Saturday, January 22, 2011

Understanding Religion

If I had it to do all over again . . . not that I have specific regrets per se . . . but if I had it to do all over again, I would have pursued a graduate studies course less focused on language and philology and more on the academic study of religion. I wish I had known about Baylor's program in the Sociology of Religion 3 or 4 years ago, for example. Many students and scholars in biblical studies go through their entire academic careers without ever considering how their field relates to the broader field of academic religious studies. A total lack of awareness of religious studies theory and methodology characterizes the curriculum of many biblical studies grad programs. My own intellectual interests are drawn more to the study of the religions that have built their traditions on the Bible than on an interest in biblical exegesis for its own sake. For that reason, I was excited to have the opportunity to teach a course called "Understanding Religion" at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin this semester.

Unfortunately, while I am well-trained in biblical studies, I am mostly self-taught on religious studies theory and methodology (despite my religious studies minor which lacked an explicit methods course). This undergraduate course is an introduction to the basic concepts of religion and an exploration of theory and method in academic religious studies with a goal of promoting basic religious literacy -- the ability to understand, recognize, and intelligently discuss religious issues.

Below is my starter bibliography for my self-education on academic religious studies and the wider relationship between religion and culture. I'd appreciate any comments or feedback from anyone who notices that my bibliography is missing something important. Are there any seminal journal articles or essays out there that I should know about?

What I Have in Hand and Have Started Reading
  • Boyer, Pascal. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. Basic Books, 2001.
  • Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
  • Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. [1915.] New York: Free Press, 1965.
  • Eliade, Mircea. Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries: The Encounter Between Contemporary Faiths and Archaic Realities. [1960.] New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
  • ---. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. [1959.] New York: Harper & Row, 1961.
  • Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, Inc., 1973.
  • Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.
  • Hitchens, Christopher. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve, 2007.
  • James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. [1902.] New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004.
  • Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Riverhead Books, 2008.
  • Kessler, Gary E. Studying Religion: An Introduction through Cases. 2nd Ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2006.
  • McGrath, Alistair and Joanna Collicutt McGrath. The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
  • Pals, Daniel L. Seven Theories of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Prothero, Stephen. Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t. HarperOne, 2007.
  • ---. God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – and Why Their Differences Matter. HarperOne, 2010.
  • Sharpe, Eric J. Understanding Religion. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983.
  • Stark, Rodney. Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief. HarperCollins, 2007.
  • Weber, Max. The Sociology of Religion. [4th Ed. 1956.] Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.
What I Know About but Haven’t Looked at Yet
  • The Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd Ed. Macmillan, 2004. 
  • Frazer, James. The Golden Bough: The Roots of Religion and Folklore. 1890.
  • Lincoln, Bruce. Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11. 2nd Ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • McCutcheon, Russell T. Critics, Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion. SUNY Press, 2001.
  • ---. The Discipline of Religion: Structure, Meaning, Rhetoric. Psychology Press, 2003.
  • Smith, Jonathan Z. Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
  • ---. Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
  • ---. Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Stark, Rodney. Exploring the Religious Life. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  • Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation. University of California Press, 1985.
  • ---. A Theory of Religion. Rutgers University Press, 1996.
  • Stark, Rodney and Roger Finke. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. University of California Press, 2000.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 Archaeology Scholarships from BAR and ASOR!

I'm a little behind on announcements and other blog updates, but here are some notices I received about scholarships or volunteer opportunities if you're interested in participating in an archaeological dig in the summer of 2011. The Biblical Archaeological Society scholarship deadline is April 1st and the ASOR deadline is February 15th. Participating in a dig and getting that firsthand archaeological experience is something I've always wanted to do. I encourage those like-minded Bible scholars/armchair biblical archaeologists like myself to check out these opportunities.

Biblical Archaeological Society
WASHINGTON D.C. (January 3, 2011)—Dig Opportunities and Scholarships Available for Volunteers
The Biblical Archaeology Society is pleased to announce the publication of the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) Dig Issue (January/February 2011), which features a listing of excavation projects that are looking for volunteers for the upcoming 2011 season. Although an archaeological dig may not have all the glitz and glamour of a TV police drama, the clues you’ll gather and the evidence you’ll examine will have a real-life impact on our understanding of ancient cultures. In “DSI: Dig Site Investigation,”BAR’s annual guide to excavations will help volunteers find the dig that’s right for them. Extensive information on these volunteer opportunities and more can also be found online at For more than two decades, BAR has been connecting people with the experience of a lifetime on an archaeological dig, and the upcoming season promises to be an exciting one, with opportunities available in both Israel and Jordan.
Students and applicants of all ages and levels of experience are welcome to apply to participate in an excavation this summer (minimum age requirements vary). Some programs offer course credit for participation. Applicants are encouraged to visit BAS online to explore the “Find a Dig” section of our Web site at Whether you’re interested in the worlds of Kings David and Solomon or want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, we’ve got an archaeological dig for you. For each dig, we provide an in-depth description including location, historical and Biblical significance, and what the goals are for the season. You can also learn all about the dig directors and professors who will lead your summer adventure. Check out our comprehensive online guide for more about the exciting dig opportunities coming up this summer.
The Biblical Archaeology Society is proud of its ongoing Scholarship Program, which offers funding for selected applicants who wish to participate in an archaeological excavation. Quotes from some of the 2010 scholarship winners can be found in the current January/February 2011 issue of BAR, recounting what it is like to discover history firsthand. More information about our Scholarship Program, including application instructions for 2011, can be found at
American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR)
ASOR offers excavation scholarships for 2011
ASOR is pleased to announce that it will once again offer scholarships for individuals to participate in excavations during the 2011 summer field season. ASOR anticipates awarding approximately 30 scholarships through its Heritage and Platt Fellowship programs. Fellowships will typically be for $1,000 each. Applications are due by February 15, 2011.
In order to apply, individuals must be student, retired, or professional members of ASOR or students enrolled at an ASOR-member school. Applicants are encouraged to apply for both Heritage and Platt Fellowships. While two applications must be submitted, applicants may use the same information on both applications. Details on the fellowship programs can be found at the following URLs: