Critical Religion: critical approaches to the study of religion

Critical Religion is a key marker of how we ‘do’ religion. Originating at the University of Stirling in Scotland, the term ‘critical religion’ seeks to describe two key approaches to thinking about religion:

  • following in part from ground-breaking work by Timothy Fitzgerald, Russ McCutcheon, Naomi Goldenberg, Talal Asad and others, we seek to understand what we are thinking about when we think about religion: for example, why has much of western culture identified one particular kind of ritual as ‘religious’ (such as baptism) whilst other kinds of ritual are seen as ‘secular’ (such as military parades). Not all cultures make these divisions, but the dominance of western cultural norms around the world from the colonial era onwards has impacted in profound ways on how people globally think about these issues.
  • ‘critical religion’ as we pursue it also means more than this: we examine religion from a positive critical standpoint, with a view to showing how open to re-interpretation or re-conceptualisation the term ‘religion’ is today in our intellectual, social, and cultural spheres. We try to do this in ways that seek out and identify the limits of the language we employ (whether this be ‘religious language’ or language about ‘religion’ or ‘religions’ etc.), so that we can move beyond these limiting terms and concepts.

You will find a fuller discussion of how we interpret these ideas here.

Where can I study Critical Religion?

In the Scholars menu, the members of our Association are listed by institution. Research and teaching staff at some of the world’s leading academic institutions are part of the Critical Religion Association, and where appropriate, have included details of their work. There will also be, for some institutions, more detailed pages about postgraduate study. Postgraduate students who are working in this field are also included in these institutional contexts.

Please consult these pages to help you think about where you might want to study, and email the members of staff you are interested in communicating with about your studies.


We have organised several public and academic events, and are in the process of arranging more. Details are here.


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