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LM-J Academic Study of Religion

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We cover several topics and a number of people in this module, consequently, there are many resources here for you to pursue and learn more. Do not be thrown by the publication dates as they are often the year that the particular edition was published and not the original publication date.

The Field of Religious Studies

If you would like to learn more about the discipline of Religious Studies, the following books should be helpful.


Ellwood, Robert.  Introducing Religion: From Inside and Outside. 3rd ed.  Pearson; (1993).

  By far my top choice for a brief and understandable introduction to the academic study of religion.  Includes chapters on the psychology of religion and the sociology of religion.  Also covers several other topics.  

Smith, Jonathan Z., Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion.  University Of Chicago Press. (2004).  

Distinguished University of Chicago Professor gives his take on the discipline in a series of essays.

Herling, Bradley L., A Beginner's Guide to the Study of Religion.  Bloomsbury Academic. (2008).  

Herling is a Professor of Religious Studies at Marymount Manhattan College.  This is a great, brief introduction to the academic study of religion and the theories used by the discipline presented in a way that beginners can understand.  

Psychology of Religion

Psychology of religion has developed into a field of its own with scholars whose work focuses specifically on this subfield. The Hood book is the best resource that will help you to learn more on this topic.


Hood, Hill and Spilka.  The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach.  Guilford Press. (2009).  

If you want to explore the current state of the field of psychology of religion then this massive work is the one that you want.  It is scholarly and comprehensive yet accessible, this state-of-the-science work is widely regarded as the definitive psychology of religion text.  

Sociology of Religion

Like psychology of religion, sociology of religion is now also its own subfield with scholars spending their lives working on it. The Christiano, Swatos, and Kivisto book and the Hamilton book are a couple of great resources if you would like to learn more.


Christiano, Swatos, and Kivisto. Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (2008).  

This book charts changes in the sociology of religion without ignoring the continuing relevance of Weber, Durkheim, and Marx.


Hamilton, Malcolm. The Sociology of Religion: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives. Routledge. (2001).

An introduction to the sociology of religion combines a discussion of key theorists with a modern emphasis on the diversity of religious beliefs and practices.

Sigmund Freud

If you would like to learn more about Freud, the Freud book is a primary (written by the person) and several secondary (written by another about the subject) sources including the Gay book and a couple of videos should aid in your exploration.


Freud, Sigmund.  The Future of an Illusion. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2010).  

Originally published in 1927, this is Freud’s writing to read if you want to explore his ideas about religion.

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time. W. W. Norton & Company. (2006).  

Bestselling biography is not only Freud’s life but is in fact an intellectual history of his  ideas.

Tatge, Catherine.  The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis. PBS (2005).  

A thorough yet stimulating case that Freud, father of psychoanalysis, and Lewis, author and Oxford scholar, are exemplary representatives of their respective secular and spiritual belief systems. This two-part PBS program grew out of a quarter-century-old Harvard course taught by Armand M. Nicholi, in which the backgrounds of Freud and Lewis are compared and contrasted for formative experiences that drove one man toward a science-based atheism and the other away from atheism toward Christianity.

Freud. BBC Worldwide. (2010).  

Six-part BBC mini-series. Filmed in Austria, New York and London, this series examines Freud's complex life, his groundbreaking work and his relationship with his patients.

Carl Jung

We have two primary and a secondary book by Edinger for you, plus two videos for you to learn more about Jung.


Jung, Carl. Man and His Symbols. Dell (1968).

The first and only work in which the world-famous Swiss psychologist explains to the layperson his enormously influential theory of symbolism as revealed in dreams.  

Jung, Carl.  The Portable Jung. Penguin Books. (1976).  

This comprehensive collection of writings by the epoch-shaping Swiss psychoanalyst was edited by Joseph Campbell, himself the most famous of Jung's American followers.  

Edinger, Edward. Ego and Archetype. Shambhala. (1992).  

Apply Jung’s ideas to one’s life. The individual's journey to psychological wholeness, known in analytical psychology as the process of individuation. Edinger traces the stages in this process and relates them to the search for meaning through encounters with symbolism in religion, myth, dreams, and art.      

Whitney, Mark. Matter of Heart. Kino International. (2004).  

A compelling and inspiring documentary film portrait of Carl Gustav Jung, a man whose extraordinary genius and humanity reached far beyond the sometimes exclusive realm of psychiatry into redefining the essential nature of who we are and what we hope to become. More than a linear biography, the film presents a fuller perspective on this analyst, healer, friend and mentor, through the skillful interweaving of rare home movies, valuable archival footage and a wealth of interviews with such notables as Sir Laurens van der Post, Marie-Louise von Franz and Joseph Henderson, M.D.

Cronenberg, David. A Dangerous Method. Sony Pictures Classics (2011).  

Hollywood version of part of Jung’s story. Historical inaccuracies, but a good movie that provides an introduction to Jung (and Freud).  Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein as his patient. Jung's weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud. Both men fall under Sabina's spell. Based on a true story.  

Abraham Maslow

The best way to learn about Maslow is to read his own writings and the central one for exploring his relevance for religion is listed below. In addition, here is a great secondary source by Goble about Maslow that includes the full-text of his article laying out his central theory.


Maslow, Abraham H., Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences. Penguin Books (1994).  

Maslow’s central writing on religion.  Proposing religious experience as a legitimate subject for scientific investigation, Maslow studies the human need for spiritual expression.

Goble, Frank G., The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. Pocket Books (1980).  

Classic secondary source examines key concepts such as the hierarchy of needs and self-actualization, the peak experience, humanistic education, synergy, management and more. Includes the complete text of Maslow's hierarchy of needs publication, "A Theory of Human Motivation". A valuable starting point for anyone seeking a general introduction to Maslow's work.

Karl Marx

Marx is one of the most influential thinkers of all time. His views on religion are often misunderstood and misrepresented. Here are great resources to learn more about Marx’s thought.  You will find two primary sources plus a fine secondary one by Goldstein.


Marx, Karl. Marx on Religion. Temple University Press (2002).  

All of Marx’s significant writings on religion. Editor, John Raines, offers the full range of Marx's thoughts on religion and its relationship to the world of social relations. Raines shows that Marx had a far more complex understanding of religious belief. Equally important is how Marx's ideas on religion were intimately tied to his inquiries into political economy, revolution, social change, and the philosophical questions of the self. The book also includes a study guide to help readers to understand the significance of this often under-examined component of Marx.

Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012).  

Quite frankly, every educated person should have read the Communist Manifesto.  If you have not, it’s a good to correct that oversight.

Goldstein, William S., (editor). Marx, Critical Theory, and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice. Haymarket Books (2009).  

Difficult read, but if you want to explore how contemporary sociology of religion uses Marx, this is your source. Sociology of religion has had several frameworks guiding its analysis including functionalism, interpretive sociology, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, and now rational choice theory. Marxism has tended to ignore religion assuming it is something that would eventually disappear even though it retained theological elements. This collection of essays brings together a group of scholars who use frameworks provided by Marx and Critical Theory in analyzing religion.

Emile Durkheim

Durkheim explored important issues relating to religion and we have two primary sources plus a secondary source by Pickering.


Durkheim, Emile. Durkheim on Religion.  Oxford University Press, USA (1994).  

All of the central texts by Durkheim on the subject of religion.  W. S. F. Pickering is the editor of this collection made by the American Academy of Religion the central organization of scholars of religion in the United States.    

Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Dover Publications (2008).  

Durkheim’s central text on religion.  Sections of this work are contained in the book above, but here is the complete text.  

Pickering, W. S. F., Durkheim's Sociology of Religion: Themes and Theories. Lutterworth Press (2009).  

Exploration of Durkheim’s ideas on religion by a leading Durkheimian scholar.

Max Weber

Weber is a foundational figure in the field of sociology of religion and here are two primary texts plus a secondary source by Bendix to help you learn more.


Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012).  

The obvious choice for your reading of Weber.

Weber, Max. The Sociology of Religion. Beacon Press (1993).  

The other obvious choice for a primary text from Weber. The scope of this text is much broader than the above.

Bendix, Reinhard. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait. University of California Press (1978).  

Strong intellectual history of Weber and his idea.