SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

R101 Understanding Religion: Theories and Themes

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

This year long module introduces students to the academic study of religions while conveying essential study skills. We will begin by looking at how religions have been studied in various disciplines and at different historical times. Analysing the works of key thinkers in the study of religions, we will see how historical and disciplinary paradigms guided the perception and explanation of ‘religion’ and continue to do so today. The module will also provide an overview of the most important contemporary issues preoccupying the field, such as secularisation, the relationship between religion and politics, the relationship between the study of religions and the theologies of various faiths, as well as religious plurality and interreligious relations. Throughout the module, religion is approached as a multi-faceted phenomenon, woven into global and local contexts in public life, personal piety, texts, and histories.
The module integrates the exploration of different approaches, theories, methods, concepts and issues in the study of religions with the acquisition of key undergraduate skills, such as note-taking, reading comprehension, argument analysis and presentation.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student will be able to:

  • identify and explain the most important approaches in the study of religions and their disciplinary and historical background.
  • discuss religious articulations and practices from multiple angles, while accounting for a plurality of perspectives in the study of religions.
  • analyse and construct scholarly arguments in the study of religions in a systematic and convincing manner.
  • develop their own academic abilities in learning and research through the application and practice of core study skills.

Method of assessment

  • Exam - 30%
  • AS1 - Journal - 300-350 words - 15%
  • AS2 - Journal - 300-350 words - 15%
  • AS3 - Journal - 300-350 words - 15%
  • AS4 - Journal - 300-350 words - 15%
  • One 10-minute oral presentation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • McCutcheon, Russell, ed. (1999) The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religions: A Reader, London and New York: Cassell.
  • Taylor, Mark, ed. (1998) Critical Terms for Religious Studies, Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules