When teaching about Religion, it is important to use resources that give students a deeper understanding of the topic. Too many textbooks take a standard “dates and doctrines” approach, which may be helpful for standardized tests, but can be very off-putting to students. Use materials that explain the complexities and nuances of contemporary religious life. Seek out resources that describe the beliefs, practices, and traditions of specific faiths, and also provide first-person accounts of what it is like to be a member of a particular belief system.
For example, reading about Jared Diamond’s argument that bands and tribes, rather than larger states and nations, provided the ideal context for religion to develop, will show students that religion is a much more complex phenomena than simply believing in a god or going to church.
Another important perspective comes from Emile Durkheim’s work on social kinds. This perspective explains that religion is a social phenomenon because it has certain essential functions, which are necessary for human society to function properly. The functions that religion performs are primarily psychological and social, and thus are difficult to quantify.
The study of religion is an ongoing endeavor, and there is no way to determine its objective truth. However, the knowledge that there are numerous ways in which religion can be interpreted and understood can help people of different faiths live more peacefully together. As the world becomes more interconnected, understanding religions from around the globe is a crucial step towards peace.