I am a student of religion who does not study religion. I study what people think and talk about as religion.

I study the spaces, places, things, objects, ideas, practices, and conflicts that can be found in particular discourses that get labelled and thought about as ‘religion’. I study the idea of religion.

Episode notes

I study the idea of religion.

Very often this can feel like I am not studying (or teaching) about religion at all.

To study the bits of peoples’ lives that slot into the bracket of ‘religion’, it is also necessary to try to understand the ‘bigger picture’ — the bits of their lives and cultures that appear to exist beyond the ‘religion’ tag.

For this, sometimes the boundaries are clear —people can often articulate clearly where they consider ‘religion to end’ and ‘culture to begin’. This is interesting in itself, since it gives us some insight into how the idea of religion is understood.

But it does not give us any definitive understanding of whether a certain action is either ‘religion’ or ‘culture’.

Most significantly, such statements are part of what the study of religion is considering:

That is, how the idea of religion is understood. And from there, how such an idea(s) is embedded and lived out in material and discursive ways.


For the full text of this podcast, follow this link to the Religion Bites Blog.

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The full text of this episode can be found on the Religion Bites blog.

About the Religion Bites Podcast


Religion Bites is a podcast by Malory Nye, an academic and writer based in Perth, Scotland.

The Religion Bites podcast gives you quick and simple intros to the study of religion, to help you think a bit further about the issues of religion and culture in the contemporary world. If we want to understand today’s world, we need to ‘get’ why people are religious – why they ‘do religion’ in the many ways that religion is done. This is not a podcast about being religious, it is about understanding religion and the role that religion has in the contemporary world.