The difference between studying religion as a believer and studying religion for academics varies in their approaches to religious characteristics like belief system, ritual, central myths, the sacred and religious text. A believer is studying religion in order to strengthen and build their already formed beliefs. “Believers may opt to explore their own religion “from the inside,” while nonbelievers may want to concentrate on the answers that several religions have given to a single question”.
However, when studying religion in an academic context, we are not looking to validate, disprove, or enhance our own spiritual beliefs but instead, understand religion as a construct that can be analyzed. For example, the Bible in an academic context is the study of ancient literature with themes, symbols and characters. In the same way that people can either read their favorite novel for pleasure, or can read it novel academically, critically, parsing out the underlying messages and influences, people can read the Bible in different ways. Chapter One outlines the way religion influences the study of different disciplines such as psychology, mythology, philosophy, theology, the arts, anthropology, archeology, and linguistics and literary theory. Although for centuries religions were studied mostly within their own traditions, in the past two hundred years the study of religion has expanded and scholars study religions from different and unexpected points of view. The study of religions is helpful in recognizing and appreciating the religious influences everywhere.