Skip to main content

Exploring Religion: Past and Present

This course is currently unavailable for booking

There are currently no upcoming dates available for this course. Be the first to know when new dates are announced by joining the mailing list.

Through a series of case studies, this course introduces the academic study of religion, considering the subject from a variety of perspectives, including historical, anthropological, textual, and psychological approaches.

Key themes for analysis include:

  • religious identity
  • secularism
  • sacred texts
  • religious law
  • religious authority
  • sacred places.

There will be opportunities to read ancient religious writings, ethnography, and critical theory, with the aim of equipping you with the skills needed to get the most out of studying religions both ancient and modern.

This course is for anyone with an interest in religious studies and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past pathway, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that you need to go on to study other courses in the pathway. It also operates as a standalone course offering some compelling case-studies. If you are interested in how religion has shaped both past and present societies then this course is for you.

Learning and teaching

This course consists of nine units. Each unit comprises a two-hour face-to-face session. These sessions will include lectures, class discussions and debates, pair-work and group-work, source analysis activities and exercises to develop your academic skills.

There will also be a strong emphasis on learning outside of the classroom, facilitated by the university’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central.

Coursework and assessment

This course has three short pieces of assessed work which together should add up to 1500 words. These pieces of work have been designed to help you in developing the skills and approaches that you need to study successfully.

The first piece of work will allow you to practice putting your ideas in words in an academic form. The second will help you to develop your skills of analysis, whilst the third will give you the opportunity to write a short essay. There will be lots of help and support available for all three assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • Michael Argyle, Psychology and Religion: An Introduction (Abingdon, 2000)
  • Fiona Bowie, The Anthropology of Religion: An Introduction (Oxford, 2000; second edition (recommended), 2006)
  • Dominic Corrywright and Peggy Morgan, Get Set for Religious Studies (Edinburgh, 2006)
  • John Hinnells (ed.), The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (Abingdon, 2010)
  • Hilary Rodrigues and John S. Harding, Introduction to the Study of Religion (Oxford, 2009)
  • Ninian Smart (ed.), Approaches to the Study of Religion (London, 1999)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.