Fifteen Maxims for the Study of Religion

by Nathan Rein

* This post originally appeared on Medium.

These fifteen “maxims” are a work in progress. I first started drafting them seven years ago. They were intended mainly for students who were at the early stages of a religion major, but we had so few students who fit that description at the time, I never really put them into classroom use in a regular way.

I’m happy to hear whatever feedback you might have.

  1. Start with what’s right in front of you.
  2. Never ignore the obvious.
  3. Keep track of your own reactions.
  4. Ask questions, but don’t expect to figure it all out.
  5. Get comfortable with discomfort.
  6. Listen to your hunches, but never trust them 100%.
  7. What do your physical surroundings tell you?
  8. Use all five senses (as appropriate).
  9. Beliefs aren’t everything.
  10. Words matter, but sometimes other things matter more.
  11. Also, words might not mean what you think they do.
  12. What’s “special” about this — anything?
  13. Look for the religion outside religion. Look for context.
  14. Nothing is perfect. What are you not supposed to notice?
  15. Comparisons are odious — but draw comparisons anyway.

headshot with unicorns and rainbowsNathan Rein teaches religious studies at Ursinus College in southeastern Pennsylvania. Connect with him on Twitter at @ProfessorRein.

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