Letter from the Editor

Understanding religion has seldom been as important as it is today. There is increasing dialogue among the greater religions of the world, but there is also misunderstanding of religious traditions – one’s own or other people’s. The field itself is an ever-evolving collection of disparate approaches to studying a host of phenomena that have come to be labelled “religion” rather than a strictly defined discipline. It encompasses everything from close study of ancient biblical manuscripts to high-tech neurological examinations of the brains of Buddhist monks. As such, research in religion needs to be better informed than ever before.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion seeks to provide accurate and dispassionate information about the world’s many religions and topics of research and debate. It will grow and evolve continuously, compiling over time an extensive collection of vetted essays of interest to all serious enquirers, whether professional academics, religious leaders, students at the graduate or undergraduate levels, or the wider interested public. The Encyclopedia will grow under the guidance of an editorial board made up of major international experts and a board of advisory editors of the highest calibre.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion aims to be a comprehensive and dynamic resource. The essays will range from short entries to major studies, and will encompass the study of scriptures, practices, social contexts, and history across religious traditions, various eras and places from diverse perspectives. They will be written by significant figures in the study of religion, who have already made their mark with their academic writing, and who will draw on cutting edge research. A rigorous peer review process will ensure that only trustworthy material of the highest quality is presented.

The possibilities the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion affords match those created by the digital age. Visual and audio materials will enrich the articles in ways that print encyclopedias could not. The deep cross-linking between resources hitherto centrally unavailable will change the way research is done, providing an unprecedented seamless experience. Articles will be updated as needed ensuring that they always reflect the latest scholarship. Last but not least, this project opens up opportunities to mobilize the community of scholars around it.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion will become the best resource for all scholars and students of religion. I invite you to explore the public pages and to get involved alongside the important scholars who are contributing to the development of this ambitious project.


John Barton, FBA