2 Engaging with the issues
2.1 New perspectives
The purpose of studying religion is to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.
We would encourage you now to jot down your motivations for studying this course: it may be a useful and revealing exercise to revisit this subject again when you have finished the course.
People come to the study of religion for many reasons, most of which are so obvious as to not require explication. What I want to draw to your attention is the idea of altered perception implicit in the quote at the top of this page. One of the primary goals in the scholarly study of religion is to encourage you to view the subject from perspectives not your own, and to study religions that are less familiar to you, in cultural and social contexts that you may not have lived in or experienced. We feel sure that you will find this a rewarding, if at tiles challenging, exercise. Ninian Smart, a well-known figure in the field of Religious Studies, has put the same idea well, in the narrower context of Christianity: ‘The beginning of understanding it is noticing its strangeness’ (Smart, 1979, p.312).