domination.
A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion offers students a fruitful and potentially radical way of analysing religion, both past and present.
“For years I have been searching for an eminently teachable yet critical introduction to the study of religion and now, thanks to this wonderful new book, my search is over. The academic study of religion has been greatly challenged in recent decades by advances in philosophy, social theory, and cultural studies that will forever change the discipline. This book takes helpful stock of where we are and of how we should move forward.”—Terry Rey, Temple University
“A Critical Introduction to the Study of Religion offers an important and much-needed corrective to standard ecumenical introductions. In this expert reading, social hierarchy and ideology trump nebulous concepts such as faith and belief.”—Aaron W. Hughes, SUNY, Buffalo
“Martin does a good job of succinctly introducing the theories of scholars like Durkheim, Mary Douglas, Peter Berger, Bourdieu, Foucault, etc, and of explaining terms like projection, legitimisation, mystification and naturalisation. The chapter on habitus alone, which is as clear a description as I have seen yet, is worth the cover price on its own. … Martin has a real flair for paring the material down to the essentials without losing the clarity of his central arguments.”—The Religious Studies Project
“A Critical Introduction offers a clear, thorough, and effective introduction to critical approaches to religion as social phenomena. It brings the often-verbose theoretical lenses of sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies, and the sometimes-complicated critiques of the field of Religious Studies to a novice readership. Martin has accomplished his goal of offering useful concepts for critically thinking about religion and society. A unique and notable contribution is that he provides effective approaches from which students can ask new questions of our subject.”—Journal of the American Academy of Religion