Fortress Press

Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline

Religious Studies

The Making of a Discipline

Walter H. Capps (Author)


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Since its inception almost 200 years ago, the study of religion has informed, enlightened, provoked, and challenged our notions of humanity's deepest beliefs and longings. Now Walter Capps, nationally recognized for the quality and depth of his teaching, has written the first full-scale introduction to the history and methods of religious studies.

To assess the many points of view in this mature but diffuse discipline, Capps uses the idea that four basic or fundamental questions and three enduring interests have given formal structure to the study of religion:
  • the essence of religion
  • the origin of religion
  • descriptions of religion
  • the function of religion
  • the language of religion
  • comparisons of religion
  • the future of religious studies

In this way Capps relates the chief insights and theories of philosophy, anthropology, phenomenology, sociology, and theology of religion, and spotlights theories from Immanuel Kant to Mircea Eliade.

His valuable text:
  • unites in a single narrative and conceptual framework the major methodological proposals for the academic study of religion
  • treats all the major theorists in their respective disciplines, schools of thought, and intellectual movements
  • treats the whole discipline as a dynamic and evolving tradition.

Religious Studies constitutes not only an erudite introduction to the field, exhibiting vast scholarship and careful assessment, but also a bold synthetic proposal for its future.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800625351
  • Dimensions 6.75 x 9
  • Pages 400
  • Publication Date June 1, 1995


"This book is guided by a single idea, namely, that the academic endeavor called religious studies was inspired and shaped by a single argument and its development can be approached and traced as a continuous narrative."
— from the Preface

Table of Contents


  1. The Essence of Religion

  2. The Origin of Religion

  3. The Description of Religion

  4. The Function of Religion

  5. The Language of Relgion

  6. The Comparison of Religions

  7. The Future of Religious Studies